VOL Tentative Budget Starts Low: 4.7% Hike Projected
by Judy Silberstein
(March 20, 2008) A first peek at the Village of Larchmont’s tentative budget for 2008-2009 shows a tax rate increase of 4.7%, one of the smallest tentative figures in recent years. (See chart, below.) That was the early figure from Denis Brucciani, Larchmont’s treasurer, reporting at the Tuesday, March 18 Village Board meeting. He said a complete document would appear later in the week in time for the March 20 New York State deadline for filing a tentative budget.
LATE DETAILS: The Gazette did obtain a copy of the budget on Thursday, but too late for a full write-up. The tentative budget calls for appropriations of $18,496,283 with revenues estimated at $6,913,554. Assuming the board takes $394,285 from surplus, the resulting tax levy would be $11,188,444.
For the taxpayer, the bottom line is a tax rate per thousand of $282.95, up from $270.26 in 2007-2008. For the theoretically “average” home assessed at $20,000, the rate would translate into taxes of $5659 for the year, up around $254.
Mayor Liz Feld added to Mr. Brucciani’s brief news with a few highlights that included additional positive signs and a few cautionary ones.
The tentative budget includes projected costs of a new contract with the Larchmont Firefighters Association, which was expected to be ready for board approval this week. However, the board had just received a final draft on Tuesday and had additional “tweaks” and clarifying questions to resolve, said Mayor Feld.
The budget also considers a number of hefty increases in costs Larchmont is likely to experience in the coming year. These include: hikes of 18% for electricity; 20% for fuel and 10% for health care. The required contributions for pensions are 8.5% of salary for regular employees and 14.9% for police and firefighters.
Mayor Feld said the village “will be very careful about our revenue projections” because of the “uneven news” from Albany and Westchester County. She said sales tax revenues are down or constant and “certainly won’t go up.” However, there were unexpected bright spots. Total assessments of property are up $190K from last year, houses are still selling (and producing income from transfer taxes) and building permits are up. “We joke about being in a little bubble here,” said the mayor. Financial conditions are “relatively good here” but Larchmont faces the same big increases as elsewhere and “things are going to be tough,” she said.
Other good news touted by the mayor was the budget surplus, which a year ago had been as low as $1.7 million and is now back to $2 million. She said it would have been even higher if not for $140K the Village had to spend on attorney fees in fighting two lawsuits brought by volunteer firefighters opposed to the hiring of a paid chief.
Typically, the budget gets decreased as it moves from its first iteration to its final adoption by May 1. Last year, the tentative tax rate increase was 7.61%, while the final figure was 3.9%. So the 4.7% rate may be a predictor of an even smaller rate to come.
"We’re starting in a very good place,” the mayor summarized.
In addition to the budget report, the board heard from Larchmont's police chief (see Police Warn About Fake Checks & Other Scams); received updates on Flint Park and the Larchmont Station tunnel, and waited for election results (see: VOL Election: Small Turnout, Long Wait for Results.)
Anti-Idling Law Under Consideration: Lori Stevenson, a member of Larchmont’s Environmental Committee, urged the board to adopt a law that would restrict the idling of motor vehicle engines. Similar laws are in effect in all the surrounding communities, she said. The law is designed to increase safety and reduce fuel consumption and pollution. Educating drivers was probably as important as enforcement, she indicated. Board members set a public hearing on the law for April 7.
Flint Park Turf Field Delay: Although construction is on track to finish the field by the beginning of May, the Town of Mamaroneck’s work on a collapsed pipe that runs adjacent to the field is projected to delay the opening of the field until early June, Mayor Feld reported. Also, Larchmont incurred an additional $173K in charges for removing debris from the natural grass field. Concrete, sludge, rebar, beer kegs, car parts, “everything including the kitchen sink” was dug up, said the mayor, who noted the project was still under budget. On the positive side, Larchmont received contributions of $600K from Fields for Kids and is expecting another installment.
Paddle Tennis Courts to be Fixed: The board approved a bid of $19K for repairs to the courts, a cost that will be shared equally between the tax payers and a users group.
Flint Park Summer Camp Registration is March 28, 7-9
pm and March 29, 10 am to noon at the Flint Park Playhouse. Fees have
been kept to the same level as last year ($425 per child for first graders;
and $600 for 2nd through 6th graders.)