BRIARCLIFF MANOR – Maintaining the budget under the cap has been a main focus in Briarcliff Manor. “Everything is sort of dollars, dollars, dollars,” admits Village Manager Phillip Zegarelli. “Everyone’s coming off having to shoehorn expenses into a budget regarding the 2% tax cap and we’re coming off of basically flat sales tax revenue and mortgage tax [revenue].”
Thankfully, the flat revenue numbers have not caused the Village any hardship.
“We’ve been super conservative in our expectations, and met our target numbers,” says Zegarelli. Helping matters thus far has been the lack of any unexpected emergencies, such as last year’s Hurricane Sandy, which can take an unexpected bite out of a village’s budget. “You need to keep one eye looking over your shoulder at what could erode,” cautions Zegarelli, who otherwise feels Briarcliff Manor is on sound financial ground. “Overall I feel comfortable going into the second half of the year.”
Even dealing with the expected tax levy cap of 1.66%, the Village will not be sitting on its hands in 2014. They recently gained approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation to turn the field behind the youth center into a municipal playing field, and will be using insurance money from the damages to the Village’s parkland to help fund the project. Briarcliff will also be undertaking some infrastructure work at the old King’s College location.
“There’s work that has to be done so you have to spend money. The single most difficult thing [facing the Village financially] is how can you make this dollar stretch and make sure people understand you’re doing the best you can,” says Zegarelli. “But there’s another issue. And the issue is that during these times of economic distress, people, while they want to keep their taxes low, also look to you to do more. So they’ll see that there’s a greater need for additional hours at the library, or they want additional recreational programs. It’s trying to triangulate all those competing needs with really scarce dollars.”
Though it is too early to say for certain whether or not Zegarelli will recommend a budget to the Board of Trustees that goes over the 1.66% tax levy cap, he knows the pressure will be on to stay below the magic number. “I know this Mayor and I know this Board, they really look to [the] staff – myself and finance – to hold the line,” he says, “but I think they also know there are costs and there are demands for services that people in Briarcliff look to from their government. It’s a real balancing act.”
Village Manager Zegarelli will be presenting the Village’s six-month financial report to the Board of Trustees in December, and the presentation will be posted online on the Village’s website at http://briarcliffmanor.org/.