By CHRIS EBERHART
In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Eastchester Town Council approved the 2014 budget on Dec. 17, 2013, and remained under the 1.66 percent New York State tax cap.
Republican Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita’s budgets have remained under the state mandated tax cap levy—which is the total amount of money that can be raised through property taxes to cover public services—since the cap was instated in 2011.
While the tax cap levy remained under 1.66 percent, the rate of property taxes saw a 3.66 percent increase in Bronxville and Tuckahoe, which Colavita said equates to a monthly increase of .73 cents and .24 cents, respectively, and a 2.99 percent increase in Eastchester, which equates to an extra $5.89 per month, based on the average assessment.
Colavita said part of the increases is due to the lack of revenue from the mortgage and sales tax, although both saw slight increases from a year ago. Revenue from last year’s mortgage tax receipts was $1.23 million, which is a $280,000 increase over 2012. Sales tax remained the same from 2012 to 2013, only increasing by about $70,000 from $2.58 million to an anticipated $2.65 million, but the final sales tax numbers won’t be available until February, according to Town Comptroller Dawn Donovan.
Despite the increases in the tax cap, Colavita said he is proud of the budget and its “conservative nature.”
“We have been extraordinarily careful and diligent in making all the cuts we can,” Colavita said, “We are mindful of the lack of revenue in sales and mortgage taxes, which we hope will increase as the national economy improves.”
The final budget, Colavita said, is largely the same as the original proposal that was introduced to the town on Nov. 7 with the exception of a new police contract, a group of 20 minor cuts and modifications and a $45,000 increase from United Water on the bill for fire hydrant maintenance that, according to Republican Town Board Member Fred Salanitro, “came out of left field.”
Colavita said the cuts in spending included minor reductions in areas like signs and materials for the town board, but totaled $74,000 worth of savings, which were used to compensate for the surprise increase in the United Water bill.
Despite the cuts in the budget and the increase in United Water rate, the Town Council was still able to provide Town Hall employees with their first raise in the past few years and finalize a new contract with its police union.
Councilman Luigi Marco-ccia, a Republican, said, he was proud to give town employees a raise after years of personnel cuts.
“The way the budget has been and with the tax cap, there hasn’t been any wiggle room,” Marcoccia said. “So the last few years we had to freeze increases. This year we were able to increase their salaries, so all employees received a raise across the board.”
Also part of the budget, was a new, four-year police contract, which began in 2013, that gives an average annual raise of 1.97 percent each year—1.95 percent increase in 2013 and 2014 and a 2 percent increase in 2015 and 2016.
Salanitro said the board’s goal every year “is to recognize revenue from sources other than taxes,” which includes offering retirement packages and consolidating town positions, privatization of golf course maintenance at Lake Isle Country Club as well as ball field maintenance and the continued work to make Lake Isle Country Club a year-round profit maker. To that end, there’s a new catering hall in the works and, according to Salanitro, it should be done in the coming months.“Between privatization and consolidation, we have been able to save money,” Salanitro said. “And Lake Isle has been a real positive for the town. With the privation of landscaping and Sportstime tennis, we’ve seen increasing revenue and, hopefully, with the new catering hall we will receive an even greater income.”
Colavita said, golf course maintenance saved the town $300,000 in the first year and ball field maintenance saved $85,000
Not only are Eastchester Town Council members looking for new revenue streams such as Lake Isle, they are also looking for areas to cut spending, which includes consolidating positions. The latest came at the end of 2013.
Colavita said he combined the position of superintendent of parks, buildings and grounds, who accepted a retirement package, with the superintendent of recreation, which, Colavita said, saves the town $75,000 in the first year and more than $100,000 in the second year.