Like Cream … Irvington’s Budget Process Rises to the Top

At this point in time, nothing is more important to Irvington’s elected officials than their 2010-2011 budget. That’s not to say that waterfront and business improvement issues aren’t being addressed, it’s simply that money, or the lack of it, has a way of garnering attention and galvanizing efforts.

Larry Schopfer, the Village Administrator, metaphorically summed up the financial situation in New York and the effect it has had in Irvington. “Last October when we were talking, the bombs were dropping and we were hunkering down. Well the bombs have all exploded and we’re dealing with the fallout this year,” he said. That translates to a projected and “rough” budget estimate of an 8.1% increase for the Village next year.

There will be very large increases in pension contributions levied by New York State. A $300,000 increase is projected with police pension contributions rising from 14 percent to 18.5 percent and all other employees’ pensions rising from 7 percent to 11.5 percent. These substantial increases are the direct result of New York State’s Pension Fund having lost 30 to 40 percent of their portfolio’s assets, according to Schopfer. “In general, they are heavily invested into equities,” he said. Regardless of the State’s investment losses, pension benefits still have to be paid and those financial obligations have fallen to a greater degree on municipalities and Villages like Irvington.

Pension benefits will increase the Irvington budget by 3 percent.

The Village has projected a loss of about 2 percent of the tax base due to a drop in real estate values. That translates to a deficit of $240,000 which will have to be “spread out” over other taxpayers, Schopfer noted. “The remaining part of the budget that we have control over won’t go up any more than 3 percent,” he said.

The current 2009/2010 budget for the Village is $14,373,379 which represents a zero percent increase and actually a slight decrease from the previous budget. That was the result of eliminating positions within Irvington that had not been filled. There were also cutbacks in all departments that resulted in a savings of $275,000. No Village employees lost their jobs last year.

The projected and “rough” budget for the upcoming year will be in the $15,000,000 range. The Mayor and Board of Trustees are aware of the situation and what’s ahead for the Village. Currently it is too early to go back to each department for further cost reductions; however, paying attention to the entire budget process has begun in earnest. A meaningful draft of the budget is expected by the first of the New Year and that is two months ahead of time in the process. Financial markets have loosened up according to Schopfer, and Irvington shouldn’t have any problem borrowing money. In addition, rates are very favorable at this time and are projected to continue being so.

“The problems that we will face are not just with this budget, but they are problems we will be facing for several years, and that’s the fallout I was talking about. The fact is that even though the stock market may be rising, people still don’t have their jobs back. And the reason the market is going up in some cases is because corporations have been laying off people in an effort to be more profitable. Until the business climate improves, along with real estate values, we are going to be dealing with this every year,” he concluded.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento