Money Chill

WPCNR QUILL & EYESHADE News & Comment by John F. Bailey January 31, 2014:

Money.

Everbody is talking about. The Governor is promising property tax refunds if the school district and the city holds their tax levies under a 1.5% increase.

White Plains is starting to think about it.

The Mayor’s Budget and Advisory Committee is going to meet February 10 at 7:30 and they will be briefed on the effect of the Affordable Health Care Law, After Retirement Benefits, including retiree health insurance, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tax relief proposal.

A funny thing about those tax relief proposals of the governor—in order to have tax payers get a refund of any property taxes, the city has to keep the rise in its tax levy to 1.5%. Last year the allowable cap was 2%.

This year’s current adopted budget predicts a 4% rise in expenses, salaries, benefits, pension costs in 2014-15.  Hopefully that will not happen.

Tell you why:

A 4% rise in expenses amounts to a $7 million increase in the overall $171.2 Million budget to about $178.2 Million.

To cover a $ 7 Million increase in the budget the property tax levy has to hit $60 Million, which would raise the property tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value to $216 from the present $192, a 12% property tax increase.

On a $650,000 home in White Plains this amounts to $3,559 in city taxes compared to $3,163 that owner is paying the city this year. That’s a $400 increase.

A 13% increase in the levy is unthinkable. It is far from the 1.5% cap. That 13% is not counting any retroactive increase an arbitrator may impose on the city in settlement of the police arbitration.

Perhaps the city will come to their financial senses and not roll over the budget as they do almost every year.  Of course a ¼% raise in the sales tax would cover that $7 Million increase nicely, wouldn’t it? They had better crank up that sales tax request to our legislators soon.

If they increase the levy 13% , the property tax rate could be 12%  higher. This is what happens when you roll over.

In order for the city to get their property tax rebate from Governor Cuomo, this year,  the city has to cut millions out of the payroll—read jobs –or raise the sales tax. If parking revenues are down, and I would bet they are, it will compound the problem.

Governor Cuomo’s promise of continued property tax refunds to our citizens if the city of White Plains saves 1% a year for three years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 does not appear possible.

That is not happening with this administration or an administration around New York State. The 1.5% tax levy cap and the governor’s property tax rebates proposal appears to ignore the history of city budgeting at least in White Plains this city has cut the budget once in 14 years.

The city, in order to avoid raising the tax levy beyond the 1.5% cap (1.5% on a 53.3 Million dollar levy is $799,500, has to find more revenue. Will they raise parking rates? Raise sales tax to fund a rollover budget? Or layoff?

They need to find some money now. The effects of business as usual are chilling.

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