Larchmont budget surpasses cap, hikes taxes 4.7%

chart(m)By KATIE HOOS
The Village of Larchmont adopted a $17.3 million municipal budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, exceeding the state mandated property tax levy cap and increasing homeowners’ property taxes by 4.74 percent.

On April 21, the village Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt the budget, which carries a 2.74 percent budget-to-budget increase and a tax levy increase of 4.18 percent. The state mandated tax levy cap was set at 1.97
percent this year.

The tax rate increase equates to a $256 property tax increase for the average Larchmont homeowner.

The village operates its budget based on a fiscal calendar that runs from May 31 to May 30 of each year.

Denis Brucciani, the village treasurer, said crafting a budget under the tax cap was just not possible this year.

“It was a more difficult budget than in past years,” he said. “The expenses just grew and we couldn’t minimize the importance of those expenses. It was a responsible budget and I would have liked to see a lower tax rate, but these are the cards that we were dealt.”

While the budget maintains services and includes eight new part-time security positions within the village courts, it overrides the property tax cap set by the state.

At the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, New York State mandated in 2011 all local governments abide by a tax levy increase limit. Since then, municipalities have faced challenges trying to balance preserving services with the restrictive tax cap mandates.

The Village of Larchmont passed its 2014-2015 budget with more than a 4 percent increase in the tax levy, surpassing the state tax cap by $115,000.

Under the state legislation, a local government has the authority to override the cap, but only if there’s a 60 percent majority vote of the municipality’s governing body. All five members of the village Board of Trustees voted in favor of the non-tax cap compliant budget.

“We have incurred several additional costs in the running of this village and we have made several decisions that have increased our tax levy,” Larchmont Mayor Anne McAndrews, a Democrat, said. “This increase…was generated by several factors, most of which we had no power over whatsoever.”

The largest expense in the 2014-2015 budget is salaries for village employees, which total nearly $7.1 million. McAndrews said the $111,015 increase in salaries stems from a number of employees achieving pay grade increases as well as the addition of the eight new employees.

Village employee fringe benefits costs also increased by $132,314 over the prior year’s budget; those benefits account for $4.3 million in the 2014-2015 budget.

The budget includes a $57,500 increase over the previous year’s budgeted costs for street repaving, many of which Brucciani said were damaged after the harsh winter. The village also contributed $869,463 toward library operations and is paying nearly $875,000 toward its debt service, or the money owed on loans.

“About 89 percent of our expenditures are fixed,” Brucciani said, noting the contractual obligations and debt service payments the village has to pay. “Our discretionary spending is only 11 percent of the budget, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room there.”

Sanitation operations—which are a joint effort with the Town of Mamaroneck—include garbage, rubbish and recycling collection and are budgeted for more than $1.5 million in the 2014-2015 village budget.

“We are going to be calling together a committee to look into ways of making our joint sanitation commission more efficient in order to slow down the increase of cost we’ve had over the last few years,” McAndrews said, noting the sanitation costs increased nearly 3.6 percent over the previous year’s budget.

To balance the expenditures and lessen the tax burden on property owners, the village anticipates to receive $4.3 million in various revenue sources other than property taxes, chief among them sales tax, parking permit proceeds, and state aid.

The 2014-2015 capital budget of $3.2 million will fund improvement projects throughout the village, like the purchase of two police cars for $62,000 total, which McAndrews said was necessary since police vehicles typically have a 3-year lifespan.