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Greenburgh Budget Commission Reveals Its Desired Changes

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The town's budget advisory commission presented its 100-plus page report Wednesday night, saying that Greenburgh needs to better monitor its departments' spending and reevaluate its plans in order to close the budget gap.

Supervisor Paul Feiner's tentative budget was heavily criticized when released earlier this month. Residents claimed the town's money was not being spent wisely and that needed services were being cut in favor of non-essential ones.

The town has two proposed budgets – the "A Budget" for the entire town, including the villages, and the "B Budget" for unincorporated Greenburgh. The A Budget is $15.6 million, a $100,000 increase from 2011. It meets the tax cap, has an increased tax levy of 2 percent and an increased tax rate of 4.6 percent. The B Budget is $66.6 million, a $1.4 decrease from last year. Its tax levy is up by 2 percent and the tax rate is up by 3.3 percent.

"Greenburgh, like every community in the nation and the world, were victims of global economic great recession," said Feiner, defending his proposed budget. "And we had to look at ways of managing differently. And my feeling is that things can't stand still. We have to reinvent the way government is running."

For 11 months, the budget advisory commission convened with the town's comptroller and all department heads to review where each branch could cut services and money, aiding Feiner to prepare the 2012 tentative budget. At Wednesday's town board meeting, the town council and the public learned of some recommendations for saving money.

"We've got a budget of $80 million, and we have about 90,000 residents," said commission member Rich Bobbe. "It doesn't take much math to figure out that the average family is paying somewhere around $2,500 a year to support this budget."

In order to close the budget gap, Luis Polit, a Hartsdale resident and chair of the finance subcommittee, said Feiner's elimination of 16 positions through attrition and layoffs will help the town. The commission expects the large staffing cuts will not largely impact the town. The commission also proposed a hiring freeze for all positions.

In addition, the commission proposed a wage freeze. For example, the Greenburgh Police Department is in the last year of a three-year contract with the town that ensures incremental pay raises to employees. If there was no contract, Greenburgh could have saved $521,000 in 2012, according to Polit.

In regards to the police department, the commission recommended that it increases its annual working days from 248.8 to 260, which would equal adding six full-time police officers without increasing compensation expenses or adding employees.

Commission member Howard Hirsch said Greenburgh's IT infrastructure, installed in 1988, does not meet the town's needs. Hirsch recommended upgrading to newer software that will run more efficiently and effectively to save the town money.

"What is the challenge that we face? Not only Greenburgh and the elected officials, but also the community, the citizens, the taxpayers,” said Alan Hochberg, head of the commission. “The challenge is going forward that we want to maintain the services, or at least a semblance of the services that every citizen in our town appreciates."

The budget advisory commission started its work in Jan. 2011 and consists of 25 members who have experience in government, business, non-profit organizations and media.

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