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CORRECTION & BUDGET MESSAGE
Release Date: October 31, 2007
There was a typo in the Journal News article today indicating an increase of $413 per $1000 assessment in the 2008 proposed tax. The actual statement should have read that the average taxpayer bill will go up by $413.02 in 2008. The budget message is posted below.
I would be happy to speak to anyone personally about the budget. If you have questions feel free to contact me at 993-1545 (office), 478-1219 (home), 438-1343 (cell). I would also welcome the opportunity to meet with anyone at your home to discuss the budget in greater detail and to obtain your feedback.
Thanks for your input.
TOWN OF GREENBURGH
OFFICE OF THE SUPERVISOR
GREENBURGH, NEW TORK
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CUT THE FUND BALANCE BY $7 MILLION DOLLARS IN TWO YEARS…HAVE TWO CONSECUTIVE ZERO PERCENT TAX INCREASES…INCREASE CAPITAL EXPENDITURES…ARE INVOLVED IN THE LARGEST CONSTRUCTION PROJECT IN TOWN HISTORY?
THE AVERAGE RESIDENT OF UNINCORPORATED GREENBURGH WILL SEE THEIR 2008 TAXES GO UP BY $413.02
October 30, 2007
To the Town Board and Residents
of the Town of Greenburgh, New York:
In accordance with New York State Law Section 106, I herewith submit the Tentative Budget for the Town of Greenburgh for the fiscal year 2008. The Town Wide budget totals $15,568,347 and the Town Outside the Villages (TOV) budget totals $60,799,957. A property owner in the Town Wide will see an increase of $4.68 or 5.05% in their Town tax bill equating to 97.44 based upon a $15,000 assessed value. A property owner in The Town Outside the Villages (Unincorporated Greenburgh) will see an increase of $413.02 or 23.05% in their Town tax bill equating to $2205.18 based upon a $15,000 assessed value.
A Reconciliation of the major components contributing to the 2008 TOV tax rate increase is as follows:
Description Amount Percent
Lower use of available $ 4,445,356 12.02 %
Undesignated fund balance
Increase in Tax Certioraris $ 2,500,000 2.70 %
Increase in Library Debt Service $ 824,320 2.23 %
Increase in other appropriations $ 1,732,822 4.69 %
Decline in assessed values 2.84 %
Increase in all other revenues $ ( 166,427) ( .45)%
Subtotal B Fund $ 7,836,071 24.03 %
Impact of A Fund tax rate (.98)%
TOV tax rate Increase 23.05 %
TOWN BOARD DEPLETED OUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT BY $7 MILLION IN TWO YEARS!
FUND BALANCE DEPLETION CONTRIBUTES 12% TO TOWN OUTSIDE THE VILLAGES TAX HIKE
During my tenure as Town Supervisor we have built up a very healthy fund balance. All the members of the Board (including myself) have been tapping into the fund balance to reduce the impact on taxes. During the past two years there has been a dramatic change in the use of fund balance. However, we differed on the amount. I believed that we should have cut into the fund balance to a lesser extent and favored gradual tax hikes. The Board wanted to give people back the bulk of the fund balance over a two year period. Please see minutes of Town board meeting 12/19/06—my comments are posted below, the entire transcripts are on our web site: www.greenburghny.com (under forms). In addition, the Board increased spending over my recommendations. I told them that this would lead to bigger tax increases and financial instability by pushing the fund balance (savings account) below safe levels. But the Board ignored my warning, and the upcoming tax hike is the unfortunate result.
On December 19, 2006, members of the Town Council and I discussed the proposed 2007 budget. One council member said, “We have what appears to be a surplus in our fund balance…And so here we are, able to provide additional police protection. We’re able to increase social service programs. We’re able to increase leaf allocation money. And, at the same time, give the taxpayers a desperately needed break. I’m proud of the budget.”
All the other members agreed.
In my reply, I urged caution: “Obviously, the Board is able to reduce taxes by cutting into the fund balance…The question is, do we use up our fund balance now and provide residents with a very slight tax cut or would it be more fiscally prudent to have a very small tax increase this year, and hopefully be able to keep tax increases very low during the next few years, rather than have fluctuations and tax rates as we have seen at the County level and other levels of government.”
I reminded the council about consecutive zero-percent tax increases by County government followed by a 20 percent tax hike. People were unprepared for that, and it caused a lot of aggravation. I suggested the need for predictability and stability and said that a few small tax increases would be preferable to a major correction later on.
On the national level, we’ve seen the results of major tax cuts with no restraint in spending. I am chagrined, and a little angry, that the Town Council overrode my objections and has now placed Greenburgh in a similar situation. The Council’s responsibility is in black and white for all to see.
