In a related resolution not on the agenda, the board rescinded the 10 day maximum provision in a September 15, 2015 resolution that authorized paying Robert Killeen $350/day to handle the auction. (Note: There was no written version of the resolution and when asked the supervisorsaid he did not know how much Mr. Killeen would ultimately be paid.)
Town Board, 12-8-2015
Auction: The board accepted the $95,000 and $150,000 bids for two properties it had taken in rem (foreclosure). Both were houses. When Councilman Patel asked if the bids covered the amount of money the town had paid out over the years in school and county taxes on the two properties, no one had the answer.
I noted that there were very few bidders at the auction and that the lack of advertising probably contributed to the low turnout; the auction was only advertised on the town’s web site. In contrast, I noted that when an earlier auction was conducted by an outside company, it was widely advertised and there were many more bidders. I also called attention to the fact that three abutting properties that had also sold at the auction as a group had not been included in the agenda; the town attorney said this was an oversight.
Town Board, 8-11-2015
The board authorized the attorney and appropriate staff to take needed actions to clean out and secure the property at 1829 French Hill Road now that the illegal occupant has been evicted from. Once cleaned up, the property will be sold at auction.
The board also voted to refer out to various advisory boards a list of 10 vacant parcels the town has taken in rem as part of the 2009 foreclosure petition.
Regarding the unresolved properties from the 2008 foreclosure petition, Ms. Koster said that one homeowner had paid up the back taxes and a second had put her house up for sale. A third parcel remains at issue.
Ms. Koster is currently working with a list of unpaid taxes from 2010– 2013 in preparation for a new foreclosure petition in the event the property owners don’t pay their back taxes or enter into an installment agreement to pay them.
Town Board, 5-12-2015
Although on the agenda for the open session, this was not discussed. However, there was a discussion about certain aspects of the foreclosure process in the earlier closed session.
Town Board, 4-28-2015
The board approved a resolution to hire a moving company to remove the personal contents of a resident from a house that has been the subject of a foreclosure action and court decisions giving the town the right to evict the person.
Town Board, 3-24-2015
Town Attorney Koster said that warning letters to property owners owing taxes up though 2013 would be mailed out by the end of the month.
Supervisor Grace reported that the Westchester Y is still interested in taking over the Sultana Pool but that the organization is currently finally strapped. He anticipated that the organization would be sending him a financial spreadsheet. If the Y confirms its interest, the town could foreclose on the property and then pass title on to the organization. As part of the plan, the supervisor would approach the area homeowners’ association and offer homeowners reduced memberships in the pool as a way of making the pool financially feasible for the Y.
The supervisor reported that he was expecting the owner of one home in arears back to 2008 to give him a copy of her realtor agreement to sell the house and the tax receiver said that a title search employee had been checking the tax records for a second long delinquent homeowner although she didn’t know exactly what that records search meant.
Town Board, 2-24-2015
As of early this month, and up to 2012, the town was owed $1.9 million in back taxes, or $2.5 million when interest was added on. As he has done before, Supervisor Grace was critical of the 12% interest charge that is set by the state and said he’d like to see that rate changed.
Tax Receiver Barbara Korsak reported that in response to overdue letters she sent out, a few people have paid their taxes and others have been advised to contact the town attorney regarding entering into installment agreements. While Supervisor Grace said that most of the people who owned were senior citizens without mortgages and the town had to show compassion, both Councilman Patel and I said that the town had to balance compassion with fairness to all taxpayers who struggle to pay their taxes.
It was agreed that a second, stronger warning letter would be sent by the town attorney by the end of March. The step after that would be to initiate a foreclosure proceeding.
Supervisor Grace said that he personally will be contacting the property owners on the list.
The last time the town did a foreclosure proceeding was in 2011 for taxes due in 2009. The foreclosures were never finalized, however, because of court delays. There are still occupied houses on the 2008 foreclosure list that have not paid their taxes.
Sultana Pool: I asked that a decision be made about the future of the Sultana pool that currently owes $81,808, pointing out that it is costing the town about $2600 a year in county and school taxes by doing nothing. I suggested that the highway department could fill in the pool and that the property could be sold, possibly to the abutting property owner for a nominal sum. The goal was to do something so that the town would no longer be responsible for paying the taxes on the property.
Supervisor Grace said he would contact the “Y” he had been in touch with last year (see below) to see if they were still interested in acquiring the pool. He said the group was “scared off” last year by dissent in the community. He implied that the use of the pool could be divided between the Y and the area homeowners and that the Y would pay a portion of the back taxes. I asked the supervisor to report back to the board in a month. Any transfer to title would involve dealing with the area homeowners who have deeded rights to the pool.
Town Board, 11-18-2014
The board accepted the bids on 6 of the 7 parcels that had received bids at the November 8th auction. The board declined to accept a $100 bid for a piece of property that Supervisor Grace said was a narrow strip of land that he thought had more value to a neighboring property owner. An eighth parcel had no bids. The total proceeds were $328,700.
Town Board, 10-7-2014
The board set Saturday, November 8 at 11am at Town Hall for the auction of town property. For details and a description of the properties, check the town web site, www.yorktownny.org.
Town Board, 8-12-2014
Auction of town-owned properties
Town Clerk Roker gave the board an update on the status of the planned auction of town-owned properties taken in foreclosure (in-rem). She said that given the fact that there were no established protocols for handling in-rem properties, Bob Killeen, the former assessor who is currently working as a consultant in the Assessor’s office and who the board had previously authorized to handle the auction, was preparing a book setting up a protocol for handling the properties. The book would detail what projects had to go to town staff for review and how to manage the properties once the town took ownership. She said the properties should be subject to the town’s Property Maintenance law.
Ms. Roker also advised the board that now that more properties were involved, Mr. Killeen wanted to be paid $300/hour for his efforts instead of the previously agreed to $2,000. When Councilman Bianco objected to an open ended amount, and after some discussion, it was agreed that Mr. Killeen would be paid $300/hour up to a maximum of $5,000.
Part of the reason for the increase is that Mr. Killeen wants to show two of the four houses on the auction list prior to the auction. Supervisor Grace felt this was not necessary, arguing that three of the houses were in knock down condition, a fact that others disputed. A fourth house is currently occupied but the town attorney said she expected the occupant to be evicted by September.
Ms. Roker explained that unlike Cortlandt, the auction would be advertised on the town’s web site and people would be able to submit sealed bids, which would then be opened during the live auction. Although there were differences of opinion on the issue, the board accepted Supervisor Grace’s position that there will be no minimum bids placed on the parcels. The supervisor argued that the four houses had no market value because they could not get title insurance although other board members felt the properties had value, if not for the houses then the land.
Disposition of town-owned parcel
The board voted 4-0 to take a 1.17 acre parcel at the end of Navajo Street that had been taken in-rem off the auction list and instead declared the parcel to be used for town drainage purposes. Ms. Roker explained that the original site plan for the industrial park had marked the parcel for drainage purposes and that the site was unbuildable. By not declaring the parcel “parkland,” the board preserved the ability to use the parcel for other purposes.
Town Board, 8-5-2014
The board opened and closed the hearing without any public comment and unanimously passed the law which reduces the required down payment and lengthens the time period over which property owners can pay their back taxes. Supervisor Grace said the town should do whatever it could to lessen the burden on property owners experiencing hard times. Stating that government is addicted to using our money, he also suggested that the state law that sets the interest rate on late payments at 1% a month needed to be changed.
Town Board, 7-1-2014
Set August 5 for a public hearing on amendments to the Tax Installment law (see below)
Town Board, 6-3-2014
The town removed the liens and canceled unpaid taxes for four parcels, two of which were owned by New York State, one which was for road purposes, and a 13 acre parcel in the Osceola Industrial Park off Route 6.
Town Board, 5-27-2014
Town Clerk Roker said she and Bob Killeen, the former assessor who has been working part time in the Assessor’s office and who has been hired by the board to conduct the auction, have decided to hold off on the auction until another 10 or so parcels currently in the final stages of foreclosure are ready for sale. Town Attorney Koster explained that the parcels are from the 2009 foreclosure list and that she expects the court to approve the foreclosure within a week or so. Ms. Roker said that while it made sense to auction off the potential list of 25 parcels at one time, she and Mr. Killeen would proceed without the 2009 parcels if there was any delay. She added that now that the auction will include additional parcels, Mr. Killeen would be requesting more money for being in charge of the auction.
Town Board, 5-6-2014
The foreclosed property at 1360 New Road was conveyed to the Mahope Family Limited Partnership based on the submission of new documents.
The board authorized the town attorney to begin eviction proceedings for the occupied property on French Hill Rd that the town took in foreclosure. The resident was given notice to vacant the property but hasn’t. The board felt it would be easier to sell the house, which is on the list to be auctioned, if it was vacant.
Town Board, 4-22-2014
In an item not on the agenda, the board voted to pay former town assessor Bob Killeen (who currently works as a part time consultant in the tax assessor’s office) $2,000 to auction off the 12 town owned properties. A date for the auction has not been set.
Town Board, 4-15-2014
Susan Siegel, the person writing this summery, asked the board to clarify the reasons why the board agreed at a previous meeting to return a parcel the town had taken in rem to the previous property owner after the redemption period at ended. She said there were no documents in the town’s records that reflected the reason Supervisor Grace gave as the reason for the town’s actions. In response, Supervisor Grace repeated that the former property owner claimed he had not received the foreclosure notices and Councilman Bianco said that although he was troubled by how the issue had been handled, it has always been his policy to return in rem properties to their former owners if the owner paid the back taxes prior to the property being sold at auction.
The following issues were raised by Ed Ciffone who wanted updates on issues he had previously brought up. He added that the issues of Holland Sporting Club and the status of the Trump Park sales building were matters of “public trust.”
Town Board, 4-8-2014
Town Attorney Koster gave the board a draft of a proposed local law that would, for a two year period ending in December, 2015, permit the town to offer 36 month installment agreements instead of the usual 24 month period. The change would be consistent with a recent change in the state Real Property Law.
The legislation also includes a provision that Ms. Koster is suggesting and which was not previously discussed with the board. The provision would allow taxpayers eligible for enhanced STAR to enter into installment agreements with only 10% down where 25% is currently required.
The board anticipates advertising the local law for a public hearing at its next meeting.
Supervisor Grace also asked Ms. Koster to look into whether anything can be done to change the 12% interest the town charges for late tax payments. The 12% rate is set by state law.
Town Board, 3-25-2014
Although Ms. Roker said she hadn’t heard back from all town departments and boards regarding the list of in-rem properties that might be sold, Supervisor Grace said he would start getting plans together for an auction. But, in response to a comment from Councilman Bianco, he said he hadn’t decided if the town would hire an outside auctioneer as was done in 2011, or have a town employee conduct the auction as was done many years ago. When Councilman Bianco said that the outside auction house had produced a brochure about the parcels, Supervisor Grace said that prospective bidders built the buyer’s premium (that goes to the auction house) into their bid. No decision was made.
In a related move, the board voted unanimously to sell the property off Baptist Church Road to a Mr. Sabo, the higher of two bidders. The only two parties interested in the property were Mr. Sabo and the homeowners group. The amount of the sale was not noted.
Town Board, 3-4-2014
Revised as of 4/11/2014 after relistening to the video of the meeting. . Supervisor Grace advised the board that even though the redemption period for paying back taxes had expired, the former owner of 1360 New Road has paid the back taxes. He also said the foreclosure could lead to litigation as the former owner was claiming that there was an issue with notice, adding, They’re (the property owner) claiming that the notices didn’t get -or something was amiss with our records .”
The board then voted unanimously to do a quick claim deed to give the property back to the previous owner.
Town Board, 2-24-2014
Authorized referring bids to various town departments. The town attorney advised the board that additional offers are “coming out our our ears.”
Town Board, 2-11-2014
The Board postponed taking action to refer a list of in rem properties to appropriate local agencies for review as there was confusion over what properties were to be referred. Ms. Roker said the list should include town-owned properties that had not been taken over in rem and town attorney Koster said she was working with the assessor to pull together a list of all town-owned properties
In a separate discussion with the Landmark Preservation Committee, Mr. deLaparouse called the Board’s attention to the existing barn on the New Road property the town took in rem last year. He said that the barn might have historic value and thought that perhaps instead of the barn being demolished it could be preserved and used elsewhere as an interpretative center. Supervisor Grace inidicated that the former owner of the property may be redeeming the property and that there may have been problems with the foreclosure proceeding.
Town Board, 2-4-2014
Sale of town-owned properties.Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked the Board if it had changed its mind about selling the five houses it took in rem last year at auction in order to get the most amount of money and instead would be selling the properties based on submitted bids. Noting that a $50,000 bid had been accepted for a house on a 4.81 acre site, she wanted to know if there were minimum bid prices, whether the bids were open or sealed and whether there was deadline for submitting bids. She said that while accepting bids for vacant parcels that might be of interest only to abutting property owners made sense, many more people would be interested in purchasing the houses is they knew about them.
In response, Councilman Bianco said that the town might sell the properties by auction or bid and that some properties are only of interest to abutting property owners. He also said that there was a cost to selling properties at auction, although Ms. Siegel responded that the buyer pays the premium, not the town as seller.
In a related action, after the town attorney said something to Board members that was inaudible to the audience, the Board postponed voting to approve the sale of one of the vacant parcels that had been taken in rem. No reason was given for the postponement.
Town Board, 1-28-2014
CORRECTION 1/30/14: The Board agreed to sell a vacant parcel taken in rem for $17,000 (and not a house on Hayes Drive as previously stated) and will vote on a resolution at next week’s meeting. Action was delayed on other properties, and Supervisor Grace said that the house on New Road in Shrub Oak, which he said already had an approved redevelopment plan, was going to be redeemed. However, Councilman Bianco said that the plan had been proposed but was never approved.
Town Board, 12-10-2013
In a brief discussion that was only partially audible, it appears that the Town may have received a $30,000 offer for one property and that more than one party is bidding on one of the vacant parcels. In response to the town attorney’s question as to whether the town should proceed to auction on other parcels, Supervisor Grace directed her to get some proposals from auction companies.
The Board also passed a resolution to take title to three parcels on Concord Road that abut the Sylvan Glen Nature Preserve and to declare the parcels as parkland.
Town Board, 11-29-2013
Town Attorney Koster advised the Board that there was a bidding war over one parcel, that she has had interest in two other parcels and that she is in the process of getting clear title on two other parcels.
Town Board, 10-15-2013
In response to a resolution authorizing the town to auction off 24 parcels, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked for an explanation of why five parcels were listed as “proceed to clear title & then proceed with auction” and how that might delay the auction for the remaining 19 parcels. In response, Supervisor Grace explained that getting “clear title” meant that there were no encumbrances on the property and that this would result in a higher eventual auction price. He acknowledged that this would probably delay setting the auction date for all 24 parcels. Councilman Paganelli said that the higher sales price would offset the $20,000 the town will have to pay in school taxes on the five properties if the sale is not completed before the January school taxes are due.
