Shrinking Tax Cap Allowance Challenges 2016-2017 Village Budgets

It was billed as a 2% tax cap. Voters went to the booth and approved the measure thinking they had scored a blow for good governance and that the measure would help eliminate waste and force municipalities to be more efficient with their budgets. Instead, the 2% Tax LEVY Cap has become the bane of Village treasurers across the State. The actual number fluctuates from year to year based on a number of factors and this year it came in at 1.12%. Against this backdrop, our area villages did their best to ensure a continuation of the high level of services residents have come to expect.

Irvington

Steady as she goes is the motto for the Village of Irvington in 2016-2017. “The budget process has focused on maintaining the current level of services to the public while maintaining Village infrastructure, buildings, and parks,” states Mayor Brian Smith in his letter prefacing the Tentative Budget. The document calls for a general fund budget of $16,931,825 – a modest 1.68% increase over last year’s numbers.

However, were the tax levy itself to increase by that same small amount, it would place Irvington over NY State’s tax levy cap, which this year came in at 1.12%. Fortunately, the Village reaped the benefit of a number of revenue streams that were not included in the budget (including money gained through the issuing of filming permits). This allowed Irvington to carry forward $183,171 from the previous year’s budget – $95,585 of which is being used to bring the this year’s budget in under the cap.

“The unexpected sources of revenue made it easier to appropriate some of that windfall to help reduce this year’s budget,” says Village Administrator Lawrence Schopfer. “Even then, we are not being aggressive in appropriating our surplus, so if those windfalls don’t happen again, we should be able to continue to appropriate close to this level of surplus in next year’s budget.” The end result of this budget is that residents will see their village tax rates increase by 1.42%. In addition, as Irvington’s budget will fall under the tax levy cap, residents can again expect a rebate check from the State of New York later in the year.

Briarcliff Manor

The initial proposed budget for Briarcliff Manor called for a tax levy increase of 2%, which would have put the Village over the tax cap by $108,584. The desire to remain under the cap held true, however, and the budget was revised so that it now boasts a tax levy increase of 0.88%, placing the Village $10,617 under the cap.

This was not easy to do, as the total general fund budget rose 5.66% to $17,000,209. As with its neighbors, Tarrytown and Irvington, Briarcliff made use of a significant amount of carry-over from previous years to fill in the gap. “We held back on some spending [in previous years] that we were able to release this year,” explains Village Manager Philip Zegarelli. “I think one of the more positive things [looking forward] is that I think we’re rounding the bend on some of the long planned expansions and buildings in the Village such as the Club and so on.”

As the Village is located in parts of both Ossining and Mount Pleasant, residents’ tax rates will differ depending on in which town they reside. Ossining residents will only see a 1.79% tax rate increase, while folks in Mount Pleasant will be hit with an increase of 4.91%.

Tarrytown

Just up the road, the Village of Tarrytown is also proposing a budget that will “limbo” under the tax levy cap by $6,444 thanks to last year’s leftovers.

“It will be the lowest increase proposed… over the past 20 years,” says Village Administrator Michael Blau. “The proposed tax rate increase is 1.14%. The impact on the average homeowner would be $52.50.”

The 2016-2017 General Fund budget for Tarrytown is approximately $23,078,000, which is an increase from 2015-2016’s $22,340,000. One of the things that helped keep the budget under control despite adding over $700,000 to the budget was an increase in the assessment roll – the first increase in Tarrytown in seven years. That, combined with some additional revenue and no great rise in expenses outside of normal year-to-year increases, will allow the Village to move comfortably forward. “We are maintaining our level of services at the current level,” says Blau. “We’re not adding new services; we are adding a new facility this year… and that’s the swimming pool and fitness center [in Pierson Park].” The pool with fitness center is expected to be open to residents this summer.

Thanks to the miserly tax levy increase, residents can expect to receive a rebate check from the State of New York later in the year.

Sleepy Hollow

The streak of the region’s Villages slipping under the tax levy cap unfortunately comes to an end in Sleepy Hollow. The Mayor’s Budget calls for the General Fund budget to come in at $17,190,035, which is a 3.19% increase from last year’s budget of $16,657,901. An expected drop in revenue twists the knife even more, forcing the tax levy to grow 5.49%. Needless to say, Sleepy Hollow will not be under the tax levy cap this year.

There are no major changes in the budget leading to the increased expenditures. Rather, it is due to a series of small increases across the board. Added together, they require the 2.73% tax rate increase to hit residents this year. In addition, residents will not receive a rebate from the State of New York. Oddly enough, residents did not receive a rebate last year either, even though their taxes actually dropped by a 3% rate. This was because while the tax rate went down, the tax levy actually climbed over 14%. The difference came out of the non-homestead taxes, which climbed last year by 8.05%. This year, the non-homestead rate increases again, this time by 17.54%.

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