Taxing Matters, Irvington Looks at Possible Relief

Consider the following. There are 9,600 taxing entities within the State of New York. There are 4,600 local governments that tax. New York has the distinction of being the highest taxed State in the Union. Westchester County holds the dubious honor countrywide for the highest property taxes.

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Irvington & Dobbs Ferry will study consolidation of Police services.

At the State level, Governor Spitzer has formed the "Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness Panel" which will explore the workings and expenses of governments and school districts. The panel, which had its first formal meeting on May 16 in Albany, consists of 15 former legislators and officials, one of whom is Westchester attorney Alfred Del Bello. He has served as State Lieutenant Governor, Westchester County Executive and Mayor of Yonkers. In speaking with Mr. Del Bello he was quick to point out the timeliness of the Governor’s actions. "For the first time I really feel there is support from the public for consolidation of services. The tax burden has become too great," he said. He went on to say that the panel has been entrusted with finding the opportunities and the means to consolidate governments and services statewide.

Locally, Irvington Mayor Erin Malloy and Dobbs Ferry Mayor Joseph Bova have begun to explore ways in which their respective Police Departments may be able to consolidate services. As a result of Mayor Malloy’s call to Dobbs Ferry’s Mayor the two Villages have agreed to explore alternatives that could reduce costs without decreasing service. As Mayor Bova stated, "Taxes are a big issue and controlling them is an even bigger issue." Ms. Malloy said, "It’s a time for a new look which shouldn’t frighten anybody. The Village [Irvington] realizes its responsibilities to citizens and employees alike."

Irvington’s Citizen Budget Committee (CBC) has done an extensive amount of work in each of the departments within Village government. Their findings on the Police Department are noteworthy. It appears that previous budgets have been prepared without any direct dollar limitations given. In other words, neither Board members nor administrative officials have put constraints on how much the Police Department’s budget could increase in any given year. Given the history of budget increases within the PD from 2002 through 2008, if nothing is done regarding the "size and cost" of the force, it is projected that in five years there will be a 28% rate of growth in their budget.

By taking a hard look at budget expenses, the CBC’s report stated that, "Since 85% of the Police budget is personnel, we believe it can be brought back into fiscal norms mainly by head count reduction. By reviewing the salaried positions and their job functions coupled with the crime data, we must ask ourselves, can we afford a $2.5 million budget which is 18% of the total village budget. We average 3.3 arrests per month and 7.6 felonies per year, which is obviously good news, but we believe we can sustain similar low crime rates with a smaller force and restructured positions."

Under the heading of "Short Term Recommendations" the CBC report has listed a number of alternatives. First, a moratorium on all hiring or replacements and overtime expenses for six months. In addition they have recommended examining and sharing a central dispatch with Dobbs Ferry. In an effort to reduce Village insurance liability premiums they recommend that the Police Department apply for accreditation certification which is offered by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. Deleting the positions of Parking Enforcement Officer and the Lieutenant’s position have also been presented in their report. Patrol Officers can fill the parking enforcement need and the Lieutenant’s position "appears to duplicate the police chief’s role."

Not only the Police Department has received scrutiny. Other Departments have as well.

To quote one administrator, "It is an exciting time."

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento