Dear Greenburgh Resident:
We, the members of the Town Board, responding to comments by residents during the public hearing and during informal discussions have strived to maintain high quality services to town residents while simultaneously addressing concerns regarding the cost of government. It is a delicate balance.
During the year, the Town Board conducted informal public outreach by knocking on doors, visiting residents in their homes, and engaging in dialog with larger neighborhood groups. Once again, the Supervisor, the town’s Chief Fiscal Officer, sought and received input from the other members of the Town Board prior to his filing the 2010 Tentative Budget on October 30, 2009.
Since October 30, the Town Board has held three public hearings and one public information meeting at the library on the Tentative Budget. The Board’s intent was to seek additional feedback from the community. As a result of the comments made, to ensure that the police department has the resources needed to address wide-spread community concerns regarding public safety, the Board decided to add $75,714 to the budget to restore overtime cuts that had been made in the police department. The Board also recognized the need to revise some projections, such as the potential revenue from town property sales, unclaimed funds, mortgage and sales taxes, and those revisions are in the 2010 Adopted Budget.
The Town Board recognized the need to further reduce headcount and, consequently, offered an early retirement incentive package to employees, provided the position will not be replaced with full time employment. To date one person has accepted – so a full time senior messenger has been eliminated in the budget. Several other employees have expressed an interest in taking advantage of the incentive. However, to be fiscally conservative, the budget does not reflect any savings from other early retirements and will not until such time as they are effective. Since the budget was proposed the Town Board directed department heads to come back with additional cuts. These additional cuts are reflected in the 2010 Adopted Budget.
The Town Board has decided to authorize the use of $1.1 million of the fund balance in the B fund (the fund applicable solely to residents of the unincorporated area) to maintain the tax rate increase in the unincorporated area at 6.85%. Significantly, we note here that the fund balance in 2010 will remain in compliance with the fund balance policy adopted by the Town Board in 2007. We also note here that the B fund balance increased by approximately $2,000,000 in 2009. It is the desire of the Board to have a healthy fund balance and to maintain stability and predictability in the future. Bonding agencies, including Standard & Poor’s, have looked favorably on municipalities which have fund balance policies. Standard & Poor’s awarded the town the prestigious AAA bond rating, which fewer than 3% of all local governments have in the nation. This is the highest rating possible.
Due to the relatively small dollar amount in the A budget (the budget applicable town-wide, including the villages), a change in the dollar amount can result in a large percentage rate change. To address the percentage change in the A budget, we have devoted most of the following message to the A budget. However, the work we have done in increasing revenues and decreasing expenses applies town-wide, including to the B budget.
One percent (1%) of the total property tax a typical village resident pays goes to town services. Ninety nine percent (99%) of a village resident’s total property tax goes to pay for village/fire, county, school and sewer taxes. The town is required to collect county and sewer taxes and does so in the same bill as the town tax but the town only has budget control over the town tax. In 2005, the town portion of a village taxpayer’s property tax bill, based upon a $15,000 assessed value, was $116.69 for the year (one hundred sixteen dollars and sixty-nine cents). In 2010, the town portion of a village taxpayer’s property tax bill will be $114.75 (one hundred fourteen dollars and seventy-five cents) for the entire year, which is slightly less than what a village taxpayer paid in 2005. Therefore, village residents will pay less for town services in 2010 than they did in 2005, and high quality services have been maintained.
So what is the bad news? During a three year period (2006, 2007, 2008) the town actually reduced the tax rate in the “A budget” (which all town taxpayers pay, including those in the villages) by more than 50% by giving back to the taxpayers what was considered at the time to be excessive fund balance. A “fund balance” is basically the amount of savings held in a bank account for emergencies and other unexpected, unbudgeted expenses. We felt it was better to have the excess fund balance sitting in the taxpayers’ bank accounts than the town’s bank. Then, the effect of the historic, drastic and rapid deterioration of the economy at all levels of government hit all of us, as is reflected in the dramatic decrease in mortgage and sales tax revenues and the equally dramatic rise in the unemployment rate and foreclosures. Had we been able to predict the worst economic crisis in our country since the great depression, we could have held onto the excess fund balance, not reduced the tax rates so significantly in 2006, 2007 and 2008, had a more consistent “A” budget tax rate over these years, and not need to raise the tax rate next year by 65.48% to return the town portion of a village resident’s property tax bill to what it was five years ago.
