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BUDGET MESSAGE 2011
Release Date: October 30, 2010

BUDGET MESSAGE - PROPOSED 2011 BUDGET

B BUDGET: $68.9 million in 2011 - Average unincorporated Greenburgh resident will pay $113.70 more in 2011 (combined A & B taxes)

A BUDGET: $15.7 million in 2011 - Average village resident will pay $73.79 more in 2011

Holding Back Expenses, Addressing Revenue Losses

The 2011 budget, like budgets in recent years, reflects our mission to control the costs of government. A chart is attached to this budget message comparing the 2011 operating budget spending per department to 2010 department spending. Some departments will spend less in 2011 than in 2010. This has to be done to offset large increases in employee fringe benefits over which we have less direct control.

The challenges we as a community face with the B Budget include certioraris, lower assessed values, pension increases, health care hikes and higher insurance costs. WE ANTICIPATE ISSUING $5 MILLION IN REFUNDS due to certioraris in 2011. Our pension costs have gone up by 36% for the Employee Retirement System (ERS) and 24% for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). (The Town has no control over these percentages.) This equates to a pension cost increase of $1.0 million. In addition, health care costs increased by 15%, which equates to an increase of $1.4 million. Assessed valuations decreased by $9.2 million which negatively impacts the tax rate.

There would be no tax hike in my proposed B Budget were it not for certioraris. However, as a result of certioraris, there will be a 4.5% tax hike, which will cost a typical resident in the unincorporated area of town with a $15,000 assessment an additional $113.70 annually.

The “B” budget, which serves unincorporated Greenburgh, has a strong fund balance of $8.1 million. We are appropriating $3.1 million of the unincorporated (B Fund) fund balance to moderate this year’s tax levy. We can do this because the fund balance has increased in the past two years. The amount remaining will be in compliance with our fund balance policy.

During my tenure as Town Supervisor we have significantly increased services, including services to the villages. We now provide advance life support and paramedic services by trained police to village residents. This program has saved many lives. Greenburgh is the only town in the state to offer its residents this advance life support service by the police. We also expanded a service and made it available to village residents -special recreation for those with disabilities. I am proud that we have given children with special needs the opportunity to enjoy their quality of life and thank the villages for requesting this program.

At the end of this message I have included a listing of services currently offered to village residents by the Town. I think the taxpayers get great value from these services.

When the economy was good we were receiving a lot of revenue from the mortgage tax. As a result, we were able to increase services without increasing taxes. We used fund balance (our savings) to pay for these programs -without asking residents to absorb the actual cost for each of these the programs. In fact, a few years ago we had enough fund balance that we actually reduced taxes in the A Budget by 12% in 2006, 10% in 2007 and 32% in 2008.

Unfortunately, the economy is bad. We can no longer use large amounts of fund balance and do not have the mortgage tax revenue that we once had. Also, assessed valuations are down $13.9 million compared with 2010. We are appropriating $0.7 million of the A Fund fund balance compared to $2.8 million that was appropriated in 2010. This use of fund balance is in compliance with our fund balance policy.

We now have a choice to make: to continue to offer our residents these services or to cut back. My recommendation is to keep these services going -I could not live with myself if someone dies because we discontinued the advanced life support program. I have seen the smiles on the faces of children with disabilities while they are participating in recreation programs tailored for their needs. I know how grateful seniors are when they see a nutrition worker provide them with food.

To continue all of these important services, we need to replace the significant revenue losses mentioned above. Therefore, A Fund taxes will go up by $73.79 in 2011 for the typical resident of a village whose house is assessed at $15,000. This typical resident will now pay the Town $188.54 a year for Town services.

At the bottom of this budget message I have provided readers with a chart showing to which jurisdiction a typical taxpayer pays their taxes. A taxpayer in the Village of Ardsley, for example, will pay the Town $188.54, village government $3,575.70, the county $1,968.44 and the school district $7,685. Many think their Town tax is much higher than the $188.54 example because the Town acts as a tax collection agent for the schools, county and fire districts even though the Town has no control over their budgets.

LOOKING FORWARD

The Town has an AAA bond rating (the highest rating possible). Unlike the state government and many localities around the nation the Town is in good financial shape. One of the reasons is we adopted a Town fund balance policy a few years ago to instill fiscal discipline.

