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BUDGET MESSAGE 2015.... budget complies with tax cap...BUDGET WILL BE FILED WITH TOWN CLERK BY 5 PM
Release Date: October 30, 2014

The following is my 2015 budget message. The proposed 2015 budget will be filed with the Town Clerks office today by 5 PM. The entire budget will be posted on line (www.greenburghny.com) by the weekend.
The Town Board has until mid December to make modifications to the proposed budget. Public hearings will be held. Your feedback and thoughts are always welcome and appreciated.
PAUL FEINER
October 30, 2014
 
 
Honorable Board Members:
 
I am pleased to present you with the 2015 proposed budget.  This budget complies with the New York State 1.56% tax levy cap. 
 
I am proud of Greenburgh’s ongoing commitment to live within its means, long after many other communities have faltered.  Honoring the cap has and will continue to help us stabilize costs and restrain taxes increases.
 
I am doubly proud that we have been able to maintain our Aaa bond rating (the highest rating possible by Moody's and Standard & Poor's) while continuing to provide the high quality services our residents have come to expect.  Only 1% of all localities in the nation have achieved this highest level of financial confidence.  Our Aaa rating equates to over $200,000 in interest savings over the life of the debt service.
 
2015 BUDGET SUMMARY
 
TOWN WIDE: (villages and unincorporated Greenburgh)
 
Tax rate increase = 1.75%  (some residents might be confused. The tax cap levy that NYS approved uses different calculations than tax rate increases)
 
Total Appropriations = $17.7 million; up $0.4 million from 2014
 
Increase in tax for 2015 = $4.09 per $15,000 of assessed value; $238.31 in 2015 vs. $234.22 in 2014
 
TOWN OUTSIDE:  (only unincorporated Greenburgh)
 
Tax rate increase = 2.58% (A Fund and B Fund combined)
 
Total Appropriations = $72.0 million; up $1.2 million from 2014
 
Increase in tax for 2015 = $75.20 per $15,000 of assessed value; $2,984.46 in 2015 vs. $2,909.27 in 2014
 
Note: The proposed tax rate increase of 1.75% in the Town Wide Budget and 2.58% in the Town Outside Budget pertains to the Town's portion of total property tax collections.  Over 80% of
your property taxes go to your school district, fire department and Westchester County.  For

residents of the villages about 98% of your property taxes go to entities other than the town.  Most of the municipal services are provided by the village.

Financial and Operational Management
 
We began the 2015 budget process this past spring using an even more deliberative and analytical budgeting process, while further stimulating fresh and creative approaches.  Working with department heads, we identified new potential productivity increases, cost reductions and revenue enhancements that will allow us to improve our financial strength, while maintaining our high service levels for the community.  For example, in 2015 we will again be able to utilize attrition to reduce employee costs.  We are implementing new management controls, which will allow better use of our existing resources and improve control over expenditures versus budget.  We have kept departmental costs as flat as possible versus 2014. 
 
Controllable Budget Factors
 
Our 2015 budget efforts provided an additional one million dollars in savings and revenue enhancements for this proposed budget.
 
We expect the current reassessment project will stabilize the tax base in the future, giving the Town more direct control over changes in property tax rates and greatly curtailing future certiorari awards.  Currently, the tax base continues to decline, albeit at a slower rate.
 
External Budget Factors
 
The strong stock market had a significant positive impact on the NYS Employee Retirement System (ERS) in 2014 and the NYS Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).  The Town will benefit through a projected decline in ERS and PFRS contribution rates for 2015.  We expect 2015 ERS to decline by $683,000 from $5,043,302 in 2014 and PFRS to decline by $207,000 from $3,605,597 in 2014.  Future year’s pension contribution rates will be subject to the trusts’ investment performance.
 
Other Town Initiatives
 

  • The Town Board will soon adopt a comprehensive plan for the growth and development of the Town of Greenburgh commercially and residentially which will help us attract and keep businesses in the town, thereby improving our tax base.
 
  • Sanitation expenses will drop with the introduction of each new “one-armed bandit” trash collection truck.  The new truck requires only one person to operate it compared with the three per truck currently in use.  The first new truck will go into service this November.  Another benefit is reduced injuries and compensation cases because the new trucks empty trashcans using a remotely operated external arm.  Because of this, in the 2015 budget we have eliminated two full time laborer positions from the sanitation budget.
 