Town Board, 10-8-2013
Going down a list of 24 foreclosed properties one by one, the Board decided to sell the five houses it has taken in rem, along with some vacant parcels. Other parcels will be kept as parkland, removed from the assessment roll for road widening purposes, or offered to abutting property owners. The town will offer “clear title” for only some of the properties. There was no discussion of when the auction would take place.
When Ken Belfer, chairman of the Community Housing Board, asked if the town was offering the county the right of first refusal as part of an earlier agreement between the town and the county, Supervisor Grace said no and suggested that if the county was interested in any of the parcels for affordable housing purpose then it should bid on them.
Town Board, 9-24-2013
The main thrust of the discussion was whether or not to schedule an auction to sell any of the properties on the 2008 foreclosure list that the town has taken title to. The list includes five houses and an unspecified number of vacant parcels.
While Councilman Bianco called for selling the properties now, and Councilman Paganelli expressed concern that the town would have to pay school taxes as long as it owned the properties, Supervisor Grace explained to his fellow Board members that properties taken “in rem” were either valueless or had lower values (he used both expressions) because the new owner could not get title insurance because the former owner could challenge the foreclosure proceeding. The town could, he suggested, decide to wait two years before selling the property when there was a presumption that the proceeding had been done property or five years after which time the previous owner could not challenge the foreclosure. In either case, he said, the waiting would increase the value of the parcels. He said that even minor errors in the proceeding, such as using the wrong initials for the property owner, could invalidate the proceeding. He also said that there could be additional complications because the in rem procedure identified the properties by their tax map ID numbers which could be different from actual meets and bounds descriptions.
In response to the Supervisor’s concerns, Councilman Bianco asked the town attorney how the town had handled this issue in 2010 when it sold several properties at auction. She did not respond, but did say that some of the properties did have value. Mr. Bianco also said he preferred to go out to auction now and take our chances on the value and Supervisor Grace said he’s rather get money for the parcels rather than give them away. The Supervisor added that of the money owed on these parcels, only about 48% represented actual tax amounts; the rest was interest and penalties which he said was “paper money.” Councilman Paganelli asked Ms. Koster to provide him with information on the taxes owed by the properties.
Supervisor Grace said that several of the houses were in “knock down” condition but that the land could be worth $50,000-$60,000 as a building lot. At least one of the houses is currently occupied but the town is not charging any rent. Regarding the vacant parcels, it was said that while individual councilmen have reviewed them, there has been no collective Board discussion on what to do with each parcel. It was agreed that decisions about each parcel should be made.
Although the bulk of the discussion dealt with properties on the 2008 foreclosure list, Ms. Koster said that she would come back to the Board in two weeks to discuss next steps on the occupied houses on the 2008 foreclosure list the town has not acted on yet, plus the 2009 and 2010 foreclosure lists.
Town Board, 7-2-2013
Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked the Board what its plans were for the disposition of the 23 properties, including 5 houses and 18 vacant parcels, the town now owns. She suggested that the Board act as soon as possible to auction off the properties and try to recoup some of the $912,000 the town lost when it wiped out the liens on the 23 parcels.
Town Board, 6-18-2013
In an item not on the agenda, the Board wiped out the liens on 23 properties on the 2008 foreclosure list that it has taken in foreclosure. The total amount of the liens was not disclosed. (Note: Based on previous research, the CIY observer estimates that as of January, 2013, the liens totaled approximately $750,000. Five of the properties are houses.)
In response to a question during the second Courtesy of the Floor session about what the town would be doing with the parcels, Supervisor Grace said the town would be looking into the issue and might sell some of the parcels.
In a separate resolution to Board approved a $17,000 budget transfer from “litigation outside counsel fees” to cover costs and filing fees associated with processing the final foreclosure papers.
Town Board, 2-5-2013
In response to a question from Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary)about what the Town Board was doing to collect $1.7 million in unpaid taxes from 33 property owners on the 2008 Foreclosure List, Supervisor Grace said that a letter had been sent to the property owners about their unpaid taxes and that in response to the letter, one person has paid off the liens and two other property owners are in the process of working out a resolution of their unpaid tax bill. He added that the Town does not plan to foreclose on the properties or kick people out of their homes. One reason for not proceeding with foreclosure, he said, is that the County’s affordable housing program is interested in taking over properties that have been foreclosed; the county should be helping people in need, he said, not forcing them out of their homes.
He also said that the 1% interest per month charged on unpaid taxes was a huge penalty but that the rate was set by the state. Given the rate, there’s no advantage to not paying one’s taxes, he said.
When Ed Ciffone raised questions about the Sultana Ridge pool’s unpaid taxes, Supervisor Grace said the $2,000 check the association had given the town last month had been returned. He added that the Parks & Recreation department doesn’t want the pool and Councilman Murphy added that it would be costly for the Town todemolish the pool and that simply having a fence around the pool would not be sufficient.
Town Board, 1-29-2013
An item not on the agenda. Town Attorney Koster gave the Board a draft resolution to be voted on next week that would wipe out the liens on the 17 parcels that were on the 2008 Foreclosure List and which the Town took title to last June
Town Board, 1-15-2013
a. Old Yorktown Village and Sultana Pool. Town Attorney Koster advised the Board that Association of Old Yorktown Village had paid its back taxes on a parcel that includes recreational facilities and should be taken off the foreclosure list. She said the Association had simply forgotten to pay the taxes.
This led Supervisor Grace to compare the Association’s assessment, that he said was $100, to the higher Sultana Pool Association assessment which the Town’s previous assessor said should not be reduced; the group has filed a tax certiorari lawsuit. He suggested that the Sultana group borrow money to pay its back taxes in full and that each association member would then pay about $2,000 to repay the loan.
Supervisor Grace said that the Town would return the $2,000 check that Sultana gave the Board at the last meeting as there was no mechanism for the Town to receive the check.
b. Other parcels. Ms. Koster indicated that she would prepare a resolution for adoption at the next Board meeting that would remove several vacant parcels from the foreclosure list.Councilman Bianco noted that there were still several houses on the list, but the Board did not discuss taking any action on them.
Town Board, 8-14-2012
The Board voted to take title to the dock lots on the 2008 Foreclosure list and Supervisor Grace said that the Town had to figure out where the other town-owned dock lots were.
Town Board, 3/6/2012
Tax installment agreements: Councilman Bianco, responding to a question asked at the last board meeting, said that seven out of 45 tax installment agreements were in default. He said that initially he was told there was only one default, but that he later learned that the actual number was higher.
Town Board, 2/28/2012
Supervisor Grace asked for board volunteers to form a subcommittee to review the parcels on the 2008 foreclosure list and report back to the board. After several councilman volunteered and it was pointed out that three councilman can’t meet together without noticing an official meeting of the board, it was decided that Councilman Bianco would visit the sites with the Supervisor.
Councilman Paganelli said that each parcel had to be looked at individually.Town Attorney Koster explained that the 2008 list was a “clean up” list and Town Comptroller Goldberg explained that it was only after new software was installed in the tax office that the town was able to develop ana list of parcels with liens. Ms. Koster said the 2009 foreclosure list was much smaller.
Town Board, 2/21/2012
During Courtesy of the Floor, SusanSiegel (the person writing these notes) repeated several questions about the status of the 2008 foreclosure proceedings which, she said, she had asked two weeks earlier at the February 7th meeting but which hadnot been answered. She said the town had wasted over $250,000 paying taxes on property that should have been taken off the tax rolls years ago and that it wasn’t fair for responsible taxpayers to bear the burden of those taxpayers who didn’t pay their taxes.
In response, Supervisor Grace said that the town wasn’t going to throw people out of their homes and that the foreclosure issue would be discussed at an upcoming work session. Councilman Bianco said that he would check with the tax receiver to get an answer to Ms. Siegel’s question about how many people were in default on their installment agreements. He saw nothing wrong in her asking the question and in being entitled to an answer.
Town Board, 2/7/2012
During Courtesy of the Floor, Susan Siegel (the person writing these notes) asked the board a series of questions dealing with the status of the foreclosure proceedings for55 properties remaining properties on the list that owe $1.8 million in back taxes.The board did not respond to her questions
Town Board, 7-8-2014
In response to a question raised by Councilman Patel at a previous meeting, Highway Superintendent Paganelli investigated the cost differences between leasing and buying outright four new trucks. Based on his analysis, he said leasing the trucks and then buying them after 3,4, or 5 years would save the town money because the interest rates on the short term lease would be less than bonding the trucks over 15 years. (Although it was difficult for the observer to follow all the numbers, at one point, Mr. Paganelli said the savings from leasing would amount to 1.75% less than bonding.)
The board agreed that leasing was the preferred way to go and the comptroller will prepare a resolution for the next meeting authorizing a budget transfer from the general fund fund balance. As previously discussed, the trucks can only be ordered when a resolution identifying the funding source is in place. However, by the time the trucks have to be paid for, the bonding will be in place so the money won’t actually have to be taken from the fund balance.
The comptroller will also proceed to have bond counsel draw up the necessary bonding resolution/s. It was not clear if the short term borrowing for the trucks would be part of, or separate from, the bond issue for the other capital projects, which will be subject to a permissive referendum because it involves long term bonds.
Mr. Paganelli advised the board that the new trucks would be convertible to compressed natural gas which he said would be cheaper to operate and more environmentally friendly.
Town Board, 6-18-2014
Referring to the list of proposed projects to be financed with the $3 million bond issue that was discussed last week, Highway Superintendent Paganellii repeated that there’s a six month lead time to receive the new trucks and town Clerk Roker said that the board couldn’t vote on any financing for the trucks without something in writing from bond counsel. Supervisor Grace said he wasn’t going to pay cash for anything on the list; Councilman Patel said he wanted more time to digest the list of proposed projects and Councilman Bianco noted that the town has low debt. With the board’s approval, Comptroller Caporale said she would get more information from the town’s outside bond counsel. The proposed borrowing assumes a 1% interest rate on the bond anticipation note (BAN), with interest and principal totaling $365,742/year.
Town Board, 6-10-2014
What started out as a discussion on purchasing four new trucks for the Highway Department (see May 13, 2014 below), morphed into a broader discussion on bonding for a series of capital projects.
Highway Superintendent Paganelli said that he needed a commitment to purchase the trucks now if they were to be delivered by December. While he wanted four trucks at a total cost of $706,000, he said he could make do with three. If he got the four trucks, it would give him a total of 19 trucks that could be used for salting. Because vehicles from other departments also plow, there are 63 vehicles available for plowing. (There was a mumbled private conversation between Mr. Paganelli and Supervisor Grace over how the trucks should be purchased, i.e, price quotes or bids.)
Whereas Supervisor Grace and Councilman Murphy had no problem with bonding the purchase which they felt was the fair way to go, Councilman Patel had some reservations and wanted more information in writing. Ultimately, Town Clerk Roker advised the board that it could not give Mr. Paganelli the okay to place the order that evening as the board first had to determine how it was going to pay for them – and that information was not yet available. See below.
As part of the discussion, Supervisor Grace said the town needed a vehicle replacement policy.
The discussion then turned to other equipment the town planned to purchase as well as other capital projects that, together with the truck purchase, could be lumped into a single BAN (bond anticipation note), that currently was carrying a 1% interest rate. Although it was not clear exactly what the total bond amount she was referring to, Comptroller Caporale said that in 2015, the interest on a BAN would be $30,000 and that the full payment in 2016 would be $335,000. (the existing bond for the Shrub Oak pool will be paid off in 2015.)
Items the board would include in the BAN are; a small chipper and bucket truck for the Parks Department, repairing the portion of the town hall roof over the board room (including the installation of solar tubes), some windows in town hall, the digitzing project, Lexington Avenue culvert and the Sparkle Lake Dam. (Note: this may not be a complete list as it was difficult for the observer to follow the discussion.) As a first step toward the bonding, the board gave Ms. Caporale permission to “talk to” the town’s bonding counsel so that more precise information would be available.
Town Board, 11-29-2013
Supervisor Grace said he has “tightened up” the wish list of potential projects and wants the Board to agree to a list of the projects with the highest priority. With the last payment on the pool bond scheduled for 2015, he said the town should start planning now for new projects that could be bonded in either 2015 (with a one year overlap of payments) or 2016. Councilman Murphy said the Board should figure out how much it wants to bond (the expense of debt service) and then see what projects fit into that amount.
The Supervisor said he would like to resolve the issue by the end of the year and it was suggested that the Board set aside a special work session in December, possibly in the afternoon, devoted exclusively to capital projects.
(Observer’s note: a list of projects suggested by the Supervisor can be found on page 174 of the Supervisor’s Tentative 2014 Budget that’s online at www.yorktownny.org.)
Town Board, 10-1-2013
In response to a comment from Ed Ciffone during Courtesy of the Floor regarding what constituted an appropriate size fund balance, Supervisor Grace discussed his philosophy regarding fund balance and elaborated on how fund balance issues would impact on his 2014 budget.
In general, he agreed with Mr. Ciffone that the fund balance should be between 15% to 17% of the fund’s budget and that anything above that amount constituted the town improperly using taxpayer money to fund a savings account. Councilman Bianco pointed out that when the town does its budget in the fall, it can only estimate certain revenues, such as sales tax; the town doesn’t learn what it’s fourth quarter sales tax revenue will be until the following March. He also said it was important to keep sufficient fund balances for emergencies, especially in the special districts where sewer or water breaks could be very costly to repair and that the town should not be criticized for saving money.
Supervisor Grace said he anticipated using excess fund balances in the water and Yorktown Sewer (Hallocks Mill sewer district), an amount he called “almost criminal,” this year to reduce taxes. He has whittled down an initial list of $6 million worth of possible capital projects proposed by town staff to about $2 million and that he proposes to bond these projects. In general, he felt that capital projects should be paid for by bonding so that the people who would be benefiting from the projects in the future were the ones who paid off the debt service. He noted that with the pool bonds being paid off in 2015, if the town borrowed money in 2014 for capital projects, there would be about a $500,000 overlap in payments for a single year.
Town Board, 8-13-2013
Supervisor Grace said that as some current debt is retired in 2015, the town should deal with certain deferred maintenance issues that needed to be done immediately. Based on discussions at staff meetings and his tour of building roofs, he said that the YCCC and police department roofs were in good shape but need3ed some repair and that the roof over the town hall board room needed to be replaced. He noted that there were exhaust fans on the top of the YCCC roof and he has directed staff to examine whether they are being or can be utilized. Windows at the YCCC did not have to be replaced.
