Larchmont's Final Tax Rate Up An Extra Tad to 4.97%
by Judy Silberstein
(April 29, 2008) Last minute alterations to the Larchmont Village budget for 2008-2009 boosted the tax rate increase from the preliminary rate of 4.79% to a final rate of 4.97%, but board members declined to take more than the $300K already allocated from the budget surplus to offset the hike. The board voted unanimously (absent Trustee Jim Millstein, who was traveling on business) to approve the budget on Monday, April 28, a few days ahead of the April 30th deadline.
“It’s appealing and tempting to allocate more from surplus,” said Mayor Liz Feld, but because of the many tax certiorari cases wending their way through the process “it’s not realistic or prudent.” When property owners succeed in having their taxes lowered, Larchmont repays them from the surplus, she explained.
The 2008-2009 surplus allocation is already 50% higher than last year’s $200K. (See the chart below for previous year's allocations.)
A rising and unpredictable rate of certiorari “givebacks” is making the board skittish about its budget assumptions. To underline the point, the board voted “reluctantly,” as noted by Trustee Anne McAndrews, to approve a new round of settlements. A total of $76K, drawn from the surplus, will go to owners of the 46 townhouses in the Pine Ridge condominium complex off the Boston Post Road.
The certiorari process, always painful for local municipalities, has led Larchmont’s board members to press for a revaluation of local properties, which have not been reassessed since 1965. A county-wide revaluation is not likely in the foreseeable future, said Mayor Feld, reporting on impressions gathered at a recent gathering of Westchester municipal officials. Just collecting the data would take at least four years, she said, and advancing the project would require support of at least 28 of the 48 county municipalities. Instead, the board will continue to press for local action with the Town of Mamaroneck and, perhaps, the City of New Rochelle. (See: Revaluation a Solution to Some Budget Woes?)
Previous budget hearings outlined some of the factors behind this year's increases, including rising costs of energy, health care and benefits. (See: VOL Tentative Budget Starts Low: 4.7% Hike Projected.)
Other budget news included the anticipated borrowing of $3.5M for a series of capital investments . These include: $555,000 to replace Fire Engine #33 and $100K to $145K for repairs in the fire department’s bay area; $400K to $450K for infrastructure upgrades at the Village Center; $152K for a new front-end loader; $92K for relining sewers; lines; $117K for Village Hall repairs, including replacing windows. Two other large projects involve replacing the Chatsworth Avenue water main for $550K and installing new water meters for $350K to $450K.
Mayor Feld commented that Larchmont continues to be “essentially undercapitalized by a long shot.” Mr. Brucciani supplied details: Larchmont’s borrowing already includes approximately $4.8M in bonds (for which it pays an average 3.96% interest). That debt is being retired at the rate of approximately $400K per year, and the budget has included an average of $190K over the past four years in interest costs.
Rather than announce all of the accomplishments of Larchmont's Committee on the Environment, Mayor Feld invited the members to describe the many initiatives underway or completed in the last few months. She jokingly referred to Trustee Marlene Kolbert, the board's liaison to the committee, as a demanding taskmaster, but Ms. Kolbert said it was the committee members themselves who were demanding action.
Among the projects are an assessment of Larchmont's "carbon footprint," increased recycling and new legislation to improve air quality.