  • We are increasing our promotion of organic recycling to residents.  I am recommending that we contract with the Greenburgh Nature Center to oversee an aggressive effort to encourage people and businesses to recycle organic materials.  Widespread acceptance could reduce our waste by up to 30%, which would reduce our costs significantly (six figures!).
 
  • The Water District is addressing infrastructure needs using modeling techniques to identify the best approaches and develop a strategic plan.  We should begin to see results in 2015 and our budget reflects this.
 
  • Over a year ago, we contracted with an independent auditing company to conduct a study of Town Court operations.  The Court has already implemented many audit recommendations, leading to improved internal controls and efficiencies.  In 2015 we will conduct a similar operational review of the Department of Public Works, which will help us identify additional cost savings and management efficiencies.
 
  • We will continue to work with the school districts and villages within the town for opportunities to share services and save taxpayer dollars.  For example, in 2014 the town and villages jointly purchased significant amounts of asphalt for road repaving, saving many thousands of dollars.  By collaborating with other municipalities in Westchester, the town has saved significant dollars with our reassessment initiative.
 
  • The Town Board has approved a plan that requires present and future Town Boards to resolve all outstanding tax liens on an annual basis.  This will help support our fund balance.  We have incorporated a portion of the potential revenue in the 2015 proposed budget.
 
  • We will be retrofitting our lights to more efficient LED lighting. There should be significant savings once our lights are retrofitted.
 
  • The library, with the help of the GPL Foundation and a grant from NYS, has invested in two self-check machines that allow patrons to check out their own library materials.  It is a popular service with patrons which helps to use staff more efficiently and ultimately save staff costs.
 
  • The Town Clerk's office, working with our Cable TV Coordinator is in the process of planning an upgrade to the cable TV studio to include sound proofing.  A state of the art studio paid for with nontax dollars (PEG funds) will allow the town to make it available to others for a rental fee.
 
  • The Planning Department is preparing the Comprehensive Plan Generic Environmental Impact Statement in house, saving the town approximately $50,000 in 2015 by avoiding outside consultant costs.
 
  • The Town is purchasing mobile weight scales to protect our roads from damage caused by overweight trucks.  This initiative will more than pay for itself.  We anticipate revenues in excess of $200,000 in 2015.
 
FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE APPROACH TO THE 2015 BUDGET

 
We have decided to exclude the following three potential revenue sources in keeping with our fiscally conservative approach to budgeting:
 
  • The Town Board has authorized an auction for the sale of Frank's Nursery.   I  did not include estimated revenue in my 2015 proposed budget. 
 
  • The Town Board presented Westchester County with a proposed affordable housing lease for the WestHELP property.  Under the terms of the proposed lease, the town will receive 2.4 million dollars upfront.  I have included no revenue for this in the 2015 proposed budget because the county has not yet approved the proposed lease.  However, I anticipate that the property will be converted into affordable housing and that the town will collect revenues from the property in the future.
 
  • The rezone of the Landmark at Eastview will result in significant construction activity on that campus, resulting in sound development and significant building permit and tax revenues.
 
The Town Board authorized a town wide real estate revaluation process.  Once completed the town should save significant dollars by not having to issue as many tax refunds. We should also be able to reduce legal costs associated with certiorari claims.
 
Parks and Recreation and the Department of Community Resources will be rolling out a new software product with online capabilities in 2015.  In addition to being able to allow residents to enroll in classes and renew memberships from the comfort of their own home, both departments will be able to issue email receipts and send text messages or emails about cancellations.  Mail-in and in-person registration will still be available, and all these new services, while not increasing the budget.
 
A sad note ...  Pat Lanza, a longtime supporter of many of our programs passed away in 2014.  Her foundation had paid for our entire arts and culture program - a terrific program that had previously been supported by town taxpayers.  We are currently in discussions with a foundation to fund the program but no decision has been made by the foundation as of yet.  I included in the 2015 budget funding for our arts program.  In the event that the town is successful in obtaining a foundation grant for the arts program, the town will be reimbursed for any funds that were paid from taxpayer dollars.
 
Special thank you to Bart Talamini, Comptroller of the town for his efforts in assisting the town prepare the budget and maintain our Aaa bond rating.  And, a thank you to the Town Board members for working hard in overseeing the operations of the town.  A final thank you to those citizens of the town who continue to work very hard helping us make your town government responsive and efficient.
       
In summary, the financial health of the town is good.  Because the future holds many uncertainties beyond our control we intend to strengthen our efforts for cost reductions and revenue generation and improved management practices to ensure the continued financial soundness and exemplary services to our citizens.
 
PAUL FEINER
 
 
 
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