Adjusted budget lowers tax rate, pulls police/court funding

By LIZ BUTTON
The city’s revised 2014 budget defers improvements to the police station and courthouse and whittles the tax rate increase down to 1.99 percent, which reflects a $73 increase in property taxes for the average household.

The property tax rate increase in the original version of the budget presented by the city manager on Nov. 6 was 2.52 percent, which would have had the average household paying an additional $92 in property taxes.

At this point, the proposed budget comes in under the tax cap by a little more than $117,000, according to Acting City Comptroller Joe Fazzino.

The tax levy increase falls under the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap on property tax levy increases, which this year has been calculated at 1.66 percent due to the consumer price index rate running below 2 percent.

As expenses remain the same, $110,000 from additional sources of revenue besides the property taxes are coming from the addition of a $30,000 payment in lieu of tax agreement with Rye Manor, which the City Council voted to approve at a special meeting on Nov. 25.

PILOT agreements compensate a local government for tax revenue it loses based on change of ownership or use of a piece of real property. The agreement stems from a grant for green renovations to the low income housing complex at 300 Theall Road recently received from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency.

City Manager Scott Pickup and Fazzino also increased revenue by increasing estimates for projected sales tax revenue by $25,000 and building permit revenues by $55,000.

The originally proposed budget also designated $2 million for capital improvements, including joint improvements for the police station and courthouse, but the latest amendment to the budget proposal approved by the council indicates the city would not appropriate $1.25 million of that amount. Instead it will earmark $250,000 of that $1.25 million to go to the MTA for improvements at the crumbling train station parking lot.

Fazzino said, “all that does is put more money into your unrestricted fund balance.”

Pickup said the discussions about the police and court joint facility on McCullough Place will continue once the city sees the completion of the final engineering estimate for the police station and courthouse improvements, so, at that point, the cost of the plan can be revised if necessary.

The police station, courthouse was designated by the Office of Court Administration in 2009 as needing safety improvements, but the city sold the 1037 Boston Post Road property last summer, which had initially been earmarked as the new home of the joint facility when it was purchased by the city in 2006 for $6.2 million.

However, the cost of rebuilding at that location, or at the current one, would cost an estimated $20 million, and any appetite for such an expense quickly soured when the economic recession hit in 2008.

Contact: liz@hometwn.com