OTHER SPENDING DIFFERENCES
The Town Board and I have had other differences. We have differed on library spending. They rejected my pleas to hire a professional library project manager to oversee the library expansion. They rejected my suggestion to sell the old Town Hall, bank the proceeds and put the property on the tax rolls to offset the decline in the Town’s assessed values. We could have made millions of dollars and added to our tax base at the same time, all of which would have contributed to providing tax rate stability in subsequent years. We still would have been able to expand the library.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
WE MADE A MISTAKE: TWO ZERO PERCENT INCREASES
A lesson should be learned. The Town made a mistake by not increasing taxes two years in a row. People want stability, predictability. They do not want dramatic swings in their tax rates.
WE NEED A FUND BALANCE POLICY
WE ARE NOT USING ANY UNRESERVED UNDESIGNATED FUND BALANCE IN B BUDGET
Over a year ago I urged the Town Board to adopt a fund balance policy to avoid significant changes in the tax rate each year. The Board never acted on the request. I urge the Board to adopt a fund balance policy to guide future Boards. THIS YEAR, IN THE TOV BUDGET WE WILL NOT USE ANY UNRESERVED UNDESIGNATED FUND BALANCE. WARNING: If the Board cuts into the fund balance in 2008 WE WILL RISK THE POSSIBILITY OF LOSING OUR BOND RATING.
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN NOT FUNDED IN 2008 BUDGET
Last week the Greenburgh Town Board authorized me to sign a $405,000 contract with a firm to conduct a comprehensive plan. I believe that the contract should not be signed until the budget process is complete. I have not funded the comprehensive plan study in the proposed budget. The $200,000 that was funded but not spent in 2007 will be used to keep taxes down. The Board should also consider a modified plan that will be less costly to the taxpayers.
NO NEW PROGRAMS IN 2008 BUDGET (TOWN OUTSIDE)
No new programs are being budgeted in the town outside 2008 budget. I had hoped that we would be able to expand programming at the Theodore Young Community Center to seven days a week. I’m very disappointed that the 2008 budget does not provide funding for this program. However, in the coming weeks and months I will reach out to the private sector, trying to obtain funding from the private sector for this initiative. In 2008 we will aggressively search for additional grant funding to enhance the level of services that we provide to the residents.
AIDE TO COUNCIL POSITION BEING ABOLISHED
The Legislative aide position, created two years ago, is being abolished. Town Board members have always had access to all town staff.
LIBRARY GETS 5% INCREASE, OTHER DEPARTMENTS TARGETED FOR 4%
The proposed budget keeps most dept increases to 4%.
PROPOSAL: CREATE SEPARATE INDEPENDENT LIBRARY DISTRICT
Under NYS law, libraries can become separate tax districts, independent of the Town. In many communities around the state, there are separate library tax districts. Voters elect library board members and vote on the library budget. The benefit to both the Town and the library is that neither is impacted by the other’s budget issues. I recommend that the library become a separate tax district.
EVALUATE POSITIONS THAT BECOME VACANT
As positions become vacant, we will evaluate the need to fill the vacancy relative to the Town’s
other fiscal priorities. I have asked all department heads to address this issue in 2008 and keep the positions vacant until such time that the Town Board has had the opportunity to give the vacancy some consideration.
CITIZENS’ BUDGET COMMITTEE TO BE FORMED
A citizens’ budget committee will be formed. Members will be required to have expertise in finance. The citizens’ committee will review and make recommendations regarding the following years’ (emphasis on plural) budget policies and forecasts as well as meet monthly to track spending relative to the current year’s budget.
SALARIES OF TOWN SUPERVISOR AND BOARD MEMBERS WILL BE DETERMINED IN PART BY A NON PARTISAN CITIZENS’ BUDGET COMMITTEE
Salaries of town employees are determined by contract (Teamsters, CSEA, PBA). Salaries for management have been increased by 3% annually over the years. The Supervisor and TOWN Board members have received the same increases management has received. In 2008 the 3% increases for the Supervisor and Board members will be held in a separate account. The independent citizens’ budget committee will determine, at the end of 2008, whether the supervisor and Town Board members should receive all, part or none of the 3%. The decision will be based upon criteria established by the Citizens’ budget committee.
OVER $2 MILLION IN CUTS MADE
I have cut over $2 million from departmental requests. Should we cut more? That’s for the community to discuss in coming weeks.
TOWN WIDE AND TOWN OUTSIDE VILLAGE BUDGET SHIFTS IN 2008
1) The energy conservation department was moved to the Town Wide BUDGET from theTown Outside Villages BUDGET. Residents of the villages will now be able to take advantage of all services provided by this office.
2) The Day Care Center was moved to the Town Wide Fund from the Town Outside Villages
HAZARDOUS MITIGATION PLAN---The police chief, working with other police chiefs and village officials, recommended a hazardous mitigation plan be funded. This plan is intended to help the town/villages coordinate emergency response. In addition, the town and villages will be eligible for grants to address flooding around town.
THE FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPT OF MY COMMENTS LAST YEAR DURING THE BUDGET VOTE.
