October 30, 2013
To the Town Board and Residents
of the Town of Greenburgh, NY:
I am pleased to submit to the Town Board, my 2014 proposed Town budget. The proposed budget complies with the tax levy cap, Town wide. For the third consecutive year, the Town will be in compliance with the tax levy cap--an accomplishment that many other local governments have been unable or unwilling to do. This is particularly noteworthy because the cap, for 2014, will be 1.66% as compared to 2.00% for the past couple of years. Within the last week, both Moody's and Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed the Town's AAA credit rating --the highest bond rating possible. Moody's highlighted the town’s "sound financial position with strong fiscal management." The AAA bond rating is significant -- only 1% of localities around the nation have earned this distinction. Maintaining the AAA bond rating will save the Town close to $200,000 over the life of the debt service on the $13.8 million the Town will be borrowing near term.
Although I anticipate generating revenue, in 2014, from the sale of property known as Frank's Nursery, as well as the probable auction of surplus town land, the 2014 proposed budget does not factor in these additional sources of revenue.
I believe that we will start to collect revenue from WESTHELP in 2014.
THE FOLLOWING ARE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BUDGET:
TOWN WIDE: (A Budget)
Tax rate increase = 2.31%
Total Appropriations = $17.5 million, up $1.7 million from 2013
Increase in tax for 2014 = $5.30 per $15,000 of assessed value; $234.23 in 2014 vs. $228.93 in 2013
TOWN OUTSIDE: (B Budget)
Tax rate increase = 3.42% (A Fund and B Fund combined)
Total Appropriations = $70.2 million, up $2.5 from 2013
Increase in tax for 2014 = $95.62 per $15,000 of assessed value; $2892.12 in 2014 vs. $2,796.50 in 2013
The tax cap levy calculation limits the levy to 1.66% for all of those taxing districts controlled by the same authority (town board). The Town Wide, Town Outside, Special Assessments, Special Districts and the Tax Increment Finance District are all controlled by the town board. Consequently, the tax cap levy calculation is applied to the aforementioned taxing districts as a group. For a more detailed analysis and understanding of this calculation, please see page VI herein.
I am also pleased to report that the long outstanding settlement of the CSEA and Teamster collective bargaining agreements have been concluded in 2013. The CSEA and Teamster retroactive salary increases, net of the negotiated medical deductions, have been reflected in the 2012 financial results to the extent that they should be, as well as in the 2013 estimated results, accordingly. The elected officials have not received a salary increase since 2007 and neither have they received retroactive compensation, through 2013. The 2014 budget includes a salary increase for elected officials that is consistent with the CSEA rate increase for 2014.
EFFICIENCIES, INTERNAL CONTROLS, OPERATIONAL CHANGES WILL HELP TOWN REAP REWARDS IN THE FUTURE
During the past year, we have studied a number of significant opportunities to reduce costs, raise revenues and improve upon operating efficiencies that will lead to significant improvements. These initiatives, as well as improvements in internal controls and operational changes, are investments that should generate long term financial rewards for the Town and help the Town successfully overcome financial challenges ahead.
The 2014 proposed budget was prepared as the foundation for launching a number of these initiatives. The implementation of these new initiatives, together with actions taken, will put the Town in a much stronger financial position for many years to come. The initiatives that we have already undertaken and will be taking near term will enable us to reduce future costs and/or increase revenues/efficiencies. Among these are:
· Improvement in the collaborative budgeting process by the Town Supervisor and the Town Comptroller, whereby, department heads are charged with the responsibility to: (i) identify changing trends affecting their department’s programs and/or duties, (ii) review departmental expenditures which can be reduced to take into account changes in programs, activities, or duties; and (iii) identify opportunities to increase revenue generating activities or improve operating efficiencies with existing resources.
· Installation of a new town wide software program to improve administrative and managerial efficiencies by fully integrating all departmental financial, operational, human resource, purchasing, payroll and tax collection services to replace several different software packages, some of which are more than 25 years old.
· Initiation of a 3 year program for the systematic re-evaluation of all real property within the Town to produce current assessed valuations for real estate taxation. This process will stop the bleeding of certiorari actions-reducing legal costs and tax refunds.
· Development of a comprehensive, ten year plan for the Consolidated Water District (CWD), to address operational opportunities and structural improvements. Two of the projects that the CWD has already begun, as a result of this planning process, are discussed immediately below.
· Installation of new residential and commercial water meters permitting electronic recording of consumer water usage, providing for a more accurate measurement of consumer consumption and revenue generation, water conservation, and, ultimately, a reduction in personnel expenditures. The new metering system will also facilitate the ability of the CWD to identify leaks on residential and commercial customers’ properties.
· Assessing alternative means of connecting the Rumbrook pump station to the Knollwood pump station and possibly to each of the six Town water towers to produce a more efficient distribution system and provide backup protection to the Town’s water systems.
· Purchase of a “one arm bandit” garbage truck to reduce garbage pickup crews from 3 workers to 1. With the roll out of this program, we intend to significantly reduce labor costs and workers compensation claims as well as to increase both the number of pick-ups per truck and the size of each load.
· Installation of new LED lights that will significantly reduce the electricity used to power these lights and reduce the maintenance costs associated with changing out the existing bulbs that have a shorter bulb life.
· Studying the cost/benefits of converting some of the town’s fleet vehicles from gas to propane. There are potentially significant savings, in fuel costs, if this conversion is implemented.
· Pursuing delinquent real estate taxpayers through a limited tax amnesty program that will be followed by foreclosures on those properties with tax liens. The foreclosed properties will be sold shortly thereafter. We will continue to reach out to delinquent taxpayers to assist them in finding a way to pay their delinquent real estate taxes.
· Undertaking a systematic review of internal financial controls in all Town departments to ensure that adequate financial controls are in place to protect the Town’s revenues and resources. We began that process in 2013 with a review of the Town Court’s internal controls and operations. In 2014, we will conduct a follow up audit to be sure the findings and recommendations are being addressed. We will also be conducting an audit of both the Recreation & Theodore Young Community Center operations in 2014. In 2015, we will conduct an audit of the Public Works dept.
· Establishment of budgeted expenditures for financial assistance for needy Town residents participating in Parks and Rec and TDYCC programs together with the development of a uniform set of criteria for awarding financial assistance to both departments. Councilman Ken Jones has worked many hours on this initiative.
I would like to thank Town Comptroller, Bart Talamini, and all of the department heads for their hard work during the budget process. Special thanks are also extended to an informal group of citizen advisors, Richard Bobbe, Alvin Fenichel, Peter Stratigos, Dan Martin and Richard Edelson who also helped develop financial management, analysis and controls that were incorporated in the budget process and ultimately, the proposed budget. Their recommendations were very helpful.
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