I realize that any tax hike - even with a small dollar figure amount attached to it – is undesirable. We need to look at the big picture and reinvent the way government runs. We need to find new revenues and more ways to cut expenses. These are some thoughts:

WE NEED TO STOP PAYING $10,000,000 per year in certiorari refunds

Over the last several years the town, villages and school districts have paid back over $10,000,000 per year in certiorari refunds. A new Judge assigned to certiorari cases has forced all municipalities in Westchester to pay certioraris faster. In the 2011 budget we have included $5 million in refunds for town alone, not counting schools, the fire districts or county. In 2010 we anticipate refunding approximately $3.1 million.

Members of the Town Board and I are looking for ways to stabilize the taxes, reduce certioraris significantly, eliminate big payouts and remove the volatility of the tax rates from year to year. We are also concerned because the percent of the total tax bill paid by residential property owners is going up while the percent of the total tax bill paid by the commercial sector is going down. One option to be considered is reassessment. However, before any decision to reassess is made, we will be asking the NYS Legislature to approve hardship provisions to assist struggling families and retirees.

REINVENTING GOVERNMENT

At a recent Town Board work session (October 28) we invited J. Dwight Hadley, CPA to speak to us. He was the former chair of the New York State Board of Accountancy. He is working with another upstate community on an innovative concept: the establishment of a sanitation enterprise fund. This concept, which the Town Board is currently reviewing, would change the way sanitation services are offered to residents and increase transparency. The Town would send residents a bill for sanitation services instead of having them pay for it through Town taxes. Residents/businesses would have the option of comparing the costs of our service with the private sector. If we offer a better service, individual residents/businesses could choose to hire the Town to pick up garbage. If you are not satisfied with our price or level of service you would have the option of contracting with the private sector.

HOTEL TAX –SIGNIFICANT NEW REVENUE STREAM

During the past two years the New York State Legislature has authorized other municipalities in Westchester to levy a tax on hotels. This tax is generating significant revenue to those localities. The Town of Greenburgh is requesting the State Legislature authorize Greenburgh to do the same. I anticipate that the State Legislature will take action in 2011, which will increase our revenues for 2012 and beyond. This could generate a six figure annual revenue increase.

 

FIRE CONSOLIDATION COMMISSION REPORT EXPECTED EARLY NOVEMBER

Over a year ago the Town Board appointed a citizens commission to take a look at the costs of operating the three paid fire districts. These districts are independent of the Town. The objective is to save taxpayer dollars by consolidating and/or sharing Fire and possibly other services. The report will be posted on the Town website.

INDEPENDENT LIBRARY DISTRICT

In recent years Greenburgh’s Library has been closed on Sunday’s. Other libraries around the county have also cut their library hours. In response, some communities around the state have created independent library districts. Library Commissioners are elected and their budgets are submitted to you the taxpayer annually for a vote. I am including $50,000 in the 2011 budget for a consultant to work with the library to determine if the Greenburgh Library district should be independent of the Town government. Another approach is to ask all the libraries within Greenburgh to coordinate their hours. 

 

ONLY ONE NEW POSITION ADDED –COURT CLERK (EXPECTED TO PAY FOR ITSELF AND IMPROVE EFFICIENCY)

The 2011 budget does not include funds for additional personnel, with one exception: the Town Court, which will get one additional court clerk at the recommendation of the court administrator and Judge Charles Apotheker, Supervising Judge for the 9th Judicial District Justice Courts.

TOWN SERVICES TO THE VILLAGES

In response to residents of the villages who have asked about town services, I have compiled the following list of services that we currently offer residents of the villages. I believe that these services are worth the additional $73.79 in taxes for 2011 for a typical resident with a $15,000 assessment.

1.        We offer Advance Life Support (ALS) and paramedic services which 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.        The 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.

3.        The Town has a recreation program for residents who have developmental disabilities. 

4.        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.

5.        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.

6.        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.

7.        The Town's road striping unit is responsible for striping roads, including the center and side lines and crosswalks on roads in all six villages.

8.        The Town acts as a collection agent for the schools and county.  The Town guarantees 100% of the taxes to both entities.