Other necessary capital projects included work on some culverts, the Sparkle Lake dam and digitizing town records which he said would result in significant savings. A list of $2.93 million worth of capital projects has been drawn up. If that amount were to be borrowed, it would add $422,000 in debt service to the annual budget.
Looking over the list, Councilman Bianco suggested that some items, such as vehicle purchases could be eliminated and paid for out of current funds, reducing the amount to be borrowed to about $2.5 million.
No decisions were made.
Sparkle Lake Dam & Greenwood Street Bridge projects
(for other comments relating to the Sparkle Lake dam project, see discussions above.)
Town Board, 7-1-2014
Howard Frank raised questions about a $41,000 study by an outside consultant that had assessed the safety of the dam which has been classified as a Class C-High Hazard dam by the DEC. He asked why the town was spending money on the dam when the consultant’s 4-page report said there were no problems with the dam, although he did note that a metal overflow pipe containing bottles and other debris should be cleaned out In response, Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson explained that based on new DEC dam safety requirements, the town had to analyze several aspects of the dam, including its structural integrity as well as what would happen to downstream properties in the even the dam failed. She said the dam’s high hazard classification was based on a hydraulic analysis which showed potential downstream damage. She said the $41,000 study, which constituted
Town Board, 9-26-2012
Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson advised the Board that because funds in the Engineering Department’s “special projects” budget line had been used as a temporary measure prior to bonding to cover other capital projects (e.g., the Greenwood and Lexington Avenue bridge projects), her department would need a transfer of funds to cover the planned next phase of the DEC mandatedstudy of the Sparkle Lake dam.The project is estimated to cost about $34,000 ($32,000 had been set aside for the planned project in the 2012 budget) but that only about $10,000 remained in the special projects budget line.
Supervisor Grace said that after the study was completed, the Town might want to consider filing an Article 78 lawsuit in an attempt to get the dam removed from the state’s list of potentially hazardous dams.
Regarding Greenwood Street, Ms. Robinson explained that after the Town’s bridge consultant had completed some preliminary plans for the long-planned repair, the DEC changed its mind and required the Town to use a different method of working on the bridge. Because of this change, test borings, sheeting and easement acquisitions will be needed at an additional cost of $25,160. (Note: the dollar amount was not stated during the Board discussion but Ms. Robinson made the information available later.)
Financial Services Advice Solicitation/Capital Budget
Town Board, 9-26-2012
The Board heard a pitch from town resident Denise Farrell of Environmental Capital to serve as the Town’s financial advisor. After reviewing the Town’s2011 financial statement, she suggested that the Town take advantage of current low interest rates and convert$7.4 million of short term borrowings (BANS, or bond anticipation notes) into long term borrowing. The Town currently has about $8.4 million outstanding in BANS but about $1 million is scheduled to mature later this year.She also suggested that the Town might want to refund approximately $900,000 remaining in the bond for the Shrub Oak pool by rolling it into the long term bond for a potential savings of about $45,000. The pool bond will be paid off in 2015. Other possible services include helping the Town develop a future capital plan that would spread out payments and also assisting the Town file the required annual financial statement. The firm’s fee for the bond conversion would be about $17,500 and Ms. Farrell did not disclose the hourly fee for assisting with any proposed capital plan.
This led to a more general discussion over how to finance what Supervisor Grace said was a $6 million list of needed infrastructure projects as well as the Town’s bond rating. Supervisor Grace said that one of the things rating agencies look for when setting a bond rating was the size of the Town’s commercial tax base, adding that a heavily residential tax base could hurt the town’s ability to borrow. Ms. Farrell said that other factors influencing the Town’s rating included the size of its surplus, the wealth of the community and how the Town was managed.Supervisor Grace said that because the borrowing differential between a AA and AAA rating was so small, it might not pay for the Town to incur the cost of asking the rating agency to reevaluate our rating. Ms. Farrell suggested that the possible $6 million capital projects list be broken up into two separate bond issues.
In general Supervisor Grace felt that future capital projects should be bonded so that the residents who get the benefits of the projects pay for them. He said borrowing now made sense because of the low interest rates and because taxpayers are stretched to the limit.The 2% tax levy cap will also have an impact on how capital projects are funded but this was not discussed in detail.
Although Supervisor Grace said he was ready to move ahead on the proposal, Councilman Bianco said he wanted to review the information provided by Ms. Farrell. No action was taken.The existing BANS expire on December 18th.Any plans to borrow for new capital projects that will require new bonding (as opposed to rolling over BANS into long term bonds) will take longer and will require the services of bond counsel.
Capital projects: Holland Sporting and Open Space acquisition
Town Board, 5-29-2012
The board agreed that at the June 5th meeting, it will set up separate capital project accounts for the Holland Sporting Club and open space borrowings. It is anticipated that the Holland job will come in under $125,000.
Ms. Goldberg said that approximately $1.8 million was still available in the original $5 million bond authorization for the purchase of open space. However, she added, the original authorization was only good for 10 years so a new authorization may be needed before any additional funds are borrowed.
(Note: as of 6/25/2013, the discussion of this topic has been continued on Highway Garage Project)
Town Board, 9-4-2012
Supervisor Grace said he was “hoping to get” a state grant to pay for the Phase II environmental study of the highway garage site that would be used as seed money for the future construction of a new “green” highway garage. He said that the town’s request for grant funds for his Route 202 plan had been “enthusiastically received” by state officials.
Town Board, 7-10-2012
Supervisor Grace said that now that the Phase I report for the highway garage site was done, he wanted the Board’s authorization to have the Planning Department submit an application to the state for a Consolidated Funding grant for Phase II.Board members had not seen the Phase I report.Both Councilman Bianco and Paganelli said they had no problem with submitting the application as long as it didn’t involve the expenditure of any Town funds. The board voted to authorize the submission.
Town Board, 6-19-2012
The CIY observer learned, quite by accident, late Wednesday afternoon, that the Town Board met in an open session at 5pm Tuesday, prior to going into closed session for interviews for the Comptroller position, to discuss authorizing Phase I and Phase II environmental studies for the Highway Garage. Several department heads were in attendance. The Board apparently voted to spend $2,100 for a Phase I study but not authorize the Phase II. It then went into Executive session before reconvening in open session at 7:30pm.
Town Board, 4/17/2012
Highway garage. In response to comments he has received regarding his earlier statements about relocating the highway garage to the “Hill” on Greenwood Street, Mr. Grace said that he would be his hope that the Town would be able to recoup the cost of the new building from the proceeds of the sale of the current site, and then some.He said the “Hill” site has little to no market value but can serve a municipal use. The project, he added, needs lots of discussion and is a “long way off.” During Courtesy of the Floor, Ray Arnold took exception one of the Supervisor’s reasons for the relocation, namely, the need for indoor storage in order to protect the Town’s investment in its vehicles and equipment. Pointing out that the school buses are parked outside and that they look okay, what was needed, he said, was better maintenance and supervision.
Town Board, 4/10/2012
Saying that the board should have an idea of what the Town’s long term infrastructure needs are before it decides to spend money on a project, Supervisor Grace asked Planning Director John Tegeder to come up with a prioritized list of potential projects.Mr. Tegeder gave the board copies of the capital projects list his department compiled last year based on input from department heads and he said he would ask department heads for an updated list.
In addition to citing a leak in the Police Department roof, Supervisor Grace repeated his interest in relocating the highway garage to the Hill on Greenwood Street so that the current site, which he called an eyesore in the center of town, could be redeveloped. He envisioned holding a forum with area stakeholders, much like the Route 202 forum, to discuss a future village-like area that could include Railroad Park and Richard Place.
In response, Councilman Paganelli expressed concern about potential environmental issues on the site. These were dispelled by Highway Superintendent DiBartolo who joined the conversation midway through the discussion. Mr. DiBartolo said that the area had been cleaned up several years ago when additions were put on the original building that was constructed in 1957. He went on to highlight the advantages of centralizing all the Town’s equipment in one location, adding how much better Downing Park would look if the existing Parks Department maintenance facility could be relocated to the Hill. He estimated that the proposed “butler building” type of structure could cost $500,000-$600,000.
Joining the discussion, Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson advised the board that given the site’s proximity to the Hallocks Mill stream and its location in the watershed, state and city regulatory agencies might have a problem with siting a highway garage on the Hill, adding that even within the NYS DEC, one unit likes the existing leaf recycling pile while another unit is concerned about runoff into the nearby stream which feeds into the Croton Reservoir.
Citing the rotting windows behind the board table as an example, Councilman Patel raised the issue of other possible high priority infrastructure needs.
In response to a question from Councilman Murphy,Mr. Tegeder gave an update on the remaining streetscape projects still on the drawing board for the Heights hamlet but some of the follow up discussion was not audible to the audience.
During a subsequent discussion of budget transfers, Comptroller Joan Goldberg’sresponse to a question about the $55,000 transfer to pay for a new cooling system at the court led to a broader discussion about the pending need to replace the heat pumps at the court and the overall need to have an assessment of each building’s needs as part of an assessment of the Town’s long term capital project needs. Supervisor Grace said that the Highway Department had completed an assessment, although he didn’t specify what that assessment included, and that the maintenance stafffor the YCCC/Town Hall and the library should prepare the assessment of the mechanical needsfor those buildings.
(see also Procurement issues, KVS)
Town Board, 5-6-2014
A representative from O’Connor Davies, the town’s auditor, joined by Town Comptroller Patricia Caporale, addressed the issue of the 2013 pension shortfall. The auditor attributed the shortfall, which he said was considerably less (possibly about $300,000), to the fact that the state and the town used different fiscal years, as well as the retroactive payments to employees based on negotiated salary increases. He said the issue was a matter of timing and not a mistake and an explanation will be included in the 2013 audit which has not been completed. He said that what was in the budget at the time was correct because of the salary lag is the retirement system.
In response to Councilman Patel’s question why it took so long to notify the board about the additional payment, Ms. Caporale said that she had told the board about the issue during the budget (2014) meetings, although neither Councilmen Patel or Bianco recalled having heard anything about the 2013 payment at that time. Ms. Caporale said that for the 2013 budget, the town did get the pension rates.
Town Board, 4-22-2014
Comptroller Pat Caporale briefly reviewed first quarter revenue and expense reports.
Councilman Bianco raised the issue of the $972,000 budget transfer approved April 1, 2014 to cover shortfalls in what had been budgeted for 2013 pension payments. He said the town still has to straighten out why this shortfall happened and the comptroller said she will be reviewing vouchers with the state retirement system in an effort to clarify the siutation. It was explained that the state’s notices about the required payments are sent via email only and Ms. Caporale said that the town hadn’t received any emails. Councilman Bianco said it was a learning curve to get a heads up when the email notices didn’t come, but he questioned why the state would send out a $2.6 million bill only by email. Ms. Caporale added that representatives of the retirement system had been more cooperative responding to the councilmen’s questions than to hers.
In response to Councilman Bianco’s comment that perhaps more help was needed in the Finance Department, Supervisor Grace said that he that were qualification issues surrounding the person who he was considering for an upgraded position.
Town Board, 4-1-2014
$1.1 million budget transfer from fund balance. Before voting on the resolution that would transfer $1,097,594 dollars from the general fund fund balance to various other budget lines, Councilman Patel asked why most of the transfer ($971,881) was for the police retirement and state retirement systems. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the town had been notified that the retirement systems made miscalculation in its 2011 warrant (bill) to the town and rebilled the town for the deficiency. He added that the town was lucky that it had a healthy fund balance that could deal with the unanticipated expense, adding that the 2013 fund balance had grown by 10%. Councilman Bianco said that the should have been told about the deficiency earlier.
Town Board, 4-8-2014
2014 Insurance Policies
Bob Spadaccia, the town’s insurance agent, explained that when he received quotes for the 2014 insurance in August, 2013, CNA was $60,000 less than Travelers, the town’s 2013 insurer, but that CNA would not insure the water slide at the Shrub Oak pool facility or the dam at Sparkle Lake that Travelers had been covering. However, after further negotiations that were not finalized until late December, CNA agreed to cover both items with no change in premium, which led the town, on December 31, to vote to go with CNA.
Overall, he said that the cost of the total premium package had gone down but that the dollar value of what was covered increased. Also, the deductible for the public officials liability policy went down from $50,000 to $25,000.
Councilman Patel, who at an earlier meeting had requested the update from Mr. Spadaccia, said that he had wanted more information about the policies and the coverage back in November prior to having to vote on them. Councilman Murphy appeared annoyed with his colleague’s questions, stating “you’re the only one who is asking questions.” Councilman Bianco noted that in previous years, Mr. Spadaccia had come before the board on a yearly basis but hadn’t last year.
Mr. Spadaccia explained that on a year to year basis, the dollar amount of what the insurance policies cover, such as property, the number of vehicles, and equipment changes; the value of insured property is now about $72 million, up from $69.7 million in 2013.
Town Board, 12-31-2013
2014 Insurance Policies
The Board unanimously approved a contract with CNA to provide insurance coverage for 2014 at a total cost of $712,345.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Patel raised questions about exactly what was being covered in the policies as he had only been given a single page summary of the quotes from CNA and Travaelers for 15 different policies. The Travelers quote totaled $771,504. He wanted to know if the town was buying the same coverage or less. Supervisor Grace and Comptroller Caporale assured him that the CNA policy was exactly the same coverage as Travelers provided in 2013 except that a deductible went down; they didn’t specify which policy the reduced deductible was for. The supervisor said the total premiums went down because the town’s claims had gone down over the past two years and that the town had taken other steps to reduce its premiums, including replacing older trucks with newer ones in the Highway Department. In response to Mr. Patel’s question as to why the Board hadn’t been given information about the insurance policies earlier, the supervisor said that he had been working on the 2014 policies for the past six months but that he had to wait until the quotes came in.
When Mr. Patel questioned what properties were included in the 2014 coverage, the supervisor said it was based on a complete inventory of the town’s physical plant and Councilman Murphy said that Holland Sporting Club was included in the policy and that because the property had been cleaned up, the premium was lower.
Town Board, 12-17-2013
In a unanimous vote, the Board adopted the 2014 Preliminary Budget. As explained by Comptroller Pat Caporale, the only change from the Preliminary Budget adopted November 21 was a minor adjustment in the CHIPS paving line in the highway budget. Ms. Caporale handed the Board some papers with two taxing options, indicating which one was the preferred one. There were no comments about the tax rate implications of the budget.
In response to comments made at the hearing suggesting that $1,590,000 for capital projects in the water district budget be eliminated as a line item and funded directly from fund balance, Ms. Caporale explained that based on conversations with the Office of the State Comptroller, the only way the town could eliminate the capital projects line was if the projects were going to be bonded (which they were not) or carried out over more than one year (which was not the case.). The money will be used for two cement lining projects anda fluoride dispensing equipment. Given those facts, she said the state comptroller’s office said it was proper to include the capital projects line item in the budget and to charge an administrative fee of 6% on that amount.
