Budget Increase: Fact versus Fiction

On Thursday, March 31, 2016, as Mayor, I presented to the full Board my proposed, tentative 2016-2017 budget for the Incorporated Village of Mastic Beach. The budget I proposed for the Board’s consideration will help fund the necessary positive changes required to move our Village forward. This budget will increase Village taxes by approximately one dollar a day per household. This increase is in response to the residents’ pleas for the Village to continue tackling the complicated issues of illegal houses, blight and the crumbling infrastructure we face here in Mastic Beach. 

This is how I propose we should allocate this money. First, $300.00 of the tax-cost is directly related to sanitation services which includes: curbside garbage, recycling, bulk and brush pick-ups. The remainder of the Village taxes will be allocated to cover the costs of all other services, which include the Building Department, the Department of Public Works, the Public-Safety Department, Village Hall and soon-to-be a major capital expenditure, the Parks Department. As a Village, we are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of 4.5 square miles, including eighty-eight (88) miles of roads, six miles of waterfront, a marina, stick docks, hundreds of storm-drains, and 5,400 homes (of which nearly 2,000 are estimated to be rentals). To keep this tax increase in perspective, the budget for running this Village is still less than the LIBRARY tax, which is, on average, $550.00 a year per home. 

Let’s examine what I have done to lead the Village to “clean up the mess.” In the five years we have been a Village, there has never been a Capital-Infrastructure Budget. Our roads are deteriorating at a greater rate than DPW can maintain with a 5-person crew. With the price of oil and asphalt on the rise, the longer we wait to begin these necessary capital expenditures, the more costly it will become. An expense that once was shared by others in the Town, now places the burden of paying for these roads squarely on the 5,400 Village property taxpayers alone.

Since becoming a Village home values have continued to plummet even though they have gone up everywhere else on Long Island and across the country. Because the number of blighted, vacant zombie homes has increased and not decreased since becoming a Village, the assessments on properties bought at these discounted rates determine that we collect less in taxes per household. This means the same tax rate will yield less tax revenues for the Village than in past years. 

The Village outlook is not all doom and gloom. The Village of Mastic Beach certainly had some incredibly positive changes over the last year by increasing services in response to the residents’ needs and requests and fining the most blighted properties. My team, thus year, has brought more than one-hundred (100) illegal rentals into compliance; a one-thousand percent (1000%) increase from all the previous years combined. (In the first five years of this Village, only forty-five (45) illegal rentals were brought into compliance.)

My team, working with the police, have shut down dozens and dozens of squatter homes. We have boarded up dangerous, blighted and abandoned properties. Keep in mind that not one squatter home was shut down in the first five years of this Village. More than sixty (60) blighted homes have been ticketed and brought into compliance using the Blighted Home Law that former Deputy Mayor Bruce Summa sponsored and was able to get passed into law.  

My administration has developed an excellent working relationship with the Suffolk County Police Department. In the past year, by utilizing Operation Take-Back, five active drug houses were boarded up, the police made multiple arrests, and a wanted, alleged murderer was apprehended and extradited back to North Carolina. A top priority of my administration continues to rid this community of criminals and make it safer for our residents. The previous administration only had three Operation Clean-Sweeps, in 5 years, which resulted in shutting down only five homes. 

In order to keep addressing the undesirable criminal element that continues to plague our community, the flawed, impractical, untenable, and illogical theory of being “tax-neutral” must be put to rest. There is not one Village on Long Island or in New York State whose taxes are less than their Town’s. In life, as in government, you get what you pay for.

If the residents are not willing to pay for the services and staff that are required to “clean up the mess,” then they cannot expect to get rid of this undesirable element that is destroying our quality of life.

Lastly, I would like to make it crystal clear that this is MY PROPOSED, TENTATIVE BUDGET. I do not control the majority of the board, the rest of the board is free to suggest, and approve, any budget that they deem appropriate. Should the majority want to continue down the road of “Tax Neutrality” and “Limited Services” that is certainly within the majority’s power. I continue to put forward the same ideas and principles that I have steadfastly held to be true for the past seven years.

To make Mastic Beach Village better, the people need to decide what they want our village to become through the comprehensive-planning process, and we need to be willing to make an investment in that future. I want Mastic Beach to be successful. I want our property values to rise, but you can’t take a broken down house, do nothing to improve it and expect it to be the home of your dreams. It just doesn’t work that way. 

Mayor Maura Spery