After several marathon meetings since January and two previous draft passes, the village revealed a $60.1 million tentative budget for FY2021-22 at the budget briefing session on Feb. 24.
The tentative budget, which includes the same level of services as last year, proposes a 3.42% increase to the tax levy. Residents with an average residential property assessment of $1.51 million would pay $7,293.46 in property taxes, which is a $182.11 increase from last year’s budget.
Many municipalities have been struggling to balance their budgets with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last March, which has battered nonproperty tax revenues.
The first pass budget presentation in January included a 4.87% increase to the tax levy. Since then, according to Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, the village was able to reduce departmental and nondepartmental expenses by more than $413,000 and enhance nonproperty tax revenues to the tune of $187,000. The village, he said, was able to achieve an approximately $601,000 positive variance from the initial pass budget.
Early on in the pandemic, the village moved into austerity mode and departments cut unnecessary expenses across the board. Pappalardo said the village had saved up to $1.2 million dollars with austerity measures in place, which will help offset the approximately $3.2 million projected deficit in 2021 budgeted revenues.
On top of their requested budgets for the 2021-22 year, department heads were also instructed to provide information on the impact that 5% and 10% cuts would have to their budgets.
Departmental expenses, which make up approximately 52% of general fund expenditures, are set to increase by $264,373 from the 2020-21 adopted budget. Half of the village’s 14 departmental budgets are set to decrease year to year.
The decreases are shown in budgets from the village court ($57,143), the village manager’s office ($56,769), the village clerk’s office ($5,193), the village attorney’s office ($29,500), the police department ($86,224), the building department ($3,857) and the planning department ($2,025).
The two departments with the largest year-to-year increase include the fire department with a $185,862 increase and the department of public works with an increase of $180,839.
Pappalardo said the fire department’s 2.7% increase includes retroactive payments to the recently settled UFFA contract as well as overtime costs. The public works department’s 2.17% increase is due to a 2% increase in nonunion salaries and expenses brought on by the pandemic, which includes building cleaning, sanitization and overtime work.
Nondepartmental expenses are also set to increase this year by $629,523 to $28,866,365. The largest increase is employee benefits, which is set to increase by $647,150 or 3.7% to $17.3 million.
Overall, general fund expenditures are set to increase by $893,896.
Major revenue drivers for the village have also been burdened by the pandemic, which has made covering the entirety of the general fund expenditures an arduous task.
The largest revenue shortfalls are in departmental income at $958,174, and fines and forfeitures at $220,000. Village Treasurer Ann Scaglione said parking permits and parking meter revenue, which account for 4.1% of the general fund budget, have experienced huge hits due to the pandemic, with an unfavorable variance of almost $1 million for parking permits alone.
“We really had trouble making sure that we put in a realistic budget for parking permits,” said Scaglione. “Using our best estimates we’re including parking permits at $750,000. So, it is a significant decrease from the current year adopted.”
Parking meter revenue will also take a hit this year. The current year adopted budget includes $870,000 in revenue, which will decrease to $600,000 in 2021-22.
There has also been a discussion among trustees about increasing water rates to fall in line with New York City’s planned entitlement rate increase. On Feb. 23, trustees passed a resolution that established 2021-22 villagewide fees and charges. It included the same water rate as last year, which is $3.50 for 1 to 50 cubic feet of water, an excess rate Tier 1, which is three times the base rate for 50.01 to 125 cubic feet of water and an excess rate Tier 2 which is 3.5 times the base rate for anything over 125.01 cubic feet.
Trustees have been discussing a 3% increase to water rates to fall in line with the city’s entitlement rate increase, with a potential to go higher after the board receives a long-term water rate study.
Pappalardo said the village should be employing a master plan and have a consultant performing a multiyear rate schedule study by September.
Trustees said they were in favor of having Scaglione write up a memo to implement a 3% water rate increase.
Fox Meadow Road resident Bob Harrison said the board needed to be “sympathetic to the whole community” and lower the tax levy burden.
Mayor Marc Samwick said the board worked hard to decrease the tax levy from the first pass budget.
“Every single member of the board is in the same boat. We have a fiduciary obligation,” he said. “What you see before you is a responsible budget that looks at the long-term benefits of the community.”
Pappalardo said he is not expecting radical changes to the budget before the next budget meeting on March 9 and is prepared to file it as the official tentative budget.
“The final budget is adopted no later than May 1. Traditionally what we’ve done here is worked collaboratively and we’ve had a tentative budget in place right around this time,” said Pappalardo. “But this is not a normal year, and if there are still concerns from the board members and we have another meeting scheduled, and they decide as a group that they want to make changes, then we [will] move forward in that direction.”