Supervisor Grace said that the past funding of the water meter project from the fund balance was a mistake.
During the second Courtesy of the Floor, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, stated that in the past, this Board had funded capital projects directly from fund balance that were not included in any operating budget, and she saw no reason why the same procedure could not be used for the proposed water district projects, adding that the projects may never even come to fruition in 2014. She said that adding the projects to the water district operating budget was a ruse to generate $78,000 in revenue for the general fund. Councilman Bianco said that if the planned cement lining project is not done in 2014, then that portion of the administrative fee should be returned to the water district.
Ms. Siegel also brought to the Board’s attention the fact that on the town’s web site, the video of the December 10 budget public hearing was found on the Zoning Board page and not the Town Board page where people would normally look for it.
Gil Kaufmann, who spoke against the elimination of the attendant at the Legacy Fields during the budget hearing, repeated his comments, advising the Board that the presence of an attendant helped control vandalism.
Town Board, 12-10-2013: Budget Hearing
The three hour hearing was adjourned to December 17. Initially, Councilman Bianco wanted to close the hearing and vote on the budget, subject to certain changes being made, but the comptroller felt that she needed more time to review the changes discussed during the hearing. (Note: on Dec. 17, it was said that the hearing on Dec. had been closed.)
Most of the comments/questions came from two people: Don Roberts of the UTY and Susan Siegel, the person writing these notes. Other speakers included Gil Kaufmann, Tony Grasso, Ed Ciffone, Glen Johnson, and Eric DiBartolo.
Supervisor Grace opened the hearing by explaining that there weren’t many changes in the budget from last year. He cited two new items: the addition of a police officer who will be devoted exclusively to drug enforcement, bringing the force up to 56 officers, still down two from the 2009 high of 58 officers, and the purchase of a digital projector for the theater so that the town could begin a program of showing movies. (see below.)
He said that the town didn’t spend as much as it anticipated spending last year (it wasn’t clear if he was referring to 2012 or 2013) and that the unspent money would go into the fund balance. He specifically mentioned the savings for the Holland Sporting Club demolition and the Granite Knolls ballfields. (Clarification: neither of these projects were included in the 2012 or 2013 budgets; they were funded directly from the fund balance.) Councilman Patel added that not all Holland expenses had been accounted for.
Councilman Murphy called attention to the 2012 auditor’s “stellar” report, adding that the town was doing a fantastic job.
What follows is summary by topic of major items, rather than by speaker.
Supervisor Grace explained that the fund balance grows when the town spends less than it anticipated and/or when revenues exceed what was projected. To date, the town has only used $199,000 of the $565,000 it budgeted to use for 2013. The unspent money will remain in the fund balance. He said he anticipated that the fund balance will grow for 2013. (Note: As explained by Councilman Bianco, the town will be paying 2013 bills into at least March and April of 2014.)
Mr. Roberts reminded the Board that it has yet to adopt a written fund balance policy, something the Board said it would do last year. Commenting on the supervisor’s remark that the fund balance would be 15-17% (of the fund’s budget), he said it was not clear if that percent was for the total fund balance or just the unassigned portion of the fund balance. He also said it wasn’t clear if the same 15-17% applied to all funds.
He said he was pleased that after so many years of criticizing the Board for keeping large fund balances, that the Board has “seen the light” and had started to return some of the money to the taxpayers. He asked the Board to add back into the budget book the fund balance graph.
Councilman Patel explained that the town needed to keep a fund balance for capital projects and unexpected expenses
Variations in the total tax bill
Supervisor Grace explained that a taxpayer’s total tax bill depended on where he lived and what special districts such as water and sewer the housse was in. Depending on where they lived, he said, total taxes for individual homeowners would either increase or decrease.
Ms. Siegel, displaying a graph, noted that 10 of the town’s 12 sewer districts were paying more than the “weighted average sewer tax” used to calculate the total tax bill for the typical homeowner with a house assessed at $10,000. She said the sewer tax should be taken out of the calculation as leaving it in misrepresented what the total tax bill was.
When Supervisor Grace responded that the town had used the weighted number for about 10 years and that the number was used when Ms. Siegel was supervisor, Ms. Siegel responded that she had expressed concern about the number during her term but it was one of the items she didn’t get around to changing during her two years.
Councilman Bianco noted that the difference between the past and now was that the current supervisor was using the typical total tax bill to show that taxes were going down for most taxpayers when they weren’t if the sewer tax was taken out of the calculation.
When Ms. Siegel pointed out that homeowners in 11 of the 12 districts paid at least two sewer taxes, and some a third tax, and that the “weighted average number” only included one tax, Supervisor Grace said he was only concerned about the single tax that the town collected. In response, Ms. Siegel said that a house couldn’t ge sewered if it didn’t also pay the county tax to the Peekskill Sanitary Sewer District.
Mr. Ciffone commented on the two different tax numbers, before and after election, and said that he had voted for candidates who said there would be no tax increase but that now there was an increase. In response, Supervisor Grace explained that it was the Board that made the changes to his Tentative Budget that increased the tax rate.
Councilman Bianco explained that even after the budget is passed by the Board, the tax rate won’t be finalized until March and might change slightly from what’s in the budget book.
Mr. Roberts asked why the Board hadn’t formed the Finance Committee it said it was going to form. Supervisor Grace said the delay was due to the changeover in the Finance office (which occurred in 2012) but that “we’ll get to it this year.” Several members of the UTY have indicated an interest in serving on the committee.
Supervisor Grace highlighted the decrease in the tax levy for the second year in a row, something he said most other towns in the state had not been able to accomplish. He said the decreasing tax levy was the key number that taxpayers should look at. He explained that the levy, the amount of money that has to be raised in taxes, fills the gap between what all the other revenue sources generate and how much the town plans to spend. (Note: there’s a single tax levy figure that includes all funds.)
Ms. Siegel explained that the reason the tax levy decreased this year was because an unprecedented $3.4 million of fund balance was used to lower the tax levy, compared to $1.9 million in 2013. If less fund balance was used, the levy would go up.
Councilman Bianco noted that while revenue has been flat, expenses have gone up 12% in three years. He said that while there was nothing wrong with using fund balance to lower the levy, and that it had been done before, he said he was worried about what would happen once the fund balance was depleted.
Four year tax projection
Ms. Siegel thanked the Board for adding back the four year financial model but noted that the projections included an overly optimistic 0.5% annual increase in the assessment roll. If a more realistic number was used,
the 2015 tax rate would be even higher than the projected 8.8%. She also questioned whether the assessment figure that wasx shown was based on a 0.5% increase or a 1% increase.
Senior club money
Gil Kaufmann, chairman of the Senior Advisory Committee, asked if there was any change in the $2,700 that each senior club receives for trips. The answer was no. (The money is listed in the budget as “contractual” so it is difficult to identify the appropriate line item.) In response to his question whether the town had changed the criteria for giving the payments to new clubs, Supervisor Grace said the town was following established guidelines that required a club to be in existence for three years before it could request the funds.
Tony Grasso said it was unfair that the same amount of money was given to each club, regardless of its membership and that the town should look into how the funds are dispersed.
Mr. Roberts suggested that the instead of giving the money directly to the clubs, that the Park & Recreation Department handle the trips and that non town residents be charged more than town residents to participate. (Currently, no residency distinction is made on the cost of the trips.) In response, Councilman Bianco said the department would have to hire additional staff if it took on this function.
Special district administrative fee
Citing comments from the town’s auditor and an audit from the state comptroller’s office, Ms. Siegel asked the town to complete the study of what administrative services the general fund provided the special districts (water, refuse and Yorktown Sewer) and at what cost. She said that the only way to assess a fair and equitable fee was to have the fee based on actual costs and not a flat percentage of the district’s budget which the state comptroller has said in not equitable and could result in over charging or undercharging certain taxpayers. She asked the Board to adopt a resolution directing the supervisor to compile the cost information by the spring.
Mr. Roberts also read an excerpt from the state comptroller’s report explaining that the administrative fee should be based on the cost of providing actual services.
Councilman Murphy asked Ms. Siegel if she thought the school district should also pay the cost of the tax office collecting school tax bills. In response, both Ms. Siegel and Supervisor Grace brought up a previous Board discussion that concluded that even though, by law, the town had the right to charge the school district a fee based on a percentage of the school levy, it didn’t make sense to do that, as it would simply shift the cost from the town to the school district – and basically the very same taxpayers.
Supervisor Grace said that the taxpayers in the special districts were the same as those in the special districts so that the cost factor was a wash and that it all amounted to a ledger entry. In the end, he said, it all boils down to the tax levy. He also said the districts should pay for having general staff available if and when their services were needed.
Both Mr. Roberts and Ms. Siegel pointed out that by including $1.590,000 for capital projects in the water district’s operating budget, that raised the district’s administrative fee by $78,000. See Water District discussion below.
Councilman Bianco called the special district fee a “work in progress” and Councilman Patel said that the fee should be based on costs.
Specific line item comments
Unspent line items. Mr. Roberts questionied several line items, such as dues and custodian fees, that had been budgeted each year but nothing or very little was ever spent. He said the UTY makes the same comments every year, but there’s no change.
Theater projector. Both Mr. Roberts and Ms Siegel said the project was a good idea. When Mr. Roberts questioned whether $65,000 was sufficient to cover the cost of both the projector and screen, Supervisor Grace said that was the number he had gotten but that if more money was needed it would be taken from fund balance. Ms. Siegel suggested that the money be eliminated from the operating budget and funded entirely from fund balance once the town had worked out the details of how the project would work and a more exact budget was arrived at. Councilman Patel said he voted for including the $65,000 projector expense in the budget once he was assured that there would be a live hookup to the adjoining nutrition center room for a possible spill over crowd.
Atheltic club payments. Mr. Roberts said that last year, the UTY was given a commitment that before the clubs were given money, they would open up their books to make sure the money was needed., When he asked if the books had been looked at this year, Supervisor Grace said he couldn’t answer the question but that he’d look into it.
Franchise fees (Verizon and Cablevision)
Mr. Ciffone noted that revenue, to date, exceeded the budgeted amount by $263,000 and wanted to know if 1) the exact fees from each company could be made available, and 2) why the 2014 revenue estimate could not be increased. Supervisor Grace responded that the franchise fee payments are confidential documents because they include proprietary information.
In response to a question from Ms. Siegel regarding the town’s 2014 insurance costs, Supervisor Grace said that the policy renewals were still being negotiated but that he anticipated no change in the premium cost for the same level of service. He hoped that the policies would be renewed by the end of the year.
It was noted that the budget includes funds for a special election if there will be one to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Councilman Paganelli.
In response to a question from Ms. Siegel regarding the cost of 2014 medical benefits, Comptroller Caporale said that costs have gone up 10%/
Salaries and staff vacanices
In response to a question from Ms. Siegel, Supervisor Grace said the budget did not include any increase for department heads. In response to a question from Mr. Roberts as to why there was a difference between the individual salaries in the back of the budget book and the salary line totals in the budget, Supervisor Grace explained that the former number was based on people currently employed while the latter figure was an estimate because until certain vacant positions were filled, the town did not know exactly what the new people would receive in salary.
Supervisor Grace said he was still undecided how to fill vacant positions in town hall, including two vacant positions in his office, one full time and one part time.
Emergency operations center (EOC)
Ms. Siegel asked how much money had been budgeted and spent to date on creating the EOC in the basement of the court building. She also asked when the Board had authorized the expense and where the money was coming from. In response, both Councilman Murphy and Highway Superintendent DiBartolo defended the EOC and Mr, DiBartolo said that the work was done by the highway department personnel and the town’s outside electrical contractor.
Refuse and recycling staff
In response to a question from Mr. Roberts about what the department staff did from January-March, Kim Angliss-Gage, interim head of the department, said that in January the staff was disposing of Xmas trees and doing special bulk pick ups and in February, in addition to the special bulk pick ups, staff helped out the highway department. Regularly scheduled bulk pick ups begin in March.
Mr. Kaufmann said that eliminating the $20,000 for a part time attendant at the fields was a mistake and that it would open up the fields to more damage. (Note: in the past, Mr. Kaufmann has been an attendant at the field.)
Change of hearing date
Messrs. Roberts and Ciffone and Ms. Siegel questioned why the Board had to reschedule the budget hearing and why even the change to 6pm was changed at the last minute. Mr. Ciffone said he hoped Board members had a good time whatever they were doing on the 11th, the original date of the hearing.
Water District fund
Two issues were raised. The first, raised by Ms. Siegel, was the addition, in the preliminary budget, of $550,000 in fund balance for a total fund balance appropriation of $1.950,000. Ms. Siegel questioned whether the Board had ever discussed or voted for this increase. Both she and Mr. Roberts who attended the meeting when the Board adopted the preliminary budget stated that they had not heard of any such vote. Comptroller Caporale said that while the $1,950,000 was in her notes, it was not in the spread sheet of changes that the Board had voted on on November 21.
The second issue was the $1,590,000 line item for “meter projects.” In addition to a $290,000 increase in the line item (which had been voted for by the Board on November 21), the title of the line item was changed from “capital projects” in the tentative budget to “meter projects” in the preliminary budget.
After some back and forth, it was agreed that the $1,590,000 was primarily for the cement relining of water mains and the fluoride project, not the meter project, and that the comptroller would break out the various capital projects into different line items.
Both Ms. Siegel and Mr. Roberts stated that the capital projects money should be eliminated entirely from the operating budget and funded directly from the fund balance when the money was needed, as had been done with other town capital projects. They both pointed out that including the money for capital projects in the operating budget increased the special district fee by at least $78,000 – and more if the fee had been recalculated, which it wasn’t, when the district’s budget was increased. Councilman Bianco agreed that this money should be taken out of the budget.
Ms. Siegel suggested that the town begin to plan for the replacement of up to three aging pump stations that are in excess of 40 years old. She said the existing fund balance could be used to finance the projects. Councilman Bianco agreed that this project should proceed.
In response to her question whether Ciarcia Engineering has submitted a report to the town for the $10,000 worth of consulting work Mr. Ciarcia had done, Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson said that the $10,000 was for the work Mr. Ciarcia did relating to the possible creation of a sewer district for Sunrise Street and that she was satisfied with the work he had done.
November 21, 2013 . Part II of Board's review of Supervisor's Tentative Budget
In a unanimous vote, the Board adopted a 2014 Preliminary Budget that carries with it a 1.75% increase in the town tax rate.
