By ASHLEY HELMS
Following a few tweaks and changes from what was initially proposed, the Town of Mamaroneck council unanimously voted to adopt the 2014 budget on Dec. 18. This is the first budget the town has approved since it completed a full property value reassessment in August.
The soon-to-be implemented budget will be worth a total of $33 million and calls for 2.9 percent tax levy increase. Property owners in the unincorporated area will see a 1.4 percent rate increase in their tax bills next year. This equals an extra $88, Town Administrator Stephen Altieri said.
Last year, the tax rate was held at 3.9 percent with a tax levy of 2.2 percent.
This year, under the state-mandated cap, a municipality cannot raise its tax levy more than 1.66 percent. A system of formulas tailors that number to each municipality. The tax cap can be overridden by a 60 percent majority of a community’s governing body. The Town Council voted unanimously to do so on Dec. 4.
The adopted budget also calls for three full-time administration positions to be reduced to part-time.
After the town finished its complete property reassessment, a fully assessed home value now stands at $1.1 million. In total, this increased the town’s property values by $369 million, Altieri said. Homeowners in the incorporated villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck with a home value of $1.1 million will see a slight decrease in their taxes with the adopted budget due to the reassessment; down to $517 per year from $539 last year.
These tax dollars go toward services provided to the villages from the town, including recreation and ambulance services. The taxes paid by village residents go towards these services.
“For all town services, a resident in 2014 will pay just over $6,000 [in property taxes,]” Altieri said
A total of $6.1 million in bonds will be spent on various infrastructure projects; $3.9 million will be used exclusively on an energy service contract, which is being implemented to bring on repairs to the Hommocks Middle School ice rink, the Town Hall roof, streetlights and the town police headquarters.
FEMA is chipping in $100,000 to help pay for the Town Hall roof after it was damaged during Hurricane Sandy last year.
Increased projections from sales tax revenue will be pushed towards the police salary line item of the budget to aid in the cost of hiring a new police officer. Since sales tax revenue is performing well in the town, an extra $5,000 was added to the sales tax line item in the budget to help offset expenses for the new police officer, who will be paid more than a beginner officer would be, and for civil service transactions with the county next year. The officer will be paid according to the second step of police officer salaries, in which a $5,000 increase is needed.
The officer is transferring from a different police department, and the town saved money by not having to send the officer to the police academy for training purposes, but Altieri said the town took the officer’s experience into consideration and plans to pay accordingly.
Other revenue increases to the approved budget include $2,500 from clerk fees and $5,000 from meter fees.
The budget shows that about $2 million is expected to be spent on employee benefits in 2014, up from $1.3 million in this year’s budget. Contributions that municipalities must make to the state retirement system for government employees have been a source of severe financial strain over the past few years following the institution of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tap levy cap.
Mandatory contributions have decreased because of an uptick in the stock market over the last year. The program is funded by large investments, Democratic Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson said. If investments aren’t doing well, the state asks municipalities to pay a higher amount. The stock market crash of 2008 caused the town’s contributions to go up, she said.
The town supervisor said the tax levy and tax rate increases are quite small in comparison to previous years and thinks the 2014 budget is an improvement.
“This is a responsible budget and a hard working budget.” Seligson said.