By ASHLEY HELMS
The Town of Mamaroneck has created its first draft of its 2014 municipal budget which, and as it stands, will be worth $32.9 million with a 2.2 percent tax rate increase. A tentative outline was presented at the Oct. 16 Town Council meeting.
The budget as it stands would likely force the town to override a state mandated tax levy cap in order to sign off on its budget proposal.
Nonetheless, the monetary increase may prove light on taxpayers’ wallets. In the unincorporated area of the town, the increase is anticipated to cost property owners an additional $5.53. Residents in Larchmont and the Village of Mamaroneck who receive municipal services from the town are expected to see an increase of $0.47.
The budget also calls for three full-time administration positions to be reduced to part-time. Town officials will set a public hearing on overriding the tax levy cap in the next few weeks.
Under the state tax cap, local municipalities are only allowed to raise the tax levy by 2 percent annually. A formula system is used to determine how it translates to each municipality, and if it feels the necessity, the governing board can vote to override it with a 60 percent majority. This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has reduced the tax levy cap to 1.66 percent.
The estimated tax levy increase the town is proposing is 2.8 percent.
Employee benefits are proposed to increase by only 1.4 percent for the upcoming year, Town Administrator Stephen Altieri said, because there was a reduction in the New York State retirement system contributions. Medical insurance expenses are up by 6.8 percent, Altieri said.
“It sounds a little crazy, but it is one of the lowest [increases] that we’ve experienced this year,” Altieri said.
The budget’s data 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.
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.
Though there is expected to be between six to eight weeks of reviews before the budget comes to a vote in late December, Altieri said the budget shows some signs of improvement from recent years. Town officials remain unsure if the economic upswing will continue and become permanent and, for that reason, a conservative approach to the budget was taken.
“None of the tax revenues have increased by percentages higher than previous years; however, I still think there is cause for some caution,” Altieri said.
One area of concern for the town that has recently come to an end was the partial closure of the federal government as it pertained to Section 8 funding. The Section 8 program pays rental subsidies to the town in excess of $470,000, Altieri said. If the shutdown had continued, the town would not have received Section 8 subsidies for November. Cash reserves are not kept aside for the program because it is funded by the federal government, Altieri said.
“There being no other source of funds, this is a program that would have experienced a major disruption,” Altieri said.
Seligson said she feels appreciative that the budget could be an improvement from years past. She said the town could be in a better position financially if they vote to override the tax cap.
“We don’t want to be in a position where the numbers change or we have some projects or programs that cause us to increase the budget or go over the tax cap and not be able to do it legally,” Seligson said.