Greenburgh Proposes $68 Million Tentative Budget

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Here is a breakdown of unincorporated Greenburgh's proposed budget for 2013. Data source: greenburghny.com Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The town of Greenburgh has set its tentative budget for 2013 at just over $68 million — a $2.5 million increase from last year.

The $68 million represents the "B Budget," which covers only unincorporated Greenburgh (outside the town's six villages) and puts the tax levy at about 2.3 percent. If approved, the tax rate for the town will be 3.1 percent. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he would reject any proposals that would exceed the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.

"I'm not going to support anything that goes over the tax cap," Feiner said. "If the board wants to restore or add services, then they'll need to cut something else."

The tax levy increase is also slightly higher than the levy increase from 2011 to 2012, when Greenburgh was able to cut its budget by more than $2 million. Feiner called the 2012 budget his "most painful" because the town had to cut positions and lay off a number of employees.

There are no new positions in the proposed 2013 budget. Feiner said the workforce will continue to be "gradually reduced" this year.

Among the budget's expenses include $3 million for library funds — a 4.5 percent increase from last year — and $5.6 million for highway funds — a 6.3 percent increase from 2012.

The town set aside $4.4 million for debt payments in 2013. In total, unincorporated Greenburgh currently has $48 million of debt.

Greenburgh also proposes an "A Budget," which covers the six villages in the town. The "A Budget" proposed for 2013 is $15.8 million, a 2 percent increase from last year. Town services in the villages include Meals on Wheels, tax assessment work, road fixtures and street signs and an ambulance program, Feiner said. Each village also has its own budget which are approved in the spring.

Feiner added that the town should expect corrections to the tentative budget because it was filed just before Hurricane Sandy hit. Neither the comptroller nor Feiner were able to spend the same amount of time they usually do looking over the budget for technical errors, he said.

One error was already pointed out at the Town Hall meeting Wednesday where the budget for town supervisor's office reported an $80,000 savings from 2012. Feiner's proposed salary will stay the same as last year at $127,618.

The Town Board will meet with department heads during the next two weeks to discuss the budget, Feiner said. The board has until mid-December to approve the final budget.

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Comments (4)

Sonnyboy:

24.2 for employee benefits. WOW.

GreenburghDad:

I don't Think anyone realizes, we pay the highest property taxes IN THE WORLD here in Greenburgh and Westchester county. It's really a crime that they get away with it, It does not cost that much to run government, Get Rid of County government, it's full of redundant positions that we don't need WE don't need or want a S.W.A.T. Team, it's absolutely ridiculous, there are so many things with this little graph here, it actually makes me sick.....and where are the property tax REDUCTIONS with all of the money the town is saving on taking away services?

WPEyesNEars:

Not only is the SWAT team unnecessary, so is the Technical Rescue Team that is comprised of GPD and FD members - ALL PAID TO PARTICIPATE ONLY ON OVERTIME!!! There is also a County Technical Rescue Team that is available when needed at no cost to any community. The reason they aren't used? They are an all volunteer team and that goes against the union-centric PD and FD union mentality.

Bob Bernstein:

From the ECC Facebook page:

FEINER PROPOSES 3% HIKE IN TOWN TAXES FOR 2013

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is proposing a 3% hike in town taxes for 2013. If approved, total town taxes (unincorporated and town-wide) would rise from $181.02 per thousand dollars assessed to $186.43 per thousand dollars assessed.

For an average Edgemont home assessed at $30,000, the increase in town taxes will be around $150 to around $5,593.00. Since 2007, when total town taxes were only $120.75 per thousand dollars assessed, town taxes have increased by 54.39%. In terms of unincorporated area taxes only, the increase since 2007 comes to 49.5%.

Mr. Feiner purports to come within the state's 2% tax cap because even though the hike is 3%, the town tax levy (in terms of actual dollars collected) is being increased by no more than 2%.

Despite promises last year that he would begin implementing budget reforms to end, among other things, the Town's duplicative departments and services, the proposal for 2013 contains no such changes. Thus, Mr. Feiner proposes to continue maintaining two separate recreation departments, each with their own commissioners earning six figure salaries, separate staffs, summer camps, adult programs and separate facilities. The Town also continues its SWAT program even though the county already has one and the Town continues to maintain its own after school program, even though every school district in the Town already has one.

