WPCNR Quill & Eyeshade. By John F. Bailey. April 7, 2014:
The White Plains Common Council was presented with a $176.1 Million budget this evening by the city administration, $4 Million more than 2013-14 budget ($172.1 Million)an increase of 2.3%.
The property tax increase as a result of the increase is also 2.3%.
The tax rate moves from $191.74 to $196.14 per $1,000 of assessed valuatation meaning that if your own a median priced home in White Plains that would sell for $650,000 with an assessed value of $16,475 would pay $73 more in city property taxes ($3,231.41) than you did this year ($3,158.92).
The combination of city and school district property taxes for such a home is $13,118.22 ($9,886.81 going to the White Plains school district). In 2013-14 that combined bill was $12,767.30. City and school taxes are up $351 this year for the $650,000 home.
Add the County property tax of $2,059 (including the sewer taxes) to this total and that median priced homeowner’s tax bill hits $15,177.
Budget Director Michael Genito told WPCNR, the city has not reduced their workforce this year. He also said the budget is under the state tax cap.
However, he told us it is not clear yet from the state the consolidations and savings guidelines the city would have to comply with in order for White Plainsians to receive a refund on property taxes from the state next year.
Asked if the city commissioners and non-union employees salary increases were included in the budget, Mr. Genito said any salary increase for commissioners would have to be added by the Common Council.
A 2% raise across the board for city commissioners and deputy commissioners, et. Al would cost the city approximately $75,200. Currently the city pays its 27 appointed officials an aggregate of $3,759,969 plus benefits.
Asked if a possible settlement of the police contract (currently in binding arbitration),was included in the budget, Mr. Genito said it was.
Asked where, consultant Eileen Earl said it was included in the Reserve for Financing, which is currently proposed to be $3.1 Million. John Callahan, city Corporation Council, asked if an decision of the arbitrator was imminent, said he expected the arbitrator decision would come “soon.”
Ms. Earl added that the reserve also included funds for the Civil Service Employees merit pay increases required by their current contract. Five million dollars is planned to be transferred to the tax stabilization fund to pay salaries as it has the last two years.
The budget projects a 2% increase in sales tax allocated to the general fund this year, even though the collections this year are running consistently 2% behind 2012-13. The $46 Million sales tax expected in 2014-15 does not count the sales taxes expected to be transferred into the Tax Stabilization Fund. The total sales tax handle is now running 2% behind after 7 months.
At this time WPCNR projects baded on NY State Department of Finance statistics, the city will hit $50.9 MILLION, enabling the city to fill up the tax stabilization fund with another $5 Million, which again next year will enable them to handle budgeted pay increases. The Tax Stabilization fund was ostensibly created by the Common Council in 2010 to rebuild city fund balance but actually funds payroll each year instead, and has not grown fund balance.
Asked if this was a “bare bones” budget. Mr. Genito said the budget was increased to maintain services. Mr. Callahan added that to cut the budget would meant eliminating city services.
On the prospect of sharing services and consolidating services to enable the city to qualify taxpayers to receive property tax refunds in the spirit of Governor Andrew Cuomos tax cap legislation applying to villages and cities, Mr. Genito said achieving that qualitifation has yet to be determined, and would be difficult, because the city would have to reach out to other villages and towns. He pointed out the city could not provide fire department service to another community because this was prohibited by law.
WPCNR asked if the city was going to reconvene talks with the city school district to see if they could save the school district money and consolidate more than $75,000 worth of vehicle maintenance. Ms. Earl said the city already shares recreational fields and facilities of the school district. WPCNR asked Mr. Genito if the school district was reluctant to allow the city to handle services for them from reluctance to eliminate positions. Mr. Genito said they were not and that the Joint Facilities Committee met regularly to find areas of consolidation.
Asked if savings from introducing one driver, one armed sanitation trucks, had been dollar-quanitied yet, Genito said there was not a dollar saving, but the Department of Public Works was able to move former sanitation truck workers into other vacant positions in the department, avoiding new hires.
There is no increase in Parking fees in the budget.
The city said the major factors impacting Tax Rate are labor contracts (2% cost of living and step increases), self-insurance requirements (up 17%) and debt service (up 13%).
The budget now begins review by the Common Council beginning:
April 16, 6 P.M. in the Mayor’s Conference Room: The Budget & Management Committee hears a review of the budget
April 21, 5:30 P.M. — Department of Public Works Expenditures
April 30, 5:30 P.M.–Parking and Public Safety Expenditures
May 5, 7:30 P.M. —Public Hearing
May 19, 7:30 P.M.- Adoption