The trustees worked extremely hard in work sessions over the past several weeks to reduce the tentative budget’s 4.5 percent tax levy increase to 2.9 percent in the final budget, which will be filed by May 1. We initially started this process in early January knowing of the fiscal constraints and challenges.
The village budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 is now $14,308,447 million, of which $8,345,002 must be raised via property taxes. We anticipate $5,535,648 million in various revenue sources, chief among them parking fees and mortgage and sales tax proceeds.
In order to get to this number, while absorbing almost a 5 percent tax increase sent from Albany in the form of pension, health care and other unfunded mandate costs, cuts were made across the board. Our administrative staff, library, parking enforcement staff, Public Works Department and Police Department are operating with historically low manpower levels.
To recap, in what has become a dangerous and unsustainable trend, pension costs again increased significantly – this year by 13 percent versus 19 percent in our last budget – for a total cost of $1,351,532 to the State of New York for just this one line item alone.
In tandem, health care costs are now $1,742,972 in the current budget and are forecasted to rise precipitously in our next budget cycle. Taken together, these two line items comprise 21.6 percent of the village budget. We also had to send the state an additional $250,000 to cover various other unfunded mandates including workmen’s compensation and the MTA payroll tax.
In contrast, our direct aid from the state amounted to $130,000 in total.
We also closed out some $160,000 worth of capital projects that we deemed non-essential, and applied those monies to this year’s debt service charge.
We did maintain funding for a limited number of summer jobs for our students as their presence is enormously helpful during the busy staff vacation period.
The 2.9 percent tax levy increase results in the village surpassing the state tax cap by $13,000.
We did have to dip into fund balance to reach the 2.9 percent levy number, but even after our use of some monies, the fund balance remains at $2,230,000 million, or 15.8 percent of the operating budget. Standard & Poor’s characterizes our percentage of fund balance as “very strong” and we will certainly maintain our AAA bond rating.
At the end of the process, the trustees and I felt very good in that we kept village departments lean but highly functioning, there is no diminution of services going forward and our fund balance will remain healthy for years to come.
In a quirk of state law, our village and school budget years can never match up in spite of the fact that logic would seem to dictate they should.
Per state law, village budgets must be on a June 1 – May 31 fiscal year while school budgets are locked into a fiscal year of July 1 – June 30 due to the constraint of state aid formulas.
This slight variation is important to note when you are either buying or selling a house as the tax apportionment is not in perfect alignment.
In an effort to save time, money and paper, we now send out one bill with two payment stubs enclosed.
The first payment is due by June 30 to avoid any penalties. You should be receiving your notification following the May 21 school budget vote.
On a very positive front, we have bucked the trend of almost all other communities and actually added $13,359,021 to the village’s assessed valuation, thus lowering the tax rate to 2.41 percent per $1,000 of assessed value.
As a result of keeping village property valuations current and defendable, we had a record low number of tax challenges.
In addition to the above operating budget, the trustees and I annually craft a capital budget for needed improvements or maintenance throughout the village.
Currently, we have $3,679,784.82 that has accrued over the past few capital programs, which are a blend of village projects and Sstate grants. Much of the funding goes toward Public Works initiatives and police and village equipment and vehicles. As example, we have $675,000 earmarked to do street paving and curbing this summer. If you believe your street should be on this list, e-mail our Department of Public Works at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will review its condition.
Given all the constraints and unfunded mandates, the trustees and I believe we have crafted a very lean responsible budget that keeps the village in good stead going forward.