Below are some of the services a village resident receives as a result of the town tax ($114.75 in 2010 for a property assessed at $15,000, which is a typical assessment in the town):
1. We offer advance life support (ALS) and paramedic services at a significantly lower cost than each village could privately contract. Our service has a proven record of repeatedly saving the lives of village residents. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but if you do these services are ready to respond to your call 24 hours a day.
2. To address natural, technological and man-made disasters occurring within the town, including the villages, that have the potential to adversely impact other jurisdictions, the town has budgeted for and is creating a Comprehensive All-Hazard Mitigation Plan to coordinate first responders to major emergencies or disaster to provide overall coordination of resources from the town and villages to such an event. This plan will also make the town eligible for federal grant funding for the mitigation of natural disasters. We hope disasters won’t happen but we need to be prepared, as a town, if they do, and this is a cost-efficient way to do so.
3. The town’s town-wide senior program serves or delivers over 30,000 meals to village seniors each year. The program provides a hot meal five days a week to eligible seniors. We have three nutrition sites – in Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown and unincorporated Greenburgh. Our home delivery program provides delivery services to seniors who cannot come to one of these sites.
4. The town’s civil defense unit provides civil defense services during natural disasters and other major events, such as post 9/11 and during blackouts. These services include coordination of communications for police, fire, paramedics and refilling of air packs and fresh air for specialized rescues. The unit also responds to refill the air tanks of village volunteer firefighters during fires.
5. The town’s highly trained and specially equipped Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team is available 24/7 to respond to emergencies. Officers from throughout the town who meet very rigorous standards are readily available to respond to emergencies in the villages.
6. The town’s animal control department responds to calls for service within the villages. If there is a stray or injured animal the animal control unit will respond. We transport the animals to an appropriate medical facility for care.
7. The town has a recreation program for developmentally disabled residents.
8. The town’s road striping unit is responsible for striping roads, including the center and side lines and crosswalks on requested roads in all six villages.
9. The town acts as a collection agent for the schools and county. The town, as required by law, guarantees 100% of the taxes to both entities. If a property owner does not pay a school or county tax bill, the town must pay the tax and then use its offices to pursue collection of all unpaid taxes.
We need to continue reducing our expenses, increase shared services, and find alternative revenue streams to further reduce our dependence on fund balance. In 2010 the expenditures in the A budget will be $15,050,772. In 2009 it was $15,146,832. We’re spending less in 2010 than we did in 2009. It is not enough. Our work on the budget does not stop with the adoption of the 2010 budget. We will continue our efforts throughout 2010 to meet the needs of our residents for quality services balanced by an equivalent need to keep taxes down.
In closing, we want to thank all the department heads for responding to our repeated calls for budget cuts and revenue generation ideas. We especially thank Town Comptroller Bart Talamini who worked tirelessly without complaint “re-running the numbers” each time one of us put forward budget amendments. Of course, department heads could not do it alone. Therefore, we thank our dedicated town staff at every level in every department who worked with us to help lower a predicted higher tax rate. We particularly single out CSEA employees, and their leadership, and teamsters employees, and their leadership, for agreeing to a zero percent (0.00%) salary increase in 2009 to help control the cost of government.
We also thank our partners in the budget process, the residents of our great town, for their comments, suggestions, complaints and compliments, which collectively helped frame the scope of amendments we made to the Tentative Budget before unanimously voting to approve the 2010 Adopted Budget.
The Town Board of the Town of Greenburgh
Paul Feiner, Supervisor
Sonja Brown, Councilwoman
Diana Juettner, Councilwoman
Kevin Morgan, Councilman
Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Town of Greenburgh
Work Session Agenda of the Greenburgh Town Board
Tuesday – December 22, 2009 – 9:00AM (Revised 12/14/09)
(As of September 15, 2009 – Work Sessions will begin at 9:00AM
Except where schedule changes are made by the Board)
(Please note that, although the Work Session Agenda is shared with the public prior to each Work Session, the Agenda may be revised at any point up to the start of the meeting as well as during the meeting, if necessary.)
(All Work Sessions are Televised Live on Cablevision Channel 76, Verizon 35 and are streamed live. Work Sessions and Town Board Meetings will be aired each Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 7:02am and 4:45pm. Each segment will run for approximately 6 to 7 hours,
depending upon the length of the two meetings.)
09:00 AM Hartsdale Public Parking District
09:45 AM Executive Session – Legal & Personnel
10:30 AM Special Meeting
11:00AM Discussion: 2010 Initiatives
11:55AM 12/29/09 Work Session?
12:00 Noon Adjourn
Greenburgh: Named by MONEY MAGAZINE in 2008 as “ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO LIVE” IN AMERICA (#80)
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