2019 PROPOSED BUDGET RELEASED – BUDGET STAYS UNDER TAX CAP, ENABLING RESIDENETS TO RECEIVE TAX REFUND CHECK FROM NYS
I have filed my proposed 2019 budget with the Town Clerk. The budget, as proposed in its entirety, will be posted on the town website www.greenburghny.com. The Town Board will schedule public hearings later in November (I anticipate that the first hearing will be held on November 28th at 7:30 PM). The Board is required by law to approve a final budget December 20, 2018. Here are highlights from my proposed budget.
*Please be advised that 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 your municipal services are provided by your village.
2019 TOWN OF GREENBURGH PROPOSED BUDGET SUMMARY*
The 2019 Budget again complies with the New York State tax cap. As a result, Greenburgh taxpayers will receive property tax refund checks from the State (given to taxpayers who live in communities that comply with the cap).
TOWN WIDE: (Villages and Unincorporated Greenburgh)
2019 Tax Rate DECREASE: 1.0%
Total Appropriations: $27.1 million;
IMPACT ON A RESIDENT WHO LIVES IN A VILLAGE-- A home in the Village of Hastings (Hastings School) with a total property tax of $16,609 pays $277 in Town Tax. Assuming all other taxes remain the same in 2019, that same taxpayer can expect to pay $274 (a decrease of $3)
TOWN OUTSIDE: (Unincorporated Greenburgh Only)
Tax Rate Increase: 2.51 % (A Fund and B Fund combined)
Total Appropriations: $ 84.1 million;
IMPACT ON RESIDENT WHO LIVES IN UNINCORPORATED GREENBURGH A home in the Unincorporated Town (Greenburgh Schools) with a total property tax of $17,367 pays $3,591 in Town Tax. In 2019, that same taxpayer can expect to pay $3,681 (an increase of $90).
WHY THE TOWN WIDE TAX RATE DECREASE DOES NOT TRANSLATE INTO LARGE SAVINGS FOR TAXPAYERS
The “A” budget is very small. Although residents will be happy to note that there is a tax REDUCTION in 2019 the dollar amount is very small. For most residents only about 2% of your entire tax bill goes into the A budget - which is funded by residents of both the villages and unincorporated section of town.
A BUDGET SERVICES - TO RESIDENTS OF THE VILLAGES/UNINCORPORATED
1. We offer Advance Life Support (ALS) and paramedic services which has a proven record of repeatedly saving the lives of village/unincorporated residents. Hopefully, you won't need them, but if you do these services are ready to respond to your call 24 hours a day.
2. The town-wide senior program serves or delivers over 65,000 meals to village & unincorporated seniors each year. The program provides a hot meal five days a week to eligible seniors. We have three nutrition sites - in Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown and unincorporated Greenburgh. Our home delivery program provides delivery services to seniors who cannot come to one of these sites.
3. The Town has a recreation program for residents who have developmental disabilities.
4. The Town’s animal control department responds to calls for service within the villages and unincorporated Greenburgh. If there is a stray or injured animal the animal control unit will respond. We transport the animals to an appropriate medical facility for care.
5. The Town's civil defense unit provides civil defense services during natural disasters and other major events, such as post 9/11 and during blackouts. These services include coordination of communications for police, fire, paramedics and refilling of air packs and fresh air for specialized rescues. The unit also responds to refill the air tanks of village volunteer firefighters during fires.
6. The Town's highly trained and specially equipped special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team is available 24/7 to respond to emergencies. Officers from throughout the town who meet very rigorous standards are readily available to respond to emergencies in the villages.
7. The Town's road striping unit is responsible for striping roads, including the center and side lines and crosswalks on roads in all six villages and in unincorporated Greenburgh.
8. The Town acts as a collection agent for the schools and county. The Town guarantees 100% of the taxes to both entities.
9. At the request of the villages, the Town took over the responsibilities of dog licensing.
10. The town oversees all assessment services for the villages and unincorporated Greenburgh. Prior to reassessment (a few years back) the villages and unincorporated Greenburgh had separate assessment responsibilities.
11. In my proposed 2019 budget I have included funding for our food scrap recycling program in the A budget. Currently, food scrap recycling pick up location is at A.F. Veteran Park. Village residents have taken advantage of the program in 2018. And some of the villages have also transported food scraps to the parking area. Going forward – if any village would like to have a food scrap recycling drop off location in their village – I will recommend to the Town Board that funding be appropriated from the A budget for this purpose. The town has worked with the Greenburgh Nature Center on this important initiative. Hopefully, within the two years the Greenburgh Public Works Department will pick up food scraps as part of our sanitation/recycling program.
Honorable Town Board Members:
I am pleased to propose a budget that will continue our perfect record in complying with the New York State Tax Cap. This demonstrates our continuing commitment to keep Greenburgh a great and affordable place to live.
GREENBURGH TAX PAYERS WILL RECEIVE A CHECK FROM THE STATE BECAUSE WE COMPLIED WITH THE TAX CAP
New York State rewards our taxpayers with additional tax rebates based on Greenburgh’s cost-containment success. There are other government entities within Westchester and New York State that have overruled the tax cap over the years. The Greenburgh Town Board has never overruled the tax cap since its inception.
We overcame significant challenges to meet the 2019 tax cap, especially regarding expenses that are outside of our direct control. Examples include Utility costs, Medical Insurance and Workers Compensation. Honoring the cap has and will continue to help us stabilize costs and restrain tax increases.
