The tentative budget for 2010, described at the October 20 meeting of the Mamaroneck Town Board, would raise taxes 2.9% for residents of the unincorporated Town of Mamaroneck. Before adopting a final budget, the board will hold six “open to the public” budget hearings (see the calendar for details). And, for the first time, the board will tape its all-day budget session on October 30 for later broadcast on LMC-TV.
Work Sessions Televised? No Decision At This Date
The decision to air the budget hearing came after some discussion in the work session that preceded the (televised) board meeting. Councilman Ernie Odierna was strongly in favor of televising budget sessions for their informational value and as a possible preliminary to televising all work sessions. Councilman David Fishman agreed televising was an opportunity to explain to the public what the board is doing and where taxpayers’ money is being used.
On the other hand, Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner objected to televising either budget or work sessions, because this could inhibit discussion.
Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe was leery of a “slippery slope,” but she agreed that airing a budget session might be a good idea.
The budget session will air after the actual event. No decision was reached on public airing of other work sessions – either live or taped.
2010 Budget Preview
At the Town Board public meeting, Administrator Steve Altieri briefly reviewed the 2009 tentative budget. The overall appropriations would go up $35,392 for a total of $30,044,117. By comparison, last year’s increase was around $1 million. Non-tax revenues are projected to fall by more than $246,000. (For further details, see Tentative Budget.)
The bottom line is a tentative tax increase: for the average property assessed at $20,000, there would be a $152 increase from $5,151 to $5,303 (2.9%) for residents of the unincorporated part of Mamaroneck Town. For residents in Larchmont Village, there would be a $67 increase from $285, to $352 (23%) increase. (Larchmont residents receive most of their services from the Village of Larchmont and pay a separate Village tax.)
The tax rate increase for Town residents would be one of the lowest in recent years. The 2009 budget was the smallest in recent history, only 2.4%. Previous years were higher: 5.6% in 2003; 8.5% in 2004; 6.6% in 2005; 3.6% in 2006; 5.3% in 2007; and 4.9% in 2008.
Mr. Altieri said the Town wishes to continue providing a high level of service to residents in these difficult economic times but has little control over rising costs of pension contributions, a new MTA tax, and an increase in services for senior citizens and the Section 8 housing program. Further salary increases are anticipated because of expiring contracts with the unions representing Police Department, Town Center and Highway Department employees.
Yet the revenue from taxable assessments has declined by almost $2 million. On the positive side, Mr. Altieri noted a reduction in overall debt expenses. He also cited comments made by auditors last spring on the need to guard the Town’s surplus to maintain its financial strength.
The final budget must be adopted by December 20.
Sharpening Facility Will Be Available At Hommocks Ice Rink
The Town Board approved a two-year contract (ending 5/11) that will permit the Mamaroneck Youth Hockey Association to install and operate a skate sharpening machine at the Hommocks ice rink – a convenience for local residents who now travel to Pelham or Harrison for this service. The YHA will pay $1000 in rent. Following suggestions by Councilwoman Nancy Seligson, there will also be a review of electrical costs associated with running the machine.
The board agreed to renew its data -sharing agreement with Westchester through October 2014. Mamaroneck will provide tax, zoning, water, infrastructure and sewer district maps. In return, the Town will receive digital items including oblique and street level topography valuable in property revaluation.
Revaluation is still on the radar, although the town has not yet issued requests for proposals (RFP) from reassessing firms. Mr. Altieri mentioned, during the work session, that funds from the assessor’s budget could be used to hire Thomas Frey to consult on the RFP. Mr. Frey prepared the 2008 revaluation report that recommended a town-wide reassessment of all properties, which was last conducted in 1968. (See: Town Board to Start Hearings on Property Revaluation.)
Water Issues & Possible Penalties for Code Violations
At its work session, the board considered a number of water problems including: control of stream flooding; preventing backup from a drainage pipe; flooding of a Thompson Street yard due to catch basins that are below street level along Cabot Road.
Later, Mr. Altieri announced progress on the Gardens Lake restoration project. The Town has obtained a wetlands permit and will open bids in December. Work would start in late winter and be completed by late spring. (Duck Pond Project Gets $1M from Westchester County.)
Special Rates for Seniors?
Ruth Campanelli, a Larchmont Gardens residents, asked if the Town would consider senior citizen rates for items like parking or admission to high school plays. Supervisor O’Keeffe noted cities tend to provide more of these kinds of benefits, but the board would consider the request.