Tensions arise at Sea Cliff budget hearing

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The Sea Cliff Village Board of Trustees adopted the proposed 2018-19 budget on Monday night, but the vote was not unanimous. Trustee Deborah McDermott was alone in voting no on the $6 million budget, which increased 2.5 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Mayor Edward Lieberman gave a budget presentation to indicate which appropriation lines had changed from 2017-2018. Village revenues are up 6.7 percent and the proposed tax levy adheres to the 2 percent state tax cap, coming in at $5.29 million.

Before the board voted to adopt the proposed budget, McDermott read a prepared statement explaining her reason for voting against it. While in executive session on March 26, trustees voted against the reappointment of village building superintendent, Michael Mandarino, and made a “pre-determined personnel decision” without any posting or opportunity for public comment, McDermott said.

“This decision has yet to see the light of day, and the process behind it undermines the integrity of this government,” she said.

Mandarino’s position will be supplemented by a part-time consultant that will assume the responsibilities of the building superintendent. “The office is functioning properly, and we felt that a part-time, experienced consultant would only be a further asset,” Lieberman said.

The budget vote came after two tense hours of public hearing, during which residents asked questions and shared comments of concern over certain line items. Terryl Donovan, who ran unsuccessfully for village trustee last month, said the proposed budget failed “all tests of transparency.”

“There’s no explanation for why certain salary lines were reduced or increased,” Donovan said. “I suggest the board remedy this shortcoming.”

McGilloway explained that the budget is not intended to include details of personnel salaries. “It is not our objective during this process to give information regarding individual employees,” he said.

Resident Brian Ryniker asked if the board would be able to use the village’s unencumbered reserves to zero out the average homeowner’s taxes, which will increase by $9 under the new budget. McGilloway said the board could look into freeing those monies up.

Resident Arthur Adelman asked if the budget could include expense accruals from previous budget years in an effect to educate future formations. “It’s hard to see how the village is doing when you’re looking at proposed numbers rather than actual numbers,” he said.

McGilloway agreed with Adelman. “We’re also interested to figure out how to marry actuals with budgeted amounts to see how much will be carried forward,” he said.

Trustee McDermott suggested that budget updates, including actuals from previous years, be available to residents online, but village administrator Bruce Kennedy said the numbers could be confusing to someone who doesn’t know how to read them.

Liz Baron, who also made a run at the village board last month, posed a question regarding the village’s municipal housing authority. The personnel line for this item increased by $55,000.

Grant & Contracts Coordinator Erinn McDonnell explained that the allocated funds would support Sea Cliff’s public housing program, which serves 20 tenants in the village.

The mayor will be hosting a public town hall meeting with Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder on Tuesday, May 1 at 7 p.m. in village hall.