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Sleepy Hollow Budget Roars Past Cap (for Now)

Negotiations, committee-suggested cuts could scale back village spending, but an override's still on tap.

A week after Sleepy Hollow Mayor Kenneth Wray made public his tentative 2013-14 budget, the village board’s fiscal watchdogs have proposed almost a half-million dollars in cuts, fully half of them personnel dollars.

Trustee Barbara Carr, who chairs the village board’s finance committee, said that, all told, she and fellow Trustee Susan MacFarlane had lopped $485,929 from the mayor’s proposed outlays. Through “very difficult” economies, she said, they had whittled his tentative homestead tax hike of 8.5 percent down to 3.64 percent.  

"It's still 3.64 percent, but that's a lot better than 8.5 percent," Carr told Patch.

Elbowed off the Democratic ticket by Wray in January, Carr presented the two-member committee’s fiscal alternative Tuesday, only minutes after delivering her valedictory to the village board. She will step down after four years as a trustee at month’s end.

“We did the job we were assigned to do,” Carr said of the belt-tightening applied to Wray’s proposal.

The mayor’s budget, which Wray anointed as "the worst" he’d seen since joining the board in 2007, routinely begins largely as an amalgam of department head spending requests for the next 12 months. As presented, it called for outlays of some $20 million in 2013-14, up almost 6 percent over the current budget’s $18.9 million. Though already scaled back in the Carr committee’s report, those numbers as presented would boost the village property-tax levy—the number subject to the state’s 2 percent cap on year-over-year increases—by well over 7 percent ($9.5 million going up to $10.2 million).

The board has already scheduled an April 2 public hearing at Village Hall on a local law to override the cap.

In addition to the 8.5 percent jump in the homestead tax rate, the mayor’s first-blush budget carries a hike of 8.75 percent in the non-homestead rate. Both rates will likely fall in April as officials, in Wray’s words, "duke it out" in a struggle to square budgetary wishes with fiscal reality.

Carr and MacFarlane have already started identifying potential economies. “These were gut-wrenching decisions,” said MacFarlane. “I didn’t like any of them.”

Carr called the exercise “a very sobering experience.” She said the committee had recommended $247,029 in personnel cuts, including the loss of a part-time clerk, recreation assistant and department of public works employee, as well as the elimination of rec department overtime. "It was very difficult," she said. "We did the job."

Before presenting the committee’s cuts, Carr recalled fondly her time as a trustee. “The experience of being on the board for four years has been an honor for me," she said. "I am humbled by the confidence the residents of Sleepy Hollow have placed in me.”

At the Democratic caucus in January, Carr was seeking nomination to a third term when Wray tried to bump her as well as Trustee Bruce Campbell from the ticket in favor of what he called “new voices and energy.” Campbell survived the purge but Carr did not.

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