Rates rise, services go down – such is the problem facing almost every municipality grappling between the recession and the state 2 percent tax levy cap.
Following the recent when the public outcried against proposed personnel cuts to various Village departments, the Board will reconvene tonight to potentially ratify its somewhat adjusted plans.
In the budget summary written by Budget Officer and Village Administrator Michael Blau, he compared his dramatic opening statements in the last few years with this year's and how challenging each year has been to this process.Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories just like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Fast signup here.
Blau also wanted to clarify the terms – the misused tax cap vs. the correct tax levy cap. “The 2% tax levy cap relates specifically to the amount levied by the municipality in the previous fiscal year and the amount that a municipal governing board may increase the levy without requiring an action by the governing body to exceed the tax levy cap.”
So, tax levy cap is not to be confused with the rate people's taxes will actually go up, which as it is currently proposed for 2012-2013 will be a rate less than the 4.87 percent previously put forward (Blau could not exactly specify what that is at the moment as line items are still shifting).
Like Sleepy Hollow has already done, Tarrytown is considering a vote to override the tax levy cap law, though they plan to still comply. Blau said they are wary with such a new policy of the risk of "making a math error" and the penalities to come.
Government lags behind the private sector, Blau noted in the summary, by “at least two years in regards to downturns and upturns in the economy.” Therefore, he cautioned, expect two years of budget issues to come after the economy recovers.
Blau's summary itemizes the money coming in and going out and concludes, based on the gap, that the only way to bring the figures in line is to cut personnel.
“During the budget process over the last fiscal years, as well as the current fiscal year, many budget items have been reduced or eliminated and there was nothing remaining in the budget that would produce a significant decrease in the proposed tax rate increase other than a reduction in personnel,” he wrote.
The tax rate increase was originally slated for 6.17% but, unhappy with that, Blau went back and lowered it to 4.87 percent (now less) through the following changes:
The elimination of a police dispatcher.
It was previously proposed that two full-time jobs would go to two part-time jobs for: the senior recreation leader and community services worker/parking enforcement officer (position now vacant). The recreation portion of this has been modified, with the full-time position standing as is and one part-time position eliminated.
Reduction in part-time staffing hours in the Justice Court. This has been adjusted in favor of restoring some of these hours.
"This was a difficult budget," said Blau at the recent Board meeting. "We reviewed 12 positions and analyzed the positions, not the people. There was no review to see if they were doing a good or bad job."
As with the , the Village of Tarrytown faces rising pension costs (up $303,107), a huge downgrade in property assessment values (loss of $1,249,585), and rising loan payments (up $328,873). There is also money owed to the Fire Department as part of the service awards program ($265,000). Pair these with comparatively small revenue increases (more money is expected to come in from the new parking lot, and an increase in building permits and sales tax) and the spending far exceeds the income.
Blau added today that through the Board's efforts to be "as practical and creative as possible," they've come up with a few additional revenue streams since printing the first tentative plan. Now they are hoping to work with a private company to go after gross receipts tax. "Utilities are underpaying their gross receipts taxes to us," he said. And, they've now accounted for an additional $50,000 they think will be saved in energy costs when the energy efficiency program goes into effect.
The budget is broken down into three major categories:
- General Fund expenditures to increase by $738,173
- Library to decrease by $13,474
- Water to increase by $227,085 (reflecting an increase in the water rates from our NYC supplier, increase of pension funds, and increase in cost of electricity)
Finally, there's the chart that shows where our tax dollars go, the lion's share of which is to our public schools. Using an average Village assessment value of $15,600, the breakdown of our tax dollars is, rounded off to dollars and one percentage point, as follows:
- $224 (1.3%) to Town
- $1,584 (9.4%) to County
- $283 (1.7%) to County Sewer
- $154 (.9%) to County Solid Waste
- $10,516 (62.5%) to School District
- $4,061 (24.1% ) to Village
How will tonight go? Blau felt hopeful but cautious about approval. "I've been in this business for 30 years, and nothing is for certain," he said.
Note the special meeting tonight, Tarrytown Village Hall, One Depot Plaza, 7 p.m. with a public hearing on overriding tax levy cap legislation and possible vote for budget adoption. Budget by law must be adopted on or before May 1. Read the budget summary here.