The Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees on Feb. 14 gave direction to village staff to move forward with one of three revised budget plans for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year.
The direction, though, came after much debate among the trustees and was far from unanimous.
Based on previous guidance from the board, Village Treasurer Ann Scaglione presented three scenarios for the preliminary “second pass” look at the FY2024 budget during a two-hourlong work session on Feb. 14.
The scenarios — simply called A, B and C — differ in terms of proposed tax levy increase for the upcoming fiscal year, what capital requests from village departments are funded and what new positions are funded.
“Scenarios A and B fund all of the requests, which in this example includes the position and a half in the general fund and three positions for the library,” Scaglione told the board. “Scenario C does not fund one of the requests.”
Scenario A calls for a tax levy increase of 5.28%, Scenario B calls for an increase of 4.71% and Scenario C calls for an increase of 4.15% — an actual dollar increase of approximately $2.3 million, $2.1 million and $1.8 million, respectively.
While those may sound like significant differences, the actual difference for the average property taxpayer in the village between each of the three scenarios would be less than $100 annually, according to information from village staff.
Each scenario appropriates $4.3 million of existing village fund balance, and each only uses village fund balance to cover one-time expenses.
“I think what we heard was the board was interested in only using fund balance to cover one time or nonrecurring expenses,” Scaglione said of the guidance she was operating under.
Scenarios A and B call for adding $515,000 to fund balance reserve, while B and C call for adding $257,500.
The trustees appeared to coalesce toward Scenario C, but only after lengthy discussion, and still with some unresolved disagreement.
Trustee Jonathan Lewis said that while the proposed budget scenarios meet the village’s self-imposed target of an unassigned general fund balance of 20% of the annual budget, he feels the target is too high and would prefer lower taxes and a lower unassigned fund balance.
“I personally would be very comfortable having an unassigned fund balance of 19%, not 20%, and then having a tax increase in the twos, not the fours,” Lewis said.
Mayor Jane Veron said she was concerned about underfunding necessary expenses, especially after previous years of low taxes have resulted in underfunded infrastructure.
“That is what disturbs me about carrying tax rates that are so low I don’t think they’re going to be sustainable,” Veron said. “I don't want to set the table that we’re going to go backward.”
Meanwhile, Trustee Ken Mazer was more amenable to a higher tax levy increase.
“I just think for an extra couple hundred bucks a year, it contributes to the financial strength we already built on,” he said. “I think having an extra cushion available is going to be healthy down the road.”
Trustee Jeremy Gans said he felt the proposed tax levy increase in the 4% range was on target.
“We are coming out of a period of very, very low increases to the levy and expenditures,” Gans said. “So I think this restores balance, and looking forward to future years, smooths it a little bit.”
Deputy Mayor Randall Whitestone said he also thought a tax levy increase in the 4% range was about what was needed.
“I think it’s a nice compromise to be at this level C of 4.15%,” he said.
While the board wasn’t totally in agreement, Veron said she felt general consensus had been reached on Scenario C.
“I know everybody takes this role so seriously and no one wants to spend people’s money, we’re all taxpayers, but we also don’t want to keep starving the system,” she said. “People complain regularly about pipes that break and roads with holes, and so we’re listening.”
Further modifications to the budget plan will likely be made during the board work session Tuesday, Feb. 28.
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