We will meet 2019 fiscal challenges by limiting increases in certain operating expenses, holding some expenditures flat year-over-year and by reducing spending where practical. Once again our department heads responded to our challenge for new ways to do more with less. We are able to strengthen Town finances and maintain Greenburgh’s high quality of life as our efficiency initiatives come to fruition and by restraining the filling of vacancies.
TRIPLE A BOND RATING SAVED THE TOWN $300,000 IN INTEREST SAVINGS FOR RECENTLY SOLD DEBT
I am doubly proud that we have again achieved a Aaa bond rating this year (the highest rating possible by Moody's and Standard & Poor's). Only 1% of all localities in the nation have achieved this highest level of financial confidence. Our Aaa rating equates to approximately $300,000 in interest savings for our recently sold debt. Our Aaa rating saves us money each time we renew maturing bonds.
During my tenure as Town Supervisor, the Town’s bond rating has increased several times. The Town has attained Aaa ratings every year from Standard and Poor’s since 2008 and Moody’s since 2010. During this time many other local, county, state and national governments have seen their bond ratings decrease. We are proud that we continue to manage a fiscally prudent government and have maintained the highest rating possible.
I ask once again for your help in preserving our Town’s fiscal strength and keeping Greenburgh a great place to live.
2019 GREENBURGH BUDGET AND OPERATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS
The 2019 budget is almost an ‘as is’ budget - very similar to last year’s budget. We are continuing to identify new potential productivity increases, cost reductions and revenue enhancements that will enable us to improve our financial strength, while maintaining our high service levels. 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 2018.
Contracts for all three unions expire at the end of this year. I am optimistic that we will be able to settle the contracts in the near future. The 2019 budget includes a 2% increase for management & elected officials. We will continue to utilize attrition to reduce employee costs. We are also enjoying the benefits of our initiatives, which continue to grow. Switching to LED has permanently reduced our electrical lighting expenditures. The single-worker sanitation trucks and other recent initiatives are making the Sanitation Department increasingly efficient each year. We have six fewer employees since the start of the one arm bandit initiative. We will be completing the transition from the old trucks to the new ones. Finding and adapting these and other new technologies is ingrained within the culture of Greenburgh government, which drives ongoing improvements in the effectiveness of our operations.
$50,000 FOR HARTSDALE 4 CORNERS FOLLOW UP - The Town Board recently forwarded to the Planning Board a proposed vision statement that could result in mixed use at this key section of town. However, before that happens we must address traffic congestion, parking and drainage problems. I have included $50,000 in the proposed budget that could be used for consultants or grant writers.
COURT HOUSE - For many years we have highlighted the need for a new court house (and police HQ) to replace both aging and inadequate buildings. We will sell our existing buildings, place the properties on the tax rolls. We have been saving funds for a number of years to reduce borrowing costs. The 2019 budget includes $7 million from our fund balance that will be used for this purchase. We are in the beginning stages and will keep residents informed.
ASSISTANT HISTORIANS - Riley Wentzler and Felicia Barber are two recent college graduates who have been writing weekly “slices of Greenburgh history” that we have publicized on social media and on the town’s website. It’s important that residents of Greenburgh appreciate the history of the town and both have been doing a great job of educating our residents. We have included $10,000 in the A budget for this continued service.
$14,000 SUMMER INTERNS - The Town Clerk, Town Attorney and I have overseen a very successful internship program in recent years. Last summer 36 students participated. Projects that the interns have worked on have been profiled in the media (local and metropolitan areas). I have included $14,000 for the summer internship program.
TOWN CLERK AND TOWN BOARD – The Town Clerk’s budget continues to be fully funded. The Town Board has a new Legislative Assistant position.
FOOD RECYCLING – The food-recycling program moved to the Town Entire budget. The villages have the option of creating additional drop off locations in the future.
The stock market had a positive impact on the NYS Employee Retirement System (ERS) in 2018 and the NYS Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). Overall, the retirement liability for the Town has decreased by approximately $300,000 for 2019.
• We are budgeting $1.2 million in building permit income due to multiple upcoming projects that are being discussed with the Commissioner of Planning and the Building Inspector. In the past we over anticipated permit revenue and would prefer to be conservative in the revenue estimates.
• To ensure that our operations are on the cutting edge of technology, we established a Citizens Technology Advisory Committee to work collaboratively with the Town to help create new technology initiatives and improve the Town’s operations and efficiency.
• We will continue to work with the school districts and villages within the Town for opportunities to share services and save taxpayer dollars.
• Efforts to collect back taxes have been effective. Back taxes, penalties and interest collected this year is $5.8 million to date. The Town will continue to hold auctions on a regular basis. The Town has collected $1.9 million in auction sales during 2018.
In summary, the financial health of our Town is solid. Because the future holds many uncertainties beyond our control, we must redouble our efforts to reduce costs, increase revenue and improve our management practices to ensure our continued financial soundness and provision of exemplary services to our citizens.
Note: A special thank you to Roberta Romano, Comptroller of the Town, for her efforts in preparing the budget and helping maintain our Aaa bond rating. Also, a big thank you to the Town Board members who work so hard in overseeing the operations of the Town and are essential to our continued fiscal strength. Lastly, thank you to our employees and citizen volunteers of the Town who continue to work hard helping us make your Town government responsive and efficient.