  

9.       A few weeks ago, at the request of the villages, the Town took over the responsibilities of dog licensing.

Sample Breakdown of Where Your Local Taxes Go

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TOWN WIDE BUDGET AT A GLANCE

  

INCREASE

PERCENTAGE

APPROPRIATIONS

2011

2010

(DECREASE)

CHANGE

Town Board

$116,378

$114,178

$2,200

1.93%

Town Justices

$1,333,180

$1,287,661

$45,519

3.54%

Supervisor

$196,108

$194,858

$1,250

0.64%

Comptroller

$716,750

$715,580

$1,170

0.16%

Auditor

$79,569

$77,250

$2,319

3.00%

Tax Collection

$243,503

$244,303

($800)

-0.33%

Purchasing

$170,863

$170,363

$500

0.29%

Assessor

$711,207

$712,613

($1,406)

-0.20%

Town Clerk

$303,725

$319,702

($15,977)

-5.00%

Town Attorney

$1,078,900

$1,053,656

$25,244

2.40%

Town Engineer

$45,921

$45,921

$0

0.00%

Elections

$180,280

$175,243

$5,037

2.87%

Public Works Administration

$480,016

$473,062

$6,954

1.47%

Central Services

$775,724

$815,840

($40,116)

-4.92%

Central Data Processing

$507,545

$515,578

($8,033)

-1.56%

Unallocated Insurance

$176,400

$168,000

$8,400

5.00%

Municipal Association Dues

$4,000

$4,000

$0

0.00%

Judgment & Claims

$300,000

$250,000

$50,000

20.00%

Taxes

$42,000

$41,000

$1,000

2.44%

Special Items

$8,000

$8,000

$0

0.00%

Contingent Account

$664,000

$500,000

$164,000

32.80%

    TOTAL GENERAL GOV'T SUPPORT

$8,134,069

$7,886,808

$247,261

3.14%

     

Police & Constables

$12,099

$13,342

($1,243)

-9.32%

Police & Constables - Marine Unit

$0

$7,145

($7,145)

-100.00%

Police & Constables - SWAT

$159,934

$161,277

($1,343)

-0.83%

Traffic Control

$422,185

$423,556

($1,371)

-0.32%

Hartsdale Public Parking

$76,000

$74,000

$2,000

2.70%

Control of Animals

$321,412

$314,868

$6,544

2.08%

Civil Defense

$21,821

$24,861

($3,040)

-12.23%

Other Public Safety

$0

$14,000

($14,000)

-100.00%

Narcotic Guidance Council

$20,000

$20,000

$0

0.00%

Advanced Life Support

$914,456

$892,708

$21,748

2.44%

    TOTAL PUBLIC SAFETY

$1,947,907

$1,945,757

$2,150

0.11%

MAINTENANCE OF BRIDGES

$5,000

$4,500

$500

11.11%

     

Nutrition Program - Transfer

$275,706

$240,585

$35,121

14.60%

Veterans Service

$600

$600

$0

0.00%

    TOTAL ECON. ASST. & OPPORTUNITY

$276,306

$241,185

$35,121

14.56%

     

Council on Arts (1)

$0

$53,330

  

Recreation Administration

$210,912

$217,764

($6,852)

-3.15%

Rec - Park Maintenance

$0

$0

$0

0.00%

Day Care Center

$103,220

$100,657

$2,563

2.55%

Historian

$4,934

$4,934

$0

0.00%

    TOTAL CULTURE & RECREATION

$319,066

$376,685

($57,619)

-15.30%

     

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

$3,037,201

$2,784,525

$252,676

9.07%

INTERFUND TRANSFERS

$450,000

$375,000

$75,000

20.00%

DEBT SERVICE

$1,525,403

$1,436,310

$89,093

6.20%

TOTAL APPROPRIATIONS

$15,694,952

$15,050,770

$644,182

4.28%

     

(1) Council on Arts was moved from the A Fund to the B Fund and went from 53,330 to 52,402, a 1.74% decrease

TOWN OUTSIDE BUDGET

  

INCREASE

PERCENTAGE

APPROPRIATIONS

2011

2010

(DECREASE)

CHANGE

Town Clerk

$27,585

$27,835

($250)

-0.90%

Cable TV

$206,954

$120,968

$85,986

71.08%

Public Works Administration

$416,481

$393,810

$22,671

5.76%

Central Services

$313,500

$328,000

($14,500)

-4.42%

Unallocated Insurance

$551,250

$525,000

$26,250

5.00%

Judgment & Claims

$5,000,000

$2,800,000

$2,200,000

78.57%

Taxes

$111,060

$116,000

($4,940)

-4.26%

Special Items

$26,500

$25,000

$1,500

6.00%

Contingent Account

$1,070,000

$1,375,000

($305,000)

-22.18%

    TOTAL GENERAL GOV'T SUPPORT

$7,723,330

$5,711,613

$2,011,717

35.22%

     

Police and Constables

$16,734,986

$15,802,920

$932,066

5.90%

Police-Housing Authority

$0

$0

$0

0.00%

Building Department

$930,522

$915,445

$15,077

1.65%

    TOTAL PUBLIC SAFETY

$17,665,508

$16,718,365

$947,143

5.67%

     

Registrar of Vital Statistics

$2,700

$2,700

$0

0.00%

Environment Quality Control

$0

$0

$0

0.00%

Narcotics Guidance Council

$33,674

$33,674

$0

0.00%

    TOTAL HEALTH

$36,374

$36,374

$0

0.00%

     

Highway Garage

$75,000

$89,700

($14,700)

-16.39%

Street Lighting

$742,866

$693,492

$49,374

7.12%

    TOTAL TRANSPORTATION

$817,866

$783,192

$34,674

4.43%

     

Council on Arts (1)

$52,402

$0

($928)

-1.74%

Recreation Administration

$1,536,831

$1,614,592

($77,761)

-4.82%

Senior Transportation

$2,600

$2,600

$0

0.00%

Parks Maintenance

$1,630,215

$1,664,479

($34,264)

-2.06%

Anthony F. Veteran Park

$468,000

$466,233

$1,767

0.38%

Nature Center

$365,096

$359,290

$5,806

1.62%

Community Center

$2,699,929

$2,823,984

($124,055)

-4.39%

Fairview Greenburgh Pool

$613,300

$654,746

($41,446)

-6.33%

    TOTAL CULTURE & RECREATION

$7,368,373

$7,585,924

($217,551)

-2.87%

Zoning & Planning

$480,730

$374,824

$105,906

28.25%

Sanitation

$4,794,732

$4,717,594

$77,138

1.64%

Rent Subsidy

$55,000

$55,000

$0

0.00%

Conservation

$28,093

$28,183

($90)

-0.32%

Other Community Services-Grants

$120,051

$121,051

($1,000)

-0.83%

    TOTAL HOME & COMM. SERVICES

$5,478,606

$5,296,652

$181,954

3.44%

     

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

$14,018,481

$12,608,507

$1,409,974

11.18%

     

Library Fund

$3,354,838

$2,992,740

$362,098

12.10%

Insurance Fund

$425,000

$350,000

$75,000

21.43%

Highway Fund

$5,100,115

$5,891,969

($791,854)

-13.44%

    TOTAL INTERNAL TRANSFERS

$8,879,953

$9,234,709

($354,756)

-3.84%

DEBT SERVICE

$6,919,079

$6,367,991

$551,088

8.65%

TOTAL APPROPRIATIONS

$68,907,570

$64,343,327

$4,564,243

7.09%

(1) Council on Arts was moved from the A Fund to the B Fund and went from 53,330 to 52,402, a 1.74% decrease

THIS IS STEP ONE

The presentation of this proposed budget is step one. To offset the revenue declines and expense increases we have made many painstakingly considered choices. There are reductions in controllable expenses. The Town is continuing its practice of not filling positions as employees leave and we are offering an Early Retirement Incentive.

In the coming weeks the Town Council and I will be meeting with neighborhoods, civic associations and community leaders. We have until December 20 to approve a final budget.  

I want to thank the other members of the Town Board for working in partnership with me on the proposed budget. We have been meeting week after week reviewing line items in every department budget. I also thank Bart Talamini, Town Comptroller, for his hard work and dedication in the preparation of this budget. He has done an outstanding job and has provided me with excellent suggestions during this budget process. During this period of fiscal austerity it is a challenge to do more with less. This budget provides the fiscal framework for meeting that challenge.

Sincerely,  

Paul J. Feiner

Greenburgh Town Supervisor 

P.S. The entire Town budget will be posted shortly on the Town’s web site, www.greenburghny.com.     




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