In a separate vote, the Board increased the 2014 salary for the highway superintendent to $107,000. Councilman Patel voted against the motion and Councilman Paganelli abstained.
And in a third vote, the Board changed the date of the public hearing on the 2014 to Tuesday, December 10 at 6pm. The original date, set in January, was December 11.
Below is a discussion, by topic.
Additions to the budget
Without discussion, the Board approved a list of additions based on its earlier discussions. The only addition mentioned was that of the additional police officer.
Based on those additions, taking $75,000 from the library fund balance, and reducing the general fund fund balance revenue to $1 million from $1.2 million, the tentative tax rate change would have been a 1.28% increase.
In response to questions from Councilman Bianco, the comptroller said that the $96,000 revenue shown as county aid was a reimbursement for election expenses.
Highway superintendent salary
In defense of the higher salary, Councilman Paganelli stated that it was tradition that the incoming superintendent was paid the same as the outgoing person.
Special district fee
Supervisor Grace said again that a letter from the state comptroller’s office showed that the way the town was charging the special districts was correct. If anything, he said, we’re undercharging the districts, adding that he thought the fee should be 10% instead of 6% (It was increased from 5% in 2013.) Councilman Bianco said he didn’t read the comptroller’s letter that way, adding that it wasn’t clear exactly what question the comptroller’s letter was addressing. He said the letter was not the answer to what the special districts should be charged.
Supervisor Grace said the issue was one of equity and that the general fund should not be subsidizing the special districts. Stating that the special districts account for 17% of the town’s total $54.3 million budget, he said the town could shed 17% of its budget if it got rid of the special districts. He equated the need for certain staff paid for from the general fund to the retainers he receives from clients in his private law practice: the retainer is paid so that his services will be available if and when needed. If we didn’t have the special districts, he said, we wouldn’t need some of the general fund staff.
Town comptroller Caporale said that if the fee was dropped to 5% of the districts’ budgets, the revenue to the general fund would drop by about $90,000.
Town Clerk Roker said that the 5% fee dates back to about 1990 and Councilman Murphy said the 5% fee was “ambiguous” and was not based on any formula. Councilman Paganelli didn’t think 6% was “onerous.”
When Councilman Bianco said it was difficult to calculate exactly what administrative services were being provided to the districts by the general fund, Supervisor Grace acknowledged that it was difficult but that he’s still working it out. Ms. Roker suggested (possibly in jest), that staff would have to wear meters so that they could account for their time.
The budget, as adopted, keeps the special district administrative fee at 6%/
Yorktown sewer district. Councilman Bianco questioned taking $300,000 from this district’s fund balance noting that four of the town’s 16 pump stations need to be replaced, at an estimated cost of $1 million each. In response, Supervisor Grace said that in the absence of any specific plans for the replacement, the money should be given back to the taxpayers and that if and when the project/s proceeded they could be bonded, so that the people who benefited from them would be paying for them. Councilman Patel philosophically disagreed, arguing that as a society we sometimes pay for a future benefit that we don’t directly receive.
Alternately, Councilman Bianco suggested that the projects could be funded by using a combination of the remaining fund balance and bonding.
Comptroller Caporale said that the $300,000 from fund balance in the 2014 budget was being used to pay for planned purchases such as pump station maintenance that she considered capital projects and not operating expenses.
It was explained that the reason for the large fund balance in the district dates back to the time Nancy Elliott was supervisor. At the time, the town thought it would have to build a filtration plant so it increased the tax rate to put some money away for it. The plan never same to fruition, however, when the town decided to become part of the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works.
In general, Councilman Bianco said that the budget was unbalanced as spending was increasing faster than revenue and that the Board needed to wean itself off using fund balance to arrive at an acceptable tax rate.
The forecast for future tax rates, prepared by the comptroller at his request, forecast a spike of 9.17% in the 2015 tax rate. Supervisor Grace said that he wasn’t concerned about 2015 because for the following year he anticipated a decrease in expenses and the availability of $400,000+ in the Housing Trust Fund that he said could be used for the general fund. He said that money budgeted for 2014 but not spent would roll over into the fund balance.
The Board agreed to include the four year projection in the budget book.
Councilman Bianco suggested that if the Board used only $500,000 fund balance for 2014, the tax rate would be an increase of 4.01% but that it would lower the projected 2015 tax rate to 3.72%.
Supervisor Grace and Councilman Paganelli stated that they wanted to see a zero increase in the tax rate. The Supervisor said he gets a call at least once a week from a taxpayer who says he can’t afford to live in Yorktown any more and the Councilman called the taxes “onerous.”
After Supervisor Grace and Councilman Murphy huddled with the comptroller, plugging in various combinations of fund balance to arrive at possible tax rates, the Board agreed to take $800,000 from the general fund fund balance instead of $1.2 million, but increase the drawdown of the library’s fund balance to $225,000 from $75,000, resulting in a 1.75% tax increase.
For the typical homeowner with utilities, the total tax bill would show a 0 .35% reduction. However, Councilman Bianco, noted that the“weighted average sewer tax” number that was part of the total tax calculation was not accurate as it did not reflect all the sewer taxes for the 60% of sewered taxpayers who, like him, are in the Peekskill Sanitary Sewer District.
Other budget issues
Councilman Patel questioned the budget line item of $64,700 for a movie projector for the YCCC theater. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the town would have to work out a framework for the projector’s use, adding that showing free movies on the weekend would help showcase the town’s restaurants. Councilman Murphy added that the movies would help keep kids off the street.
Supervisor Grace said that there is a commitment from the Chamber of Commerce to help offset the cost of the projector, which Supervisor Grace would be something like a blueray system.
Councilman Patel withdrew his initial objection to including the item in the budget when he received assurance that a connection from the theater to the senior nutrition center could be installed so that an overflow audience could view the movie and after Supervisor Grace said that he could still vote against the purchase once the town was ready to put the purchase out to bid.
Change in budget public hearing
Without explaining why, the Board voted to change the date for the public hearing that had been set in January. Instead of holding the hearing on a separate day, the hearing will be held as part of the regularly scheduled work session on Tuesday, December 10. It also agreed to schedule the meeting at 6pm, noting that last year only 3 people attended the hearing.
Supervisor Grace indicated that after the public hearing, the Board would likely continue in work session mode to discuss the State Land rezoning application.
Note: A summary of the Board's line item budget review from last week follows below.
November 14 & 15, 2013. Town Board review of Supervisor's Tentative Budget with department heads.
Note: The Board will meet again on Nov 21 at 1pm in Town Hall to review the monetary impact of the changes discussed below as well as review revenue projections and other issues.
Parks and Recreation Department
Legacy fields. The $20,000 line for part time help to check teams in and out and open and shut the gate has been eliminated. The clubs will be asked to monitor use of the fields. Because the gate is kept open, the fields are being used when teams are not scheduled. The department may consider locking the bathrooms when the fields are not scheduled for use. $5,000 has been added to the budget for professional maintenance of the artificial turf which should prolong its life. The department anticipates this will be a recurring expense. Money is being set aside in a special fund for the eventual replacement of the turf.
Granite Knolls field should be ready for use this spring and is currently being maintained (mowed) by town staff. Councilman Murphy asked about the status of the original plan for the teams to mow the grass and maintain the fields, but Councilman Paganelli noted that the clubs have said that they do not have the proper equipment, adding “we were sold a bill of goods” regarding the club’s ability to maintain the fields
Playground upgrades. The surfaces of approximately six playgrounds have been replaced in order to enhance safety. If more money becomes available, the department would like to make improvements to other playgrounds.
Pools. Revenue was down, in part due to rainy and cold weather in August. Concern continues that the pool passes, especially the day passes may be too costly and Supervisor Grace thinks the rates may have to be reduced and that more marketing needs to be done to attract non Yorktown residents. The town opened up the pool to non residents this year for a $750 fee, and with limited advertising about 20 people took advantage of the offer. Recreation Superintendent Gray believes that the pool could accommodate about 40-50 out of town passes. Councilman Paganelli noted that too large an increase would increase wear and tear costs. He said Sparkle Lake was an alternative for Yorktown residents who didn’t want to buy the pool pass. The department is looking into alternative pool pass options for next season, including a lower cost “twilight pass” and a summer sale price for August. Revenue will always be somewhat dependent on the weather. Regarding Junior Lake pool, the department has the tile needed for the coping, and will have to bid for the installation.
Summer camps. The day camps and specialty camps did very well, generating revenue in excess of projections. Youth programs were also popular.
Overall, the department anticipates revenue of $1,080,000 for 2014, up slightly from 2013.
Equipment. The board had no issue with the $100,000 in the capital budget for a chipper and a bucket truck.
Lakeland high school track. Councilman Bianco asked if a sign could be erected letting residents know that they can use the track when it’s not in use by the school district. The town paid 25% of the cost of rebuilding the track years ago and as part of that arrangement town residents have access to the track.
The court will spend $6,000 to purchase software that will enable personnel to track compliance with local traffic tickets. The software will enable the town to notify the state when tickets are not paid and the state will then be able to put notations in the registration file. There was no estimate as to how much money this might generate.
Based on current revenue from fines, both Justices Lagonia and Raniola were confident that the court would meet its 2014 revenue projection of $650,000, up $200,000 from 2013. Both the criminal calendar and traffic tickets are up to date.
Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson questioned where the money for capital projects is/would come from. She noted that although the work has already been completed on the Greenwood St. bridge ($120,000), the resolution that awarded the bid for the work did not identify where the money to pay the bill would come from. Commenting on the $175,000 in the department’s “special projects” line, she said the projects on tap included the Baptist Church Rd project, Lexington Ave culvert and Mohegan wall but that typically the funds for these projects came from separate capital project lines and were not part of the department’s operating budget. The three projects are listed in the proposed capital budget, to be financed with Bond Anticipation Notes (Bans).
Councilman Paganelli questioned whether the proposed $600,000 cost for the Lexington Ave project was adequate and Ms. Robinson responded that we won’t know for sure until actual design work is done. When the councilman asked if Cortlandt should share in the expense, Ms. Robinson said she had been told by the highway department that that portion of the road was Yorktown’s responsibility. (Note: Cortlandt is responsible for maintaining Lexington Ave from Amazon Rd to Route 6.)
In response to Councilman Bianco’s question regarding the Yorktown Sewer’s $547,620 special district fee to the general fund, Supervisor Grace said that the town had received a letter from the state comptroller’s office stating that the way the town was calculating the 6% fee was acceptable. He said that after the state office received a complaint about the fees, the comptroller’s office requested documentation from the town and after reviewing the documentation, concluded that the 6% fee was acceptable.
Ms. Robinson asked that the job title of two employees be upgraded. Both positions are funded 100% by the DEP and conform to DEP’s request that the positions be filled by more qualified personnel. (When the positions were originally filled, the town decided to initially hire lesser trained staff and train and upgrade them if they proved satisfactory.)
In order to comply with new air emission permit requirements, the sewer plant will have to hire a consultant to monitor air emissions. The additional funds will be taken from another budget line.
In response to questions from Councilman Bianco regarding the need to replace pump stations, Ms. Robinson explained that three pump stations are more than 40 years old and need to be replaced. She ball parked the cost at $1 million each. A brief discussion followed regarding how much of the district’s fund balance should be used to finance the pump stations and how much should be bonded. Supervisor Grace said that if the money was kept in the fund balance, a plan was needed on how the funds would be spent. Funds for pump station repairs put in the 2013 budget, as well as in past budgets, were not used for that purpose but shifted to other budget lines.
Ms. Robinson explained that the district will still incur costs for the sludge composting operation through 2014 and that the projected savings (the elimination of an HMEO and the 1/3 cost of the composting operation could not be eliminated until 2015. Councilman Paganelli, speaking as the incoming highway superintendent, expressed concern about the potential loss of income to the highway department and the continued cost of maintaining and operating “the beast,” the piece of equipment that turns logs into wood chips. He said he’d like to get rid of the equipment but Supervisor Grace said that if the town returned to adding dye to the chips, it would be able to sell them and generate revenue. In response to Mr. Pagaenelli’s concerns about losing 1/3 of sewer revenue, Ms,. Robinson said she would work with Mr. Paganelli to work out appropriate cost sharing formulas for other shared equipment such as the flush truck used by both departments.
Town Comptroller Caporale explained that the $300,000 reduction in debt service was a determination by the state Environmental Facilities Corporation. In response to a question from Councilman Bianco she called the reduction a “defeasance” and explained that the EFC required the reduction to be taken in 2014 and that it could not be spread out over the remaining years of the loan.
Sewer rents. Ms. Caporale said the $50,000 revenue increase in sewer rents was calculated projecting revenue received to date over 12 months.
Planning Director Tegeder asked for $6,000 more to hire temporary summer help.
The Board agreed that the projected $60,000 in planning fees was reasonable but agreed to reduce the projected general development fee revenue to $90,000 from $130,000. The fee is paid before an approved site plan is signed. Mr. Tegeder estimated the following potential fees for 2014: Costco, $21,000; Croton Overlook, $18,000; Field Home, $76,000; JV Mall $5,000. Both Councilman Bianco and Patel suggested that because development activity varied from year to year, it might be preferable to use a 5-year average than just look one year ahead.
As part of a discussion of the department’s telephone expenses, Supervisor Grace said that the town needed to look into an alternate phone provider to replace the existing old system which he said was costly. He made the same point the next day.
Building Inspector Winter reported that the department is doing considerably more inspections than had been done in recent years and that he needed more money for overtime. The Board agreed to consider adding $5,000 to that budget line. In response to the question as to whether it was time to add another full time inspector, Mr. Winter said that given the uncertainties about the economy and level of building activity in 2014, he didn’t think it would be wise to bring on another full time person at this time. However, he did ask that two employees be upgraded: one a support staffer (money for that upgrade has already been put into the budget) and the fire marshal. In response to his request for more part time clerical assistance, Supervisor Grace said that town hall was down 2 ½ positions and that this would be looked into. (The need for additional help in town hall also came up in discussions with the tax office. See below.)
Councilman Bianco asked why the budget continued to include $50,000 for a junior attorney when one wasn’t hired in 2013. Town Attorney Koster defended the $20,000 budgeted for foreclosures, saying that she hoped to do more in this area next year to collect unpaid taxes for 2010-2012.
Refuse & Recycling
Kim Angliss Gage explained that the $50,000 budgeted for equipment was to replace a 2001 truck with 120,000 miles and also for a replacement used storage container used to store leaf bags Overall, she said that dumping fees for kitchen trash were down, in part because recycling fees were up. Because the town gets credit for its recycling, the net change to the refuse district was a savings of about $7,000,
A duplicate stipend line item of $22,000 will be eliminated.
