On December 2, the Mamaroneck Town Board approved a preliminary budget for 2010 with a 2.5% increase for Town residents. Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner was the sole dissenter.
The preliminary budget appropriation of $29,992,052 is slight lower than last year’s and comes with an increase of 2.5%, slightly less than the 2.9% that accompanied the tentative budget presented in October. (See: Tentative Budget Would Raise TOM Taxes 2.9%.)
- A resident of the unincorporated area of Mamaroneck whose home has a market value of $1,252,00 and an assessment of $20,000 will see a $132 tax increase – from $5,151 to $5283
- Residents in the Villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck with a similar assessment, will have a $60 tax increase: from $285 to $345. (Village residents pay for most of their services through a village tax.)
Town Administrator Steve Altieri, who presented the budget along with Comptroller Tony Siligato, likened the tax to a cooperative apartment maintenance charge for services. The Town provides services - police, fire ambulance, road maintenance, leaf collection, sanitation, library, sewer/drain, recreation – in exchange for a tax that amounts to four tenths of one percent of the assessed value of Mamaroneck homes. He noted that residents’ property taxes are apportioned so that the Town receives 21% of the payment, the County, 19% and the school system, 60%. Village residents contribute only 1% of their tax obligation towards Mamaroneck Town.
Revenues Way Down
Mr. Altieri noted that the Town’s major sources of income have “plummeted.” A nearly $2 million drop in taxable assessments mandated a 2.5% tax increase just to keep things constant. Similar declines in non-property tax revenues and the reserve have necessitated scaling way back. Further burdening the budget are increased contributions to pension funds (as mandated by the state), an MTA payroll tax of $50,000 (also mandated by the state) and an expected increase in expenses to litigate tax appeal cases.
Mr. Altieri attributed the decline in taxable assessments to Mamaroneck’s losses in certiori proceedings. He stated that it had been increasingly difficult to defend assessments based on old data. He commented, “Personally, I think the case for reassessment is getting stronger and stronger.”
Mr. Altieri noted changes in recreation funding for 2010. Recreation revenues will now provide 82% of the recreation budget. Program fees will increase. Programs whose enrollment fees do not provide sufficient revenue will be canceled. He said the ice rink is self-sustaining.
Board Approves Budget 4-1
The board was unanimous in congratulating Mr. Altieri, Mr. Siligato and Town personnel for their efforts to keeping expenses down in a tight budget. It was apparent from board members’ comments that they had “pushed” for a low budget.
Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe said, with the exception of one or two other towns, Mamaroneck’s tax rate increase was the lowest in Westchester. This was a “very, very tight budget,“ she said. “We were acutely aware of stresses and strains on property owners in the Town now because of general economic conditions.” She noted that there might well have been no tax rate increase were it not for the state mandates.
Councilman David Fishman said “we set a strict goal of finding any savings we could find” and “we are on the right path.” Councilwoman Nancy Seligson said it was important to keep a surplus in the budget and not deplete funds so as to maintain a AAA rating in the bond market. She noted that in her ten years on the board, she “has never seen so much effort go into making a really, really tight budget.” Mr. Odierna said he wanted a 10% reduction in the budget at the start but came to realize that the only way to do this was to reduce the number of employees, something he said was difficult in a small town. Viewing the 2.5% increase as reasonable, he urged the board to seek savings by combining services with other communities (see Consolidation Committee meetings, Gazette).
Wittner: The Only No Vote
Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner was the lone dissenter from the approval vote. While she acknowledged that the budget came very close to the zero increase the board had requested, she did not approve of the decision to borrow funds for the improvement of roads, streets and curbs (see Budget….Highway Improvements).
The board will, for the first time, borrow funds on a three year cycle, for expenses that have been funded on cash.
She would rather increase the tax rate to 4.5%, earmark $350,000 for these non-permanent expenses and avoid borrowing money for this purpose, even at the low interest rates the other board members found attractive.
Still Time for Revisions: Get Your Suggestions in ASAP
The budget is available for review at (www.townofmamaroneck.org). Since the board has until December 20 to approve a budget for 2010, there is still time for revisions. Residents were invited to review the document and pass along suggested revisions, as soon as possible.