On Tuesday, April 26th, Croton’s Village Board adopted the village budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that starts June 1. There will be a 4% increase to our village tax bill. On one hand, the tax increase will be difficult for many homeowners. On the other hand, the adopted budget is a responsible one given the difficult circumstances.
Here are the facts:
- The FY10-11 budget increases Village spending by $514,877
- Revenues raised by village property tax levy will increase by $404,517 or approximately 4%;
- Non-property tax revenue growth makes up the balance of just over $110,00, principally through modest improvements in income from the station parking lot and our share of state sales
- All of the property tax levy increase is driven by expenses the Village does not control
- State pension plan contributions increased - $323,000
- Workers Compensation payment increased $57,000
- Health insurance increased $80,000
- Total increase from these mandates alone $460,000
- About two-thirds of the budget is made up of salary and wages: 80% of that amount are salaries and wages subject to multi-year contracts. These include modest increases that cannot be avoided.
- The use of the general fund balance to keep taxes down is unchanged in the new budget over last year.
The appropriation from Fund Balance is frequently not spent by year end, if revenues come in higher or if expenses come in lower than expected. Two years ago, the entire Fund Balance Appropriation remained untapped at the end of the fiscal year, while mid-year cost containment resulted in an additional $200,000 being added to the Fund. For the current fiscal year ending May 31, we project that about $200,000 or more of the fund balance appropriated 12 months ago will not be spent and will be returned to the Fund.
The Workers Compensation increase is typical for how the state handles unfunded mandates: the state raises the compensation rate for affected workers and then passes the increase on to the municipalities by raising the insurance premiums to pay for the increased rate of payout.
The state mandate for retirement contributions has grown 100% in just 24 months between FY 2009-2010, when it cost the Village $616,000, to FY2011-2012, when it will cost the Village $1,296,000.
The board went through the budget line by line, reducing nearly every non-payroll item over the prior year for all departments.
In addition, the board decided that two vacant positions, one on the police force and one in public works, would not be filled in the coming fiscal year. Since these positions have been vacant for some time, this will not result in a change in the current high quality of Village services. (Since 2009, we have eliminated 2 senior-level, non-union positions as well, reducing our head count without affecting services.)
If Governor Cuomo succeeds in setting a property tax-cap without any mandate relief, the village will be limited to a 2% tax increase in the future. Had such a cap been in place this year, you can see that the pension, workers comp, and health insurance increases alone come in at double that cap. If this happens next year, the Village will have to draw much more heavily on the fund balance to pay for unfunded mandates above the 2% allowed increase.
The long term solution for keeping property taxes on homes in check is to improve the value of commercial properties in the village. The board adopted zoning legislation to encourage commercial property owners in Harmon to improve their properties. Unfortunately for all of us, a very few residents have chosen to fight these changes in court, rather than at the ballot box. The litigation is preventing many commercial property owners from beginning improvements that would increase the commercial ratables This litigation is costing the village thousands in legal expenses.
The board is determined to keep working on fostering commercial development in the village where it is appropriate. With improvements in that sector of our local economy, the tax burden on homeowners would be reduced. The only other alternative would be to start cutting village services. The board is trying hard to avoid that choice being forced upon the village.
THE TIME IS NOW !
“If winter comes can spring be far behind?”
There has been a wealth of rumor and misinformation about the costs and pros and cons of the project to bring improvements to Croton Point Avenue between the RR station and Benedict Blvd. We want the voters to know the full facts about the genesis of this project and hoped for results. Following is a brief chronology of the long and tedious work that’s been on-going for several years.
- In 2008 the Village Board, under Mayor Greg Schmidt, hired a traffic consulting firm, RBA, to conduct a study of traffic around the RR station.
- As a direct result of the study, RBA applied for a $1.5 million federal grant on behalf of the Village.
- The Federal grant was awarded to Village in spring of 2009, and we received the highest award possible – $1.5million.
- NYSDOT and the Village worked together for almost a year to iron out the details of the grant contract.
- A condition of the grant was that the Village would choose a consultant from a State approved list before any detailed design were developed.
- Three consultants were considered and each developed respective estimates of costs and time frames.
- After due diligence the staff chose CHA as the best fit and work on a detail design plan and cost structure began.
- Our Bicycle Pedestrian volunteer committee has worked with the Village Engineer and the consultants to identify areas for cost reduction and will continue to do so with the expectation that the overall costs will be reduced.
- The project will include a sophisticated synchronized light system and significant alterations to the RT 9 ramps to make the area safer for car passengers, bikes and pedestrians.
- Such grant money will not likely be available again and, when combined with $475,000 from the County represents the largest portion of the total costs.
A lot of money? Yes! Our Mayor and Board worked diligently and carefully to get the biggest bang for our bucks. Improvements are long overdue and the work and efforts of our Board mean Village taxpayers get the benefits without bearing the brunt of the full cost. This is one more example of thoughtful planning, cooperative efforts, and forward vision that makes us proud.
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