TO READ WHAT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE TOWN BOARD HAD TO SAY ABOUT FUND BALANCE, PLEASE TAKE A LOOK AT THE TRANSCRIPTS POSTED ON OUR WEB SITE (UNDER FORMS, MISCELLENEOUS)
STATE OF NEW YORK
TOWN OF GREENBURGH
Decision Before The Town Board
Of Greenburgh, New York, in Connection
With the Adoption of the 2007 Budget
December 19, 2006 Greenburgh Town Hall
4:40 p.m. 177 Hillside Avenue
Greenburgh, New York
Supervisor Paul Feiner
Councilwoman Eddie Mae Barnes
Councilman Steven Bass
Councilwoman Diana Juettner
Councilman Francis X. Sheehan
Town Attorney Timothy W. Lewis
Town Clerk Alfreda Williams
REPORTED BY: Lori Ann Schirripa
Official Court Reporter
QUOTES FROM 12-19-06 BUDGET HEARING BY SUPERVISOR FEINER
COMPLETE COPIES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST
Obviously the Board is able to reduce taxes by cutting into the fund balance. And in the B budget you cut into the fund balance by about $750,000. Cutting into the fund balance surplus is not really a right answer and a wrong answer. It’s a policy decision. The question is, do we use up our fund balance now and provide residents with a very slight tax cut or would it be more fiscally prudent to have a very small tax increase this year and hopefully be able to keep tax increases very low during the next few years rather than have fluctuations and tax rates as we have seen at the county level and other levels of government.
I remember a couple years ago the County Executive and the County Board of Legislatures for three or four years, consecutive years, they had zero percent tax increases one after another. And then it was followed by a whopping whopper. I think it was over a 20 percent, you know, tax hike. And people were unprepared and it caused a lot of aggravation. Any my concern is that if he would eat up into our fund balance and we have a faith based budget, as Elliot Spitzer says, he uses a term space base, where you’re relying on a lot to luck that soon or later there will be a tax, you know, bigger tax increase.
And I think people want predictability and stability. But again right now we do have the surplus. And by voting for a tax - - very small tax cut now, you know we have to let people know that there is a good chance that in the next few years there will be a tax increase. And, you know, the question is when are people going to pay for it.
SUPERVISOR FEINER: There is no public comments, but I have the right to say anything I want. So, I am going to be reading a statement, which I said - - I don’t tell you what you could say. You can’t tell me what I can say. This is part of my comments because, you know, I want it on the record, because I want the record to show the concerns, to highlight the concern in terms of the unfunded liability issues.
He indicates first Mayor Bloomberg recently announced, and he said last two or three months if my memory is correct, that rather than expand new or existing programs and reduce taxes, he as recommending that three billion of the city’s recently discovered surpluses be earmarked to begin to address the City of New York’s problem.
There is other expenses. We haven’t paid yet the bulk of the library. There are other expenses. As I indicated, the borrowing for the bulk - - for a good chunk of the library construction, that’s a $20,000,000, you know, bond that was approved by the voters. It’s going to come due in two - - with the 2008 budget. So that’s, you know, before you even start, there is an additional expense that people are paying for the library. And then that’s 2008. And then the following year we’re going to have to start paying not only for the library, which we’re doing, but also the unfunded liability issues. And that’s assuming, that means we have additional, you know, expenses that we don’t have, you know, right now.
So, my feeling is that it’s going to be very, very difficult in the future to avoid a zero percent tax increase or tax reductions. In fact, the fact that we’re eating into the fund balance by more than I had hoped, I predict, you know, there could be, you know, bigger tax increases than people would want. It’s going to be harder for people to predict. But again when you look at this budget right now, if you take this budget and you say, is this budget fine for 2007, you know, I can vote for it. It’s acceptable. It’s just, I would have preferred being a little bit more fiscally conservative. And I also would like to avoid the fluctuations.
SUPERVISOR FEINER: Well, all I could say is that time will tell. You know, if we do have fluctuations in future tax increases, as I think we will, because, you know, I do not believe we’ll be able to maintain the zero percent tax increases, then, you know, remember what I warned and suggested. I believe that most people - - nobody wants to pay taxes. Nobody wants taxes to increase. But I think that most people in the Town would prefer very small incremental, you know, tax increases. They want predictability. I think they want stability. And although my fund balance policy is a proposal, I do feel that it’s only a proposal. It was ever adopted by the Town Board.
As I said before, we do have the unfunded liabilities. We know that’s an additional cost that we’re going to have to pay for beginning in 2009. We have the library. You know, that’s additional costs we’re going to have to pay for next year. You know, we know that costs keep going up, salaries keep getting increased. We have some additional union negotiations that will have to be, you know, finalized. And I’m sure there will be increases in union, you know, wages.
So, the bottom line is, there are going to be tax increases, you know, in the future. Again, it’s pay now or pay later. And again, how much do you pay later. Would people prefer, you know, a one or two percent increase every year of would they prefer a small dip in the taxes now and then a substantial increase next year or two or three years from now.
This budget is a wake up call to focus on greater fiscal discipline! We must work together to avoid this kind of rate hike in the future. I also hope that this Board will carefully review the proposed budget and help identify additional savings that might be made.
Paul J. Feiner, Town Supervisor
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