Looking ahead, she advised the board that the district might need additional funds to hire a consultant if it went out to bid for a new garbage contract; the current two year contract expires at the end of 2014 and preparing bid specs and reviewing proposals is a lengthy process.
She also asked that in response to a request from the highway superintendent, an additional $1,000 be added to the district’s share of the compositing costs.
Supervisor Grace initiated a discussion about the proliferation of used clothing collection bins throughout town. After Ms. Angliss Gage explained that the two licenses only two vendors: Goodwill and Ragas Unlimited which sends the town a check each year (she did not specific the amount), Supervisor Grace said that the town may want to consider licensing the other vendors as a source of revenue. He said his office has received complaints from some businesses where storage bins have been placed without the property owner’s consent, although Councilman Paganelli noted that in some instances, the businesses agree to having the bins on their property in exchange for getting a share of the profits made by the collection vendors.
Ms. Angliss Gage advised the board that the vapor recovery equipment at the underground fuel storage tank at the police department died in April and $9,000 is needed to replace it. She said the town would be liable for a fine if the equipment was not replaced by the time of the next county inspection took place.
On a personal note, Ms. Angliss Gage reminded that board that because she is still considered part of the CSEA and is not officially the department head for Refuse & Recycling and the Central Garage (she gets a $21,112 stipend as the “acting” head), she is not getting the extra vacation days that department heads get.
Assessor Kim Penner reported that this year was the first since 1976 that the assessment roll had been completed on time. She said that as long as the budget continued to include money for the part time hiring of the former assessor, she did not require any additional staff.
In response to her comment that the town’s assessment roll declined by 1% in 2013, Supervisor Grace noted that Cortlandt’s roll went down even more and that going forward this should mean changes in the equalization rate which should mean higher taxes for the Yorktown portion of the Lakeland School District.
Barbara Korsak, who has been in charge of the office in the absence of Ms. Schmid, advised the board that if Ms. Schmid resigns in 2014, she would like to return to the past practice of having a 21 hour part timer for the department, in addition to a new full time person. When Supervisor Grace brought up the possibility of a floater, she said the office needed a regular person who was familiar with the software and could do more than answer phones and take payments.
In response to questions from Councilman Patel, Comptroller Pat Caporale said she was looking into online payments, but that the software had to be consistent with the town’s bank (Chase) and its KVS financial software. She will look into whether an alternate finance software package is compatible with KVS. Ms. Korsak pointed out that the payer would be responsible for paying the credit card processing fee.
Nutrition/Programs for the Aged
In response to concerns raised by Councilman Patel, the Board agreed to add a new line to the budget, funded at $2,000, to pay for paper and toner for the senior computer lab. When the program was set up in 2010/2011, no provisions beyond the initial supplies were provided for.
Ms. DeSilva said he would like a walk- in cooler for the program at a cost of $14.000 and that additional maintenance projects, including kitchen ventilation, were needed. In response to her concerns about the need for a back up van to transport seniors, Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said that he has been, and will continue to, make an 18 passenger van owned by the Yorktown Funeral Home available to the seniors.
Ms. DeSilva advised that board that she is likely to retire sometime in 2014.
Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said that salt supplies were in “good shape” and defended the $75,000 reduction in the salt line. Together with some other fund shifts, the money has been used to put $250,000 into the paving line. When Councilman Paganelli, who will take over highway in January, questioned the wisdom of the cut, Mr. DiBartolo shot back that this was still his budget, that he was “calling the shots, and that he didn’t want to be second guessed about what was needed in the department. Mr. DiBartolo said that while money could always be added the salt line if needed, once in the budget, it could not be taken away.
A discussion ensued on the merits of mixing rock salt with magnesium chloride to create a brine that is sprayed on the road. Mr. DiBartolo said that his mixture saves money, reduces the need or plowing, and is better for the environment. Mr. DiBartolo said that the brine operation was discontinued after a spill occurred a few years ago at one of the brine tanks stored at the water department in Shrub Oak. The spill entered the stream that feeds the Peekskill water supply. Mr. Paganelli said he would look into resuming the operation. The Board tentatively agreed to put additional funds in both the salt and paving line. (It was not clear if the addition was $10,000 to each budget line.)
On the subject of trucks, Mr. DiBartolo suggested that the town agree to bond for two new trucks for the next five years. The department purchased six new trucks in 2013.
On the issue of bonding, Supervisor Grace explained that with the pool bond scheduled to be retired in 2015, if the town borrowed in 2014, there could be a one year overlap in debt payment. This could make the 2015 budget “tight,” he said and possibly mean that some bonding should be postponed until 2016.
When Mr. DiBartolo suggested that $89,000 would be an appropriate salary for the incoming highway superintendent and that Councilman Paganelli recuse himself from the salary discussion, a heated debate ensued between the outgoing and incoming superintendents. While Mr. DiBartolo said it was “crazy’ to give $104,000 to an untested new person, Councilman Paganelli noted that when Mr. DiBartolo took over in 1986, he was also untested in the job but received the same salary as the outgoing superintendent. Mr. Paganelli said he was prepared to fight for what he believed was right and didn’t care how his request for a higher salary looked.
With renovations of the children’s room underway Library Director Barresi advised the board that in the next few years about $300,000 would be needed to renovate/refurbish the adult room.
In response to criticisms from the United Taxpayers of Yorktown about the size of the library’s fund balance, Supervisor Grace suggested that $100,000 of fund balance be used in the 2014 budget. Library Director Pat Barressi explained that fund balance had increased in 2012 because of vacancies.
Capital projects: Water Superintendent Rambo explained the need to complete the cement lining of water mains, a project that wa begun 10-20 years ago. The lining prolongs the age of the pipes and improves water pressure. Three sections of town remain to be done: portions of Hanover Street, Underhill Ave. and Strawberry Road. He would like to combine the first two projects for 2014 and do Strawberry in 2015. Each section will cost approximately $600,000.
Other capital projects and expenses not in the budget include the need for a new generator, a new supply van that’s used to carry equipment used during water main breaks, repairs to an existing backhoe (instead of buying a new one), a fluoride injection system at the Catskill plant, a new boiler, a new roof on the small brick building on the site, new GIS software ($60,000), a new FIOS line ($40,000) that automatically lets the Joint Water Works read and adjust the water levels in the storage tanks.
In a question from the audience, it was noted that by including $1.3 million for capital projects in the operating budget instead of simply transferring the money from fund balance to a capital projects line off budget as has been done in the past, the district’s administrative fee to the general fund, calculated at 6% of the total budget, increases by $78,000.
Staffing. Mr. Rambo asked that the current 16 hour/week part timer be increased to 25 hours to provide better office coverage. (At 25 hours, the employee gets benefits.)
Water rate increase. At Mr. Rambo’s suggestion, the projected revenue from metered water sales was reduced to $6.3 million from $6.5 million. The increase covers the increase in the NYC pass through charge.
Water meter project. Mr. Rambo estimated that the district is losing $750,000/year in metered water sales because the meters are, on average, only 85% accurate. He said that the $3.4 million cost of installing the new meters would be paid off in 4.3 years.
Supervisor Grace said he wanted to wait until all 2,500 meters in Phase I of the project were installed before committing to Phase II and the remaining 7,500 meters.
Town Clerk (Digitization project)
The budget, which was prepared prior to the election, includes money for a special election if the Board decides to go that route for filling the councilman vacancy as of January 1.
The discussion focused almost entirely on the digitization plan that all agreed would save the town money. Given the cost of the project, which could reach $1 million, it was suggested that the work be done in stages, beginning first with digitizing the current records in the building department and the clerk’s office and then eventually digitizing other department records as well as back records. Ms. Roker said she would bring in a company that would discuss the program with town officials.
Ms. Roker also suggested that once current records and development applications were in the new system, that Board members be given tablets so that they could view the files. Supervisor Grace initially said that Board members should pay for their own tablets, but later said that perhaps the town should give them an allowance towards their own purchase. Ms. Roker added that the audio visual equipment would/should also be upgraded to accommodate the new material so that it would be available to the public.
Ms. Roker said that no outside grant money was available to offset the cost of implementing the program, which initially might cost $750,000. The cost would be bonded.
Supervisor Grace noted that he has been talking about this project since taking office and that what was needed now was a commitment to proceed. Ms. Roker said that she would be having a vendor come to tow to explain what the new software could do.
The revenue line for rents at the YCCC was reduced.
Supervisor Grace explained that his plan to spend $65,000 for a movie projector and screen for the theater was part of the lease renewal discussions with Barry Liebman who operates the theater. Mr. Liebman would be in charge of the program and free movies would be shown every weekend the theater was not in use. The goal was to bring people to downtown and to patronize other businesses. The Supervisor said that as long as there was no admission charge, there would be no royalty payments.
Cars. The department currently has 30 vehicles, 18 of which are marked patrol cars. A new car, fully equipped, costs $36.000. In 2013, the department purchased two new cars; the chief wants to use the remaining money in that budget line to upgrade some software. The Supervisor’s budget includes $90,000 for vehicles for about 2½ cars. A discussion ensued about where to find an additional $21,000 in the department’s budget to finance a third car. No decisions were made.
The Supervisor asked the chief to see if the department could use the supply van that the water department would like to replace. The van would replace an existing vehicle and trailer used to move barricades.
Staffing. Councilmen Murphy and Paganelli spoke about the critical need for a dedicated drug enforcement officer. The chief explained that several years ago when there were 58 officers, two were assigned to traffic and one to drugs. When staffing levels were reduced to 55 officers, the traffic unit was eliminated and when the drug officer had to retire due to an injury, he was never replaced.
The board reached consensus to add an additional officer to the budget with the proviso that the officer be used exclusively for drug enforcement. (The officer would work with the county and could also be used outside of Yorktown, but county officers would also be available to assist in drug cases in Yorktown.)
Initially, Supervisor Grace thought that the new officer could replace a DARE officer, but other Board members felt that the program was important and should be kept and that the additional police officer would supplement the DARE program, as well as the school SROs and efforts of groups such as ASK. The Supervisor suggested that this additional officer to shown as a separate line in the budget in order to explain the additional cost.
Although each officer at full salary costs $160,000 a year (salary, benefits, car), the chief explained that for the first year, a new officer would only cost $70,000. As one senior officer retired in October, and another one might retire next year, he anticipated a temporary savings when one or both officers were replaced with new officers at a lower salary. (After four years, a new officer is paid at the top of the salary scale.)
The budget will be adjusted to reflect 2012 workers’ compensation costs that are not shown in the budget book.
Town Board, 6-18-2013
CSEA/2012. On the recommendation of the town’s outside auditor, the Board okayed a list of 2012 budget transfers for the general, highway, library, water, sewer and refuse funds to cover possible increases in 2012 salary costs in the event the town reaches a settlement with the CSEA this year that requires a retroactive payment for 2012. According to the auditor, the potential liability should be funded in the year that it was incurred. The general fund transfer totaled $100,183.
Insurance. The Board amended the resolution approved on June 11 to transfer the same $53,960 from the legal settlement budget line instead of the contingency line. Supervisor Grace explained that the premium information was not available when the Board approved the 2013 budget but that the total amount budgeted for insurance did not change.
Town Board, 6-11-2013
The transfer will cover an unanticipated higher cost for the town’s liability insurance policy approved last December. The comptroller said she was not aware of the premium cost until she received the invoice. While the discussion was muted, it sounded as if the transfer was for $50,000, but there was no indication of where the funds were transferred from.
(Special note: A FOIL request after the meeting
provided the following information:Transfer $53,960 from the General Fund Contingency Line (A1990.0499) to the Police Department Insurance Line (A3120.0467) to pay Fairfield County Bank Insurance Services for 2013 Police Department Professional Liability insurance premium.)
Town Board, 12-18-2012
Prior to unanimously adopting the Preliminary Budget with the one change noted below, the Board took the following actions.
a. On a motion from Councilman Bianco, a unanimous vote to add a page to the budget that projects future town tax rates for the next four years.
b. On a motion from Councilman Bianco, a unanimous vote to do have the supervisor undertake a study in 2013 of the actual cost of the services the general fund provides to the special districts.In voting for the motion, Supervisor Grace said that “we’ll find out it costs more (than 6%), to which Councilman Bianco said: “that’s okay it that’s what it is.”
c. On a motion from Councilman Patel, to eliminate $65,000 from the budget for a junior attorney. The motion was defeated 3-2, with Supervisor Grace and Councilmen Murphy and Paganelli opposing the resolution. Supervisor Grace said it was more economical to have an in-house attorney and that the Town had no control over billing from outside attorneys. He said that if the Board decided next year not to hire the person, then the unused money would be rolled over. When Councilman Patel talked about the added ongoing expense of adding staff, the supervisor responded since the position would not be a union position, the person could be let go anytime the Board changed its mind. Councilman Bianco said that once the money was left in the budget, it was a foregone conclusion that it would be used.
Councilman Paganelli said he had no problem with leaving the money in as a contingency but added that in the event the Board did decide to hire a junior attorney to advise the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, that the members of those boards should be consulted and their opinion respected. (See Resolutions section below regarding Wormser Kiley retainer.)
d. Salary adjustment. In response to a question asked by Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) during Courtesy of the Floor about a budget adjustment to correct an omission in the Preliminary Budget, Deputy Comptroller Caporale said that instead of changing the budget to reflect the $10,000 salary increase that wasn’t shown in the budget, the Town could take the money from the contingency line once the Board approved the promotion.
In general comments regarding the budget, Councilman Murphy said the budget was a “very conservative” budget and that he was proud of the Town’s many accomplishments over the past year.
Supervisor Grace again explained that the reason for the increase in the town tax was the 4-year catch up on police salaries and added that the police have done an incredible job and are an invaluable resource to the town.Citing the need to recruit competent people, he said he supported the $10,000 salary increase for the town clerk, as well as the 3% increases for other elected officials and department heads.
Councilman Patel said he was opposed to the raises for the councilman and that he planned to donate 6% of his salary (the 3% increase, plus an additional 3%) to the Town for an as yet undetermined purpose. He also repeated his concerns that the Town should not be adding staff during these difficult financial times.
Councilman Bianco was optimistic that “the future looks pretty good” and Councilman Paganelli said he was pleased that the budget was able to preserve the current level of services.
Town Board, 12-5-2012
Town Board Budget Hearing
December 5, 2012
Speakers included: Ed Ciffone, Don Roberts and Dan Lefkowitz from the United Taxpayersof Yorktown, Tony Grasso, Jennie Menton, Ken Belfer of the Mohegan Lake Improvement District andSusan Siegel (the person writing these notes).
What follows are mostly issues that were brought up by the speakers with limited responses from members of the Town Board. (Note: not every budget line item brought up during the hearing is included.)
The Board closed the public hearing and indicated that it would vote on the budget at its December 18 meeting.
