Tentative Village Budget Projects 10.9% Hike
by Judy Silberstein
(March 26, 2003) Village Treasurer Carmine DeLuca issued
a tentative budget for 2003-2004 last week, and, as expected,
up dramatically. De Luca projects a total
budget of $11,634,285, up $1,144,365 or 10.9% over last year. In the unlikely
event that the Board of Trustees adopts the tentative budget, there would be
a 13.4% boost to the tax rates.
DeLuca cautioned that it is still early in the budget process.
The Mayor and Board of Trustees will be conferring with the
Treasurer and meeting in work sessions to develop their preliminary
budget that will be presented at the April 7 Board
meeting. However, the tentative budget contains the Treasurer’s
cautiously pessimistic estimates for costs and revenues anticipated
in the upcoming year.
According to DeLuca, increases in four areas account for
over 70% of the tax hike: debt service, health insurance,
liability insurance and pensions. There is very little flexibility
in these costs, though at the state level there are numerous
plans under consideration to ease the impact of the staggering
increase in pension contributions required this year. One
plan would allow municipalities to stretch out this year’s
payments over a number of years.
In making his projections, DeLuca is estimating the Village
will have to contribute the full amount estimated
by Comptroller Alan
Hevesi on February 7, 2003: 15% of police
11% of other salaries. The actual figure will be based on
the performance of the stock markets on March 31.
In recent years, DeLuca set aside more than was being billed
for pensions because he knew sooner or later the rates were
going to rise and the Village was going to get hit. During
market when state pension funds were rising so fast, few
if any new contributions were actually required.
For debt service and insurance costs, DeLuca has been anticipating
increases for some time. Last year the Board took on new
debt, $1.2 million for assorted capital projects, and this
year’s budget shows an uptick due to the first-year's
payment with a net rise of about $100,000. “We
knew general liability was going up based on the large increase
seen in the last budget,” said
DeLuca. "It was over what was budgeted last year.”
“As far as retirement, we’ve known for months
to expect increases in this range,” added DeLuca,
who still is dismayed at the rates. "It just wasn’t
right to hit us like that. After all these years of very
low, low, low rates, now you want to do it all in one year?
It just doesn’t make sense. Hevesi seems to be doing
something about it.”
Asked if there are potential areas to cut, DeLuca said, “I
wouldn’t touch a thing. Other than those four items,
the budget is up only 3%. It’s a bare bones budget,” he
declared. “Department heads came up the best they could. We
can’t ask for anymore cuts. The Board did a good job
of keeping it down, the best they could. Now they have decisions
to make: how much reserve to use, how much retirement to
In the past two months, the Board has signaled
its intent to keep service levels where they are and to
hold the line
on tax increases as well. Mayor Ken Bialo has been
estimating an increase between 2 and 14% but hoping to
get it under 5%.
During the recent elections decided on March 18, candidates
debated how much of the Village’s reserves, now estimated
by DeLuca as between $1.8 and $2.1 million,
to use for lowering this year’s
taxes. It would take an additional $600,000 from the reserves
to bring the tax increase down from DeLuca's projection of
5% range. Last year, around $277,000 was
appplied from the Village's General Fund surplus, and De Luca
has applied a similar amount in the tentative budget.
side discussed exact figures during the campaign, the Republican
candidates, Mike Wiener and Phil Johanson,
came out for using the deficit to defray a major tax increase,
while the Democratic candidates Anne McAndrews and Geoff
Young expressed reluctance to use a substantial portion
of the reserve in this manner. Voters opted for Wiener and
sending no clear signal on which tactic they favored.
In the weeks to come the entire Board and the public will
have opportunities to voice their views on this and other
budget matters. Anyone interested in the budget should check
with Village Hall for dates and times of upcoming work sessions
which have not yet been announced.