GREENBURGH COMPLIES WITH STATE TAX CAP/PREPARES FOR FUTURE
A BUDGET: $15.6 million in 2012 (a $0.1 million increase)
- Tax cap limit met
- Tax levy up 2.0%
- Tax rate up 3.6%*
B BUDGET: $66.6 million in 2012 (a $1.4 million decrease in appropriations)
- Tax cap limit met
- Tax levy up 2.0%
- Tax rate up 3.3%*
Note: Inflation rate in the past 12 months: 3.9%
*The tax rate differs from the tax levy due to changes in assessed property values and the exclusion from the calculation of pension increases over 2%. See the attachments for a full explanation of the tax cap.
Greenburgh complies with NYS Tax Cap Law
The 2012 proposed budget complies with the State tax levy cap approved by the Governor and members of the New York State Legislature earlier this year. Unlike many communities around the State that have or are expected to overturn the cap, I want Greenburgh to operate within the State’s guidelines. The proposed tax hikes are also below the inflation rate.
Fewer Employees if no Union Concessions
One reason there will be fewer employees working for the Town in 2012 is our continuing policy of not filling most vacated positions. In addition, skyrocketing benefit costs are forcing the Town to lay off approximately a half dozen current employees. Benefits add approximately 40% in costs beyond employee salaries. The figure is approximately 50% for each police officer. Further, we project benefit costs will double within the next five years.
I have and will continue to meet with the unions representing the employees in positions identified for layoff. I indicated that I would be able to recommend no 2012 layoffs if the unions will offset the costs by agreeing to concessions similar to that recently approved by New York State union employees.
The 2012 budget is personally my most painful. There are Town employees who will have to leave their jobs because of the difficult choices the Town is facing. This is the first time I have proposed parting with valued Town employees in my 20 years as Supervisor. It is heartbreaking to lay off employees.
Our employees are known for their responsiveness and dedication to the Town. I appreciate their service. The positions eliminated are those I determined would have the least impact on essential services.
The layoffs in this budget are additionally painful to me because I have been devoting many hours over the past few years helping to reduce unemployment—not add to it. I pledge to work hard to help the town employees who lose their jobs find other employment.
No Salary Increases Budgeted in 2012 for CSEA, Teamsters, Management and Elected Officials
CSEA Members, Teamster Members, Management and your Elected Officials work hard for the Town, but have not received salary increases for several years. I am recommending that the employee unions agree to contracts that are similar to the contracts recently accepted by state employees.
No Fund Balance Used in A Budget... $1.8 million Used in B Budget
The A Budget, which serves the entire Town (unincorporated Greenburgh and Villages), will spend no more than we take in. No fund balance is being used to balance the A Budget. The B Budget (which serves unincorporated Greenburgh), relies on the use of $1.8 million in fund balance. We are working toward a future point when no fund balance will be used to subsidize programs in the B Budget.
Sacrifices/Preparing for More Difficult Times Ahead
This budget further reinforces the need for government to do more with less. We will continue to rethink government. This effort supports our goal of maintaining the most important quality of life services that residents enjoy, even in the face of cutbacks. So far, Town budget cuts have not reached the more severe levels we see at the National, State or County levels. However, we can virtually guarantee dramatic cuts in future budgets unless we can turn around out-of-control benefit costs.
Budget Cuts/Library Surpluses
Some budget cutting examples include reducing the use of Outside Legal Consultants ($175,000) and funding the Arts Council with private donations ($52,000). Elsewhere, we cut over a dozen positions, both occupied and vacated, reducing total Personnel costs by $1.1 million.
We expect no Library services decrease even though the Town is reducing its annual payment by $320,000. This is because the Library has an excessively large reserve fund (over $500,000) due to significant budget surpluses in recent years. The Library can further reduce costs by bringing its expenditures in line with the other 38 libraries in Westchester.
I am recommending changes in the way we bill for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). We have improved the way we collect information and pursue health insurers for reimbursement. We have started billing for calls when an ambulance arrives but is not used for hospital transport, which is also reimbursable by health insurers. In addition, I recommend we update billing letters to better prompt payments from individuals. However, the Town will prohibit our billing contractor from communicating with credit agencies about non-payers. The Citizens Budget Commission estimates that these changes could generate about $240,000 or more annually in extra revenue.
Additionally, cost-saving and revenue generation efforts have grown out of a collaboration established earlier this year with Berkeley College. Berkeley has provided seven interns who are paid from a Federal Work-Study Grant, not by Greenburgh Taxpayers. These interns will raise an additional $100,000 in revenue for the Town in 2011 and an estimated $400,000 in 2012 by processing the traffic ticket backlog uncovered in 2010. Additionally, the Court Administrator has spoken so highly of her interns that several other Town agencies have requested them.
Other Ways We May Cut Expenses and Increase Revenue
I am always searching for cost reduction opportunities. For example, we have found significant cost differences between our own EMS and that of outside providers. We are reviewing the suitability of substituting highly trained Emergency Medical Technicians for the much more highly paid police officers. These officers would then be able to increase their direct duties within the Police Department.
We are currently negotiating new revenue possibilities for the WESTHELP property and the old Frank’s Nursery. The Town lost $1.2 million per year after the County recently discontinued their relationship with WESTHELP.
We are also working to streamline the business applications process and spread the word that Greenburgh is business-friendly. New businesses will bring much needed new revenue to the Town.
In addition, we expect significant savings in 2012 as we complete a detailed review of Town insurance costs.
Stronger Fiscal Oversight, Better Cost Controls
The 2012 budget cuts are only the beginning of an aggressive initiative to improve the way we run government. I am proposing to add a part-time budget officer and part-time internal auditor to enhance the monitoring and control of expenses across all departments. I expect this to generate savings far greater than the cost of these positions. We will also create and partner with a new citizens commission that will work with these professionals to maximize the benefits of comprehensive operational reviews.
Greenburgh Needs Greater Flexibility in Managing Its Workforce
Our Town needs relief from stifling State controls over the Town’s business. For example, the State mandates arbitration to resolve impasses between the Town and police unions, forcing the Town to give hefty pay increases while the rest of the Town’s workforce receives nothing. The State also dictates pension costs, which will go up by 25% in 2012.
A New Kind of Relationship with Unions
Employee benefits are the Town’s only significant expense that is virtually certain to continue increasing by double digits every year. This problem is literally compounding our fiscal struggles as surely as high credit card rates drive some individuals into bankruptcy. These costs are accelerating, pushing the cost of municipal employees beyond what Taxpayers can afford.
Until the larger State issues mentioned above are resolved, the Town will face deteriorating choices--unsustainably large layoffs and/or double-digit tax hikes. In the interim, we need solutions to extend the period during which the Town can sustain a workforce sufficient to serve our residents. This challenge cannot be resolved unilaterally. It may be addressable in part through a realistic and serious good faith partnership between the Town and the employee unions. The Town needs to better control costs by increasing flexibility in deploying its workforce and redefining work standards. Our workers want a financially stable and reliable employer. A partnership with the unions is in our mutual interests.
We must act now before unmanageably large budget gaps force the Town to drastically terminate employees and overwhelm Taxpayers. Greenburgh’s challenges are national in scope. We will prepare for the future by addressing them now.
I want residents to know that fiscal strength is only possible with the combined efforts of everyone working for the Town. It starts with those on the front lines who provide services essential to our well-being and quality of life. It continues with the agency heads that find and implement innovations and manage their complex organizations. Of course, none of this would be possible without leadership from the Town Council.
In addition, I want to tell you about an innovative and powerful new tool we have added. Early in 2011, I created a commission to do what has never been done before in Greenburgh and was virtually unheard of in government. The Greenburgh Budget Oversight Commission (GBOC) is a group of twenty-five (25) Town citizens formed to analyze the Town’s fiscal matters, evaluate the operations of Town agencies and provide an additional perspective on how to strengthen Greenburgh.
With my backing, support from the Comptroller and exceptional cooperation from each department, the GBOC met with agency heads, analyzed their operations and developed recommendations for improving efficiency and reducing expenses. Their energy helped motivate us to dig even deeper for solutions. The GBOC developed a solid starting point for the development of my 2012 budget. Their longer-term recommendations will serve the Town well for many years to come. I have identified these members on the page that immediately follows this message.
Financial challenges for government are growing at an accelerated pace. Greenburgh will meet and overcome these challenges with one goal in mind – maintaining a strong quality of life for all the residents of our community.
MEMBERS OF THE GREENBURGH
BUDGET ADVISORY COMMISSION
DANIEL R. MARTIN