Fund Balance:Several speakers addressed this issue which, in turn, elicited responses from the Board.In general, UTY members Ciffone and Roberts felt that the fund balances in several funds was too high and that over the past several years the town consistently underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses in order to generate larger fund balances. Mr. Ciffone pointed to different 2011 fund balance numbers in the budget book and in the 2011 audit report.UTY members specifically cited the size of the fund balances in the library and general fund.In response, Supervisor Grace said that he anticipates the Board will adopt a fund balance policy and said he felt that 15% was a reasonable number, adding that bonding agencies would prefer 20%. Councilman Bianco cautioned that special districts with high capital costs such as water and sewer might need larger fund balances. He also cautioned that if fund balance was continually used to lower taxes, it could eventually wipe out a fund balance.
Supervisor Grace said that he had not included any fund balance transfers in his Tentative Budget as he felt that this decision should be made by the Town Board.
When it came to financing capital projects, instead of using fund balance, which he believed should be given back to the taxpayers in the form of lower taxes, he said he favored borrowing so that the people who will benefit from the improvement in the future will be paying off the debt service.
Special district charges:Supervisor Grace explained the reason why the districts were being charged a fee for administrative services provided by the general fund.
Mr. Roberts said he had no problem with increasing the fee from 5% of the district’s budget (the amount shown in the Tentative budget) to 6%, the revised amount in the Preliminary Budget.
Mr. Belfer said he had mixed feelings about fee. He praised the town for its support and cooperation on Mohegan issues but said that the Mohegan Lake Improvement District had been caught off guard by the proposed 2013 increase. He askedhow the fee was calculated for MLID as well as the other park districts. The answer was not readily available but Deputy Comptroller Caporale said she would look into the matter.
Ms. Siegel said she opposed the 1% increase and said that a study was needed to determine exactly what general fund services were provided to each district. She said that each district used a different mix of services and should be looked at separately. She also noted that some changes in the districts’ budgets, such as changes in the cost of water from New York City, affected the district’s overall budget butdid not change the need for administrative services.
Citizens Budget Committee:
Mr. Roberts expressed disappointment that the committee had never been formed, despite the fact that several UTY had expressed interest in being committee members. Supervisor Grace said that he has not given up forming the committee and that it is something that the town needs to do. Explaining that he was distracted by other issues he said, “I’d love to have you.”
Foreclosures: Mr. Ciffone wanted to know what the town was doing to address the foreclosure issues, and specifically cited the Sultana Pool property.
Town clerk salary increase: UTY members questioned the approximate $10,000 increase. Highway Superintendent DiBartolo, Supervisor Grace and Mr. Grasso came to the clerk’s defense, noting that she hadn’t received a raise since 2006 and deserved the raise.
Town Board salary increase: Mr. Grasso defended the salary increase for the councilmen and Councilman Bianco explained that the councilman work 30 hours per week and are not part time.
Vehicle purchase: In response to Mr. Lefkowitz’s question about the $120,000 vehicle purchase item, Supervisor Grace said it was for 3.5 new police cars, adding that he hoped that the department would save money that could be usedto purchase a fourth car. Ms. Siegel asked if the $15,000 added to the police budget after the Town Board had voted on the budget, was a way of making the additional money available
Cable expenses:In response to a question from Mr. Lefkowitz, Supervisor Grace explained that the increase in the cable services budget to $30,000 from $15,000 was needed to cover operations and other expenses which were not identified.
Neighborhood Watch Program: There was no response to Mr. Lefkowitz’s questions about the increaseof $2,500 in the Neighborhood Watch program or why the Tax Department needed $2,000 for microfilming when the town plans to digitize its records.
Senior programs. Ms. Menton asked what the town was doing to come up with a fairer and more equitable way to disburse $29,000 among the town’s several senior clubs. She pointed out that the clubs vary widely in membership and she did not think it fair to give each club the same amount of money.
Unemployment and Underemployment insurance. In response to Mr. Grasso’s question whether the town had gotten the figures on how many people were collecting money in both categories, it was announced that two people have been receiving underemployment payments for several years and that four people are currently getting unemployment insurance. People qualify for underemployment benefits if that earn less than $405 a week. There is no time limit on how long a person can collect underemployment insurance. In contrast, unemployment insurance time limits can change depending on federal and state legislation.
General development fee revenue line. Planning Director Tegeder said that much of the$125,000 increase in this line was coming from the Fieldhome project. The fee is paid after a site plan has been approved but before it is officially signed.
In response to UTY questions why the Board needed special jackets, Councilman Paganelli and Highway Superintendent DiBartolo explained that during Hurricane Sandy when Board members were out at night, they needed jackets to identify themselves as town personnel and also for safety reasons. (The need for jackets was identified during a budget review meeting but there is no separate line item in the 2013 budget for this expense.)
Other lines questioned by UTY included cellphone usage in the YCCC,water cooler purchases, the $100,000 contingency line, the fee the town pays to the Yorktown School District for some of its recreation programs, and why more money was needed in the municipal dues line next year when the town would not be hosting a dinner for other municipal officials.Supervisor Grace agreed with Mr. Roberts that it was appropriate for the town to review the books of the athletic clubs that receive funds from the town and Councilman Paganelli said that the clubs had already been asked to provide their financial information.
Other lines questioned by Ms. Siegel:In response to her question why the budget included $35,000 for a consultant in the Assessor’s Office, the assessor explained that the person would handle commercial assessments.Ms. Siegel also questioned if this was the appropriate time to add staff in the Parks Department and suggested as an alternative that the additional of staff in one department might be offset by a reduction in another department. Saying that Yorktown as a family, Supervisor Grace said he favored staff reductions by attrition and not lay offs.
Finance Departmentsalaries: Mr. Roberts and Ms. Siegel asked for clarification on the salary line as the numbers did not match the number of department employees shown in the back of the budget book. Supervisor Grace indicated that the department would not backfill a position.
Legal budget: Ms. Siegel asked what the Board’s plans were for restructuring the department as the Preliminary Budget included funds for both a new junior attorney and a part time attorney. When she questioned the level of experience that a $50,000 full time salary would buy, Supervisor Grace said that the junior attorney could be his protege. The Board did not discuss any department reorganization.
Other revenue issues: Ms. Siegel suggested that the town could raise revenue by charging a fee for operating permits that the town is required to issue and which require an inspection by the town’s fire inspector. She also suggested the town take a look at the fee and cost structure for the town’s alarm permit monitoring program that was set up in 1990. She said the fees haven’t been changed since then and that the cost to operate the program exceeds the revenue it takes in.She also cited the one time revenue associated with an energy grant as an example of one shot revenues that could create problems for the 2014 budget.
Options for reducing overtime: Ms. Siegel suggested police overtime costs could be reduced by changing the way
town traffic tickets were handled in court and also how compensatory time was paid for.Supervisor Grace and Police Chief McMahon responded that neither suggestion was doable.
Community Service program:
Noting that only one youth had been sentenced to the program this year and that Judge Lagonia had indicated that there were other sentencing options, Ms. Siegel asked if the two people who are paid to administer this program get paid whether or not youth are sentenced to the program. The answer was yes.
Looking ahead to 2014 budget:Ms. Siegel expressed concern the overreliance in the 2013 budgeton one shot revenues, one shot savingsand $1.8 million in fund balance would create problems for the 2014 budget. She noted that the 2013 budget book did not include the four year budget projections that were found in past budgets. Using the same model, she projected that next year, the total tax levy would increase by $1.3 million and would likely exceed the 2% tax cap.
Supervisor Grace said he was mindful of 2014 and anticipated the same water savings for 2014. Also, the 2014 budget would not see the one time 4 year catch up in PBA salaries. He identified ways the town was looking to save moneyand that the current budget eliminated 1.5 positions by attrition.
Preliminary Budget, miscellaneous issues: Ms. Siegel asked the Board to review a list of changes from the Tentative to the Preliminary budget that she said did not appear to reflect the changes the Board voted on at its November 20th meeting .
Town Board, 11-20-2012
Special district administrative fees
Considerable time was spent discussing how much money the refuse, sewer, and water districts should be charged for providing administrative services to the districts.The Supervisor’s Tentative Budget originally charged the water and sewer districts 5% of their budgets and the sewer district (only the Hallocks Mill district) 12% of its budget because more staff funded by the general fund provides services to the district. However, during the budget review process, he upped the amount to 7%, generating an additional $354,217 for the general fund.
Supervisor Grace said the increase was equitable and that in addition to being charged for the services of the Finance, Tax, Assessor and Legal Departments, the districts should also pay a share of the general fund’s utility costs as well as other services such as the police. He said the general fund should not be subsidizing the districts.
Councilmen Bianco disagreed and said that the 7% charge looked like the supervisor wanted the districts to subsidize the general fund. He called the 7% charge “grand larceny in the 1st degree.” He said that the supervisor was taking money from the special districts because they had money and “you’re broke.” He noted that about two thirds of the town’s taxpayers paid into the water district.
When Councilman Bianco offered an alternative approach that would have charged the districts 5%, plus an additional 5% of the increase in the 2013 general fund budget, Supervisor Grace rejected idea because he said it did not cover retroactive costs, especially for the PBA and CSEA contracts, back at least four years that he said the districts should have paid.He said the undercharging was the fault of prior Boards. Councilman Bianco then said that if the general fund needed more revenue, it should be taken from the fund balance.
Councilman Patel agreed with Councilman Bianco that the 7% charge was too high. Councilman Murphy had no problem with the 7% charge and Councilman Paganelli suggested a 6% charge.
Votes on changes in the Supervisor’s Budget
Following the discussion on the special district fees, the Board voted to accept the following changes in the Supervisor’s Tentative Budget. All the votes were unanimous except as noted below.
1. Special district charges: To charge the special districts 6% of their budget. Councilman Bianco said he was voting for the higher amount in the spirit of compromise. This added approximately $183,744 in revenue to the general fund.
2. Other revenue and expense changes: A list of about 20 changes in expenses and revenue in the general fund and special district budgets (See attached list).
Some changes, such as the addition of $60,000 in the general fund budget to hire a junior attorney were added as a place holder and without any discussion of if or how that person would be used. It was also not clear if the $60,000 was just for salary or included benefits. (Note: the attached list does not appear to include the Board’s decision to reduce staff in the Finance Department by not backfilling the vacant position created when the former comptroller resigned; the assumption was that the current deputy comptroller would become the new comptroller. It was not clear to the CIY observer if there was a separate vote on this.)
3. Fundbalance: Added approximately $400,000 from the general fund balance to the revenue line. (Note: For the observer, there was some confusion over the exact amount.) Supervisor Grace said that the current general fund fund balance is about $4.1 million and that the Board’s goal is to keep 15% of the budget in fund balance, which would be $3.75 million.
4. Salary increases for department heads. Without any discussion, the Board approved a list of salary increases for department heads that had been prepared by the supervisor. See attached. Some department heads will be receiving a 3% increase (the same as the CSEA received through 2011) and others will be receiving an additional “bump” because they have taken on added responsibilities. The supervisor noted that while Yorktown is the second largest town in the county, our department head salaries were among the lowest. Councilman Patel voted against the raises.
5. Salary increases for elected officials:
See attached list. Councilman Bianco said he was withdrawing his earlier request for increases as there appeared to be no support. Supervisor Grace said that someone has to show leadership on the issue even if they get tarred and feathered. He said that appropriate compensation for elected officials was important for the Town’s long term stability and that the Board would be negligent if it adopted a magnanimous position. He said that he couldn’t do the job of supervisor if he didn’t have a separate law practice.Councilman Paganelli said he agreed that the salaries should be raised but expressed concern about voting for them in the current economy. Councilman Patel voted against the raises.
Vote to adopt a Preliminary Budget
After the above separate votes, the Board voted to adopt a Preliminary Budget that will be the subject of a public hearing on December 5.
The budget increases the ADL tax rate increase (which Councilman Bianco says is shown on tax bills as the “Yorktown Town Tax”) is 4.18%.For the typical homeowner with a $10,000 assessed value, their total town tax bill will decrease by $62.94, of minus 2.56%, if they have water and sewer; if they don’t have water and sewer, their bill will decrease by $1.05, or minus .6%
Councilman Paganelli noted that some of the overall decrease was the result of one time savings in the garbage contract but Supervisor Grace disputed that notion saying that the contract was for two years.
Supervisor Grace also explained that this year’s tax levy (for all funds) was $1.4 million below that allowed 2% cap and that this amount can be rolled over to the 2014 levy calculation. (Note: it wasn’t clear if the entire amount, or a portion of it, could be rolled over.)
Town Board, 11-13-2012
Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said he was “good” with what was in the Supervisor’s budget which he described as “tight.”He said that he had always inflated the department’s insurance line as a “fudge” factor but this time, the deputy comptroller had reduced the line by $5,000. In response to a question from Councilman Bianco about the increase in the supplies line, the superintendent said it was needed for gravel, stone and blacktop.
Supervisor Grace said that the Town should give the highway fund some additional fund balance in line with the goal of having a 15% fund balance for every fund.In the absence of that amount of money, he said the Board would give the highway fund what it needed when it was needed.
On the revenue side, Mr. DiBartolo recommended that fee for the annual blanket street opening permit for utilities be increased to $7,500 from $5,000. This significantly shortens the time the utilities have to wait to get the required permits. In the past, when the fee was raised to $5,000 from $1,000, only Verizon made an issue of it and as a result had to apply each time it wanted a permit.
The change will be subject to a local law that will be advertised for a public hearing.
Councilman Bianco asked Deputy Comptroller Caporale how many people the Town was paying unemployment and underemployment insurance for, and for how long. Underemployment insurance, which is provided for in state law, is for a person who is working, but fewer hours than a full time job. Councilman Murphy suggested that if the Town was paying for an underemployed person, it would make sense to give that person more hours working for the Town in order to eliminate the underemployment insurance charge.
Ms. Caporale gave Board members a spreadsheet that had revised numbers that called for a 4.75% tax rate increase in the ADL fund but there was no discussion of the revised numbers.
For the Water fund, Supervisor Grace said that instead of using $750,000 from the fund balance, he is now proposing that the principal of one of the bonds be paid from the fund balance instead of shown as an expense line. He did not say how this would affect the tax rate.
Supervisor Grace said it was nonsense to talk about a 7.72% tax rate increase when 90% of taxpayers had water and sewer and that it was a mistake not to look at the other funds. He said that combining the tax rates for the ADL funds with special district funds was what the state was doing when it included all special districts in the 2% tax levy cap calculation.
Supervisor Grace said the major reason for the ADL increase was the “uncontrollable” increase in police costs but that having a police department was a valuable investment.