Mr. Feiner's proposed budget also includes no provision for the expected $6-8 million judgment against the Town for the Fortress Bible case, in which a federal appellate court earlier this year affirmed a judgment finding that Mr. Feiner violated the constitutional rights of Fortress Bible Church in refusing permission for the church to build. Because none of that judgment will be covered by insurance, the cost will be paid for entirely by taxpayers.

Mr. Feiner's proposed budget also does not include any expenditures for the environmental cleanup associated with the former Frank's Nursery site, which was recently found to be contaminated with carcinogens. The town agreed to lease the property for 15 years to a startup company which intends to build athletic fields on the site for children to use. Because Mr. Feiner insisted on going forward with the lease without knowing what the cost might be, town taxpayers may now have to pay millions of dollars to make the site useable.

As is usually the case each year with Mr. Feiner's budgets, there are a number of questionable entries. First, he states upfront that his own budget for operating the supervisor's office has been cut by $80,000. In fact, the budget shows no such cut in spending.

For the first time in history the proposed budget states that "financial aid" in the amount of $70,000 is being offered for programs run by the Town's Department of Community Resources, which is one of the Town's two separate recreation departments, while Parks and Recreation, the other town recreation department, is offering "financial aid" in the amount of $10,000. The Town had been offering such "financial aid" in the past, but had never disclosed how much it was costing taxpayers. However, Mr. Feiner has inexplicably included the $70,000 and $10,000 in such "financial aid" as "town revenue" for 2013, thus creating the impression that the financial aid is cost-free because Mr. Feiner lists it as both an expense and income.

Another questionable item in Mr. Feiner's proposed budget is $100,000 in WestHELP "rent." Until September 2011, the Town was receiving $1.2 million a year in WestHELP rent, but because Mr. Feiner twice refused in 2008 to extend the WestHELP lease, the lease expired and Mr. Feiner is keeping the 108 one-bedroom apartments there vacant (and allowing them to deteriorate). How Mr. Feiner came up with this $100,000 figure for "rent" on a property he is deliberately keeping vacant is unknown.

Mr. Feiner is once again relying on the Town's fund balance to keep taxes down, and thus taxpayers are not paying the true cost of the Town's diminishing services. In the B budget, Mr. Feiner is proposing to balance the budget with a drawdown of $2.2 million in fund balance which, at around $500,000 a point, is equivalent to a little more than a four percentage point tax decrease. In other words, had Mr. Feiner not chosen to rely on fund balance, the tax increase he is proposing for 2013 would be not 3% but 7%.

Mr. Feiner is also projecting to use around $200,000 in unclaimed tax refunds as revenue for 2013. This is money that taxpayers overpaid in town taxes, but which was not claimed. In prior years, the Town was criticized for not notifying taxpayers that they overpaid their taxes.

The Town is proposing to hold several public hearings on the budget, which must be adopted by by the Town Board no later than December 20, 2012.

Several Edgemont residents have asked whether Mr. Feiner's budget includes money for any kind of organized town-wide disaster relief program, which would involve setting up community-wide alerts, a hotline to call for aid, identifying residents at risk, and coordinating and communicating power, cable, and phone outages, as well as flooding and road closures. The answer is no, there is nothing proposed to address that. And, as residents now know, the Town does not have any kind of disaster relief program in effect. When disaster strikes in Greenburgh, residents are on their own.

Mr. Feiner's proposed budget for 2013 also does not include any revenue for the so-called "Tennis Bubble" lease at Veteran Park. Residents will recall that at Mr. Feiner's insistence, state legislators Abinanti and Stewart-Cousins succeeded last June in getting the state legislature to pass an amendment to the so-called Finneran Law to permit the Town to lease the tennis courts at Veteran Park to a private vendor without requiring that access be limited to residents of unincorporated Greenburgh as Finneran requires. Mr. Feiner assured the public that the change in law would permit the Town to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in rent. However, no proposals were ever made public, no deal has been entered into, and, not surprisingly, the budget reflects no such revenue.

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