Much of the good news in the budget is due to an improved economy and pension increases leveling off, according to Treasurer John Pintos.
“The economy in Westchester is improving. Pension costs are flattening out and should stay that way for a couple of years since the market has done well the last three years in a row. That’s an immense help,” Pintos said. “I’m not going to say the future is bright and rosy, but there’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming locomotive.”
Since the first tentative budget was released on March 20, the tax levy has been steadily declining from a 5.44 percent increase, which would’ve surpassed the tax cap, to a 1.59 percent increase in mid-April, to the adopted 1.47 percent increase, which comes in under the state-mandated 1.65 percent tax levy cap.
The tax rate, which is the amount of additional cost incurred by the average homeowner and differs from the tax levy, decreased from a 6.54 percent increase in the March 20 tentative budget to a 2.57 percent increase in the final iteration.
Previous estimates in mid-April for the 2.57 percent increase yielded a $69.50 additional annual increase to the average homeowner’s tax bill, but firmer estimates indicate an average increase of $108 per year to the average homeowner.
Regardless, Tuckahoe has been preparing to partake in the state’s property tax freeze program, in which the state covers the difference of the tax rate increase. In order to participate, the municipality must be under the tax cap, which Tuckahoe is, and have no law on the books that allows the municipality to override the tax cap, which Tuckahoe is seeking to repeal. A public hearing on the repeal has been set for May 12.
The budget also brings additions to the village without major cuts.
The positions of a full-time village administrator and part-time deputy treasurer were created and will receive an annual salary of $110,000 and $26,000, respectively. Operating hours were also added to the library and non-union employees were given a raise for the first time in four years, according to Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond, a Republican.
Since the March 20 tentative budget, the library received $23,450 worth of additional funding—a 5.11 percent increase over the previously allotted $458,850 library budget.
Democratic Trustee Stephen Quigley said the intention is for the library to use the extra funding to add Saturday hours. Instead of closing at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, the plan is for the library to close at 5 p.m. But none of that was confirmed by library director Swadesh Pachnanda, who said there will be no official word on extended hours until the library board meets on May 19.
For Luisi, “one of the most significant line items in the budget” was the 2 percent pay raise for non-union employees, which includes judges, treasurer, village clerk, building inspector, library and recreation employees and village attorney among other positions. The mayor and trustees—both part-time positions—are considered non-union employees, but they did not receive a 2 percent increase.
“The board was finally able to acknowledge our non-union employees, who have worked for several years without a pay increase,” Luisi said.
Overall, Quigley said, “I think we arrived at a fair budget. We were able to maintain the high level of services the people of Tuckahoe have become accustomed to without cuts, which I always think is a positive sign.”