VOL Tentative Budget Up 3.9%
by Judy Silberstein
If adopted – which is unlikely – the tentative budget would represent a 3.9% increase in terms of appropriations over last year and would generate a 7.61% boost to the tax rate. Last year’s tentative tax increase of 8.9% was ultimately shaved down to 4.5%.
One obvious and likely route to reducing the tax rate increase is to allocate funds from the surplus, which now stands at about $1.76 million. For every $100K applied, a percentage point would be knocked off the increase, said Mayor Feld. In recent years, boards have applied as much as $421K, but the figure is generally closer to $200K (see the chart below).
What’s driving this year’s budget boost? Increases in salaries and benefits, which make up the great majority of the budget, are accounting for 85% of the increase. Village employees, including those in the departments of public works, police and fire, receive annual raises of 3.5 to 3.75%, explained Village Treasurer Denis Brucciani.
Village of Larchmont Budget History: 2003 - 2007
One of the areas the board is “looking at very seriously” is overtime, said the mayor. It may be possible to save money by hiring more staff, rather than paying current employees “time and a half” or double time to cover extra needs. “That’s the level of detail we’re getting into right now,” said Mayor Feld.
Revenues are down around $51K, said Mr. Brucciani, which represents the cut in NY State “AIM” funds which Governor Elliot Spitzer has recommended. The new governor is now in battle with leaders of the NY Assembly and Senate over budget differences, and there is some hope that the AIM dollars will be restored.
The board will also be considering whether to take some capital items out of the operating budget and finance them through bonding or borrowing. This spreads the cost of a capital expenditure, such as a vehicle or a water main, over the life of the item.
There is room to take on debt, suggested Mr. Brucciani. In the past three years, the Village has paid down $1.2M in debt and now has about $4.7M. This compares to a maximum allowed by law of $108M.
“We’re going to have to leverage ourselves,” said Trustee Jim Millstein who mentioned a long list of capital items likely to be financed through bonds. These include a new fire engine, DPW truck, Flint Park renovations and water mains. He said there are a variety of small items still in the budget that could also be bonded.
Mayor Feld pointed out that some – including former Trustee Ned Benton – consider the Village to be seriously undercapitalized and not using its borrowing capacity enough.
In the coming weeks, the board will be sifting through the details and deciding what to cut as it comes up with its next draft for the preliminary budget. Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in at a series of work sessions and public hearings before the final budget is adopted in time for the April 30 deadline.