Councilman Patel questioned the projected one time planning department fees to which Supervisor Grace responded that if the Town generates the revenue next year, it should be used to lower next year’s taxes. He also said he was opposed to adding a full time person in the Parks Department. When Councilman Bianco suggested that perhaps the department could do with more seasonal help, Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said that there was too much work that needed to be done for a seasonal employee.
Councilman Bianco said he was requesting a salary increase for all elected officials for next year (he did not say how much) and that for subsequent years, he believed that salary raises should be automatically increased based on the cost of living. When Councilman Patel said he didn’t want a salary increase, he was told that he didn’t have to take it.
Councilman Bianco again said he thought the franchise revenue line could be increased and there did not appear to be any support for Councilman Paganelli’s suggestion that the sales tax line be increased over what it is for 2012.
The Board will resume discussions of the Supervisor’s budget
on Tuesday, November 20, at 5pm prior to its regular 7:30 meeting.
Town Board, 11/8 & 11/9, 2012
Summary:No final decisions were made on additions or deletions to the Supervisor’s budget. The discussion will continue at the end of the Board’s November 13 work session.
Tax Rate Increase discussion
Notingthat the total tax rates for homeowners with and without utilities (-.5% or 2.58%) differed, Councilman Paganelli asked what percentage of homeowners had water and sewer which would bring down the 7.72% tax rate increase for the A,D, L budgets (general, highway and library funds ). No one was sure of the answer and estimates ranged from 70/30 (70 having the utilities) to 60/40.
Councilman Bianco expressed concern that the Town hadn’t seen anything like a 7.72% increase since the 1990s and that most past increases were at or below the rate of inflation.
Supervisor Grace said the Board could lower the 7.72% increase for the A,D,L budget by cutting positions. He said the major reason for the increase was the police budget but that people were grateful for having the department. While other department budgets changed from zero to 2%, the police budget increased by 8%-9%. Having a police department is a policy decision that he said he supports. If it hadn’t been for the police increases, he said, the A,D, L the tax rate increase could have been flat.
By the end of the 10 hours of discussion, there appeared to be a consensus that the Board could “live with” an A, D, L tax rate increase of just under 5%.
Deputy Comptroller Caporale advised the Board that as a rule of thumb, for general fund:, $180,000 equals 1% on the tax rate.
Before next Tuesday’s meeting, the Finance Department will give the Board a summary of the proposed additions and subtractions to the budget for both revenue and expenses.
Deputy Comptroller Caporale started the Thursday meeting by highlighting the following changes for other fundsfrom the 2012 adopted budget
·Library: an increase of $69,786
·Highway: a decrease of $176,000. (Supervisor Grace said the highway superintendent had “slashed” his budget and that after the purchase of new trucks this year, the budgetwas now back to where it needed to be, but that more money would be needed for drainage
·Water: a decrease of $48,946.
·Refuse: Decreased of $637,378 See discussion below.
·Yorktown Sewer Fund: Increase of $84,691
For the General Fund, Revenue, Ms. Caporale highlighted the following changes in revenue projections from 2012:
·Increase of $390,000in one time, non-recurring revenues in the Building ($220,000) and Planning ($170,000) Departments
·Increase projections for recreation fees ($68,000 -- see discussion below), Legacy fields fees, ($14,000) and court fines ($50,000)
·Decrease of $25,000 in interest revenue
·Decrease of $75,000 in mortgage tax
For General Fund: Ms. Caporale highlighted the following mandated increased expenses compared with the 2012 budget
·CSEA salaries: $180,000
·Police salaries, $400,000
·CSEA retirement, $160,000
·Medical insurance, $190,000
·Vision insurance, $140,000
Other major projected expense increases:
·Building maintenance: two upgrades and one additional laborer $40,000
·Court, additional employee hired in 2012, plus step increases$70,000
·Parks & Rec, 1 additional laborer, step increasesand special OT$56,000
·Police, overtime and vehicle purchases $85,000
Supervisor Grace explained that the Town could spend an additional $1.4 million and still be within the 2% tax levy cap.
What follows are Board discussions by topic or department
Planning fees: Supervisor Grace and Planning Director Tegeder felt comfortable with the projections that for next year include Costco, Croton Overlook, Fieldhome, and some unspecified projects Supervisor Grace said he anticipated. The JV Mall and State Land projects were not included in Planning Department projections. Councilman Paganelli said that the Mall and Fieldhome were definite and that if next year’s revenue was less, we’d deal with it then. Supervisor Grace said that if the revenue projections for fees was lowered, it would result in a higher tax rate increase. Following up on Ms. Caporale’s cautionary note about not relying on one time revenues that might not be available next year, Councilman Bianco suggested using a five year average.
Court fees: Councilman Patel questioned whether the higher fees would continue if the ticket backlog has been eliminated; the Supervisor said the court feels that the projected increase reflects what is likely to happen.
Sales tax: Councilman Bianco said he thought the $4.5 million projectioncould be increased.Current revenue, with 3 of the 4 quarter payments having been received, is $3.5 million and the fourth quarter for last year was $1.2M. The Finance Departmentand Supervisor Grace did not think the projection should be increased.
Franchise fees: Supervisor Grace said he expected an increase in cablevision fees next year because the lawsuit with cablevision over past fees has been settled and he anticipates the Town will be receiving additional revenue for DVR use. He did not know how much money the Town would receive for the challenged fees. Councilman Bianco thought there was some “wiggle room” in this line item.
Towing fees: Supervisor Grace said he had specs for a new bid ready to go out. He did not think that Yorktown Auto Body which has had the bid in the past would bid again because the contract was not worth enough to them.
SEQRA Fees. This $25,000 will be removed as it is accounted for in a separate account that is basically a reimbursement account.
Operating Fees. Nothing has been collected in 2012, despite a $30,000 revenue projection. No revenue was projected for 2013, although Building Inspector Winter said he had had discussions with the Board about this earlier this year but that no action was taken to add a fee to the Master Fee Schedule. Operating permits are issued by the fire inspector for places of public assembly and places that store hazardous materials. Supervisor Grace said he was against the fee.
In general, Councilman Paganelli expressed concern that there were too many one shot revenues in the budget. Supervisor Grace said that some money could be taken from the fund balance; the $80,350 from fund balance shown in the budget was not actually from fund balance but was an adjustment.
Summary on revenue adjustments
By the end of the 10 hour discussion, Councilman Bianco suggested that in order to bring down the 7.72% tax rate to under 5%, the following revenue projections could be increased:
·$80,000 more in franchise fees
·$450,000 from fund balance
When Councilman Paganelli suggested that the sales tax revenue could be increased, Supervisor Grace again disagreed.
Supervisor Grace added that he hoped that the decrease in the Town’s assessment roll would level off by next year.
In general, the budget is under the 2% tax cap levy and Supervisor Grace explained that the Town could actually spend $1.4 million more and still come in within the 2% tax levy cap. He said it was hard to find where to reduce expenditures.
Parks & Recreation
Fees: the department is hoping to raise fees next year by:
·Encouraging the rental of the Sparkle Lake Service Building
·Starting summer day camp earlier (to make camp more attractive for working parents) and charge an extra fee
·Consider pool passes, at a higher rate, for non-residents, and allow non-resident town employees to get permits at a discount
These actions should help offset the reduced fees received this year.The Rec Commission is currently reviewing the fee issue. Legacy Field fees will also be increased.Supervisor Grace felt that pool fees decreased this past year because they were too high. He believes this explains the increased use of Sparkle Lake.Basically, the department will have to broaden the base of users and improve its marketing efforts.
Expenses: the department will slightly modify pool opening days in June and Sparkle Lake starting time in order to reduce expenses for lifeguards.
The department justified the hiring of an additional laborer, noting that it could reduce its part time line by about $6,000.
School district feesand tax collection services
The following discussion was an outgrowth of the Parks Department discussion.
The Yorktown School District had indicated that due to pressure it is under as a result of the 2% tax levy cap, it might charge fees for the Town’s use of its facilities for summer day camps. Councilman Paganelli informed the Board that the district has already informed the athletic clubs that their fees for use of school facilities will increase.Superintendent Brian Gray said that the district has been difficult to work with in recent years. Supervisor Grace noted that by law the Town is allowed to charge the school districts 1% of the school tax levy as an administrative fee for collecting school taxes and that maybe it was time that we considered this, even though it would be a wash for taxpayers, it might also lead the school districts to take over the collection process entirely.(Westchester is the only county in the state where the towns collect school and county taxes.)Costs to the town for collecting the taxes include the labor of printing and mailing the bills, postage, printing, and then staff time for collection. He estimated that if the town charged ¼ or 1%, it would generate about $250,000 in revenue.
It was also pointed out that although the school districts have more at stake in tax certiorari challenges, the districts haven’t always wanted to share the cost with the Town of the outside appraisals that have to be done in certiorari cases. In a recent case, the appraisal cost was $18,000 but the Town only had a $24,000 refundto pay; the potential refund for the school district was much more.
No decisions were made and Supervisor Grace will have more discussions with the Yorktown School District. The Board did, however, direct the town attorney to review the laws governing the tax collection fee.
Nutrition Center/Senior programs/
Director Mary DeSilva asked that the hourly rate for her part time employee be increased from $12.36/hr to $15/hour.
Planning Director Tegeder justified the increase in the part time line that is used to pay staff who take minutes of advisory committee meetings and also to be able to hire a summer intern that was eliminated in the 2012 budget.He will also need additional funds to make the quarterly payments of about $500 per quarter for the new copier machine purchased this year. This item was not included in the Supervisor’s budget.
Cablevision services/Communications Department
In response to Councilman Bianco’s question about why there was an approximately $10,000 increase, Ms. Caporale said that it was to reflect actual costs.
During Town Clerk Roker’s presentation, she asked the Board to consider forming a Communications Department, or if not a separate department, then to consider providing funds to be able to do more programming on the government channel. She noted that Geoff Wheeler, the volunteer head of the Cable Committee had spent considerable time at town hall to assist in taping the emergency broadcasts. Also Tom Sciangula, the cameraman, Carry Vigilante who programs the videos and Robyn Steinberg of the Planning Department who handles the Town’s web site, were very instrumental in producing the videos during the storm.She said that lengthy presentations at public hearings could be aired on the government channel.
Councilman Bianco expressed concern about creating another department and Councilman Paganelli said that while a communications department or operation was a “lovely” idea, he was concerned about the financial implications. At the Board’s request, Ms. Roker will provide a budget to the Board for this additional potential expense.
Mary Capoccia, the Supervisor’s exective assistant noted that theT now has a Facebook page.
After some discussion, it was agreed that the $10,000 increase in the part time salary line was an error and could be reduced.The department’s budget includes $1,250 for the clerk to attend an annual conference of town clerks after Ms. Roker said she was angry that other department heads had been given money to attend conferences but not her.
Ms. Roker also asked that some money from the sale of the Bernstein House be given to the museum. She has asked the museum curator for the dollar amount the museum would like so that it can modernize its facilities. (There was no discussion of the museum budget.)
Records management/digitization of town records
Ms. Roker has been investigating switching from microfilming town records to digitizing them. The system, which would cost several hundred thousand dollars to implement, and an additional sum to digitize old records, would allow all departments to share the same records, would increase productivity and reduce waste, printing costs, and save space.The cost would be bonded.There will be additional discussions once she has cost estimates from other vendors. In the meantime, the budget line item for “microfilming” for the Building Department shows a “0.”
Emergency Management Plan
As an aside to the discussion about storm related communications, Supervisor Grace said that based on experience during Hurricane Sandy, The town needed to set up an emergency operations center in the basement of the court; using the town board room was not suitable, he said, because people kept coming into the room during meetings and someone was needed to “man” the doors.He also said that during the storm the town piggy backed on the school district’s notification system and that there were no problems communicating with residents about issues such as the availability of dry ice.
The budget includes $35,000 to hire retired assessor Robert Killeen for one day a week at $85/hour. He would assist the assessor with commercial projects, tax certioraris and mapping issues.
Building Inspector Winter asked that the fire inspector and a support staff position be upgraded.The cost of the upgrades was not reflected in the budget.
New garbage contract: Councilman Pagaenlli asked if any money had been set aside in the event the vendor didn’t live up to the contract. Supervisor said that he expected the vendor to get a six month performance bond when he started and that a reserve wasn’t needed.The entire $750,000 savings has been used in the budget . While the contract decreased the out of pocket cost by 23.16%, because of other increased expenses in the fund, the total expenditures for the fund only decreased by 12.35%.If the Town had continued with CPR at the same rate, there would have been a $100,000 increase in the budget, or a ¾% tax rate increase.
Ms. Angliss-Gage, interim head of the department also justified adding an additional laborer who would replace a machine equipment operator position that was not filled last year when a person resigned. The laborer, with benefits, would cost $50,000. With the additional person, she said her department would be able to pick up trash at the county bus stops now being done by the Parks Department. (The Town is responsible for the trash as part of the IMA with the county.) She said she could eliminate the need for a second seasonal worker.
Ms. Angliss-Gage also suggested, and the Board agreed, to raise the cost of special bulk pick-ups to $45 from $35 and to increase the cost of leaf bags to $20 a bundle instead of $15/bundle.
She also asked that the Board change the name of the Department of Environmental Conservation to the Refuse and Recycling Department. The Board agreed.
Transfers from special district funds to the general fund
These transfers (which constitute an expense for the special district funds but a revenue for the general fund) cover the administrative costs of operating the districts and are 7% of the districts’ budget. However, it was noted that because the refuse budget is going down because of the new garbage contract, this automatically reduces the transfer payment into the general fund although the admin costs remain the same. The Finance Department will work on an adjustment to the transfer amount, and the same approach will be used for other districts, such as water, if that budget shows a decrease as all special districts should be treated equally.
Supervisor Grace advised the Board that there were between $1 million - $1.5 million of real infrastructure projects that he planned to present to the Board by mid 2013. They included repairs to the Town Hall roof, YCCC roof and Police building roof.He anticipated that the projects would be bonded. (A list of potential capital projects is included in the back of the Supervisor’s budget.)
The repair of the Lexington Ave bridge culvert: Damaged during Hurricane Irene,the Town is still waiting to hear from FEMA about how much money the Town might receive toward the repair. The project is not included in the Capital Plan pages included in the Supervisor’s budget.
YCCC/Town Hall Maintenance
Human Resources Specialist Margaret Gspurning, the person is charge of building maintenance, said she would have liked to add a full time laborer to the maintenance staff but knowing budgets are tight, she opted instead only to upgrade the part time position of the YCCC building manager to a full time position.She also said she was not comfortable that the Supervisor’s budget cut that cut building maintenance by $50,000. She notedthe need to replace a sewer pipe and add some type of ventilation in the nutrition center kitchen.When Board members noted that the budget showed only $28,000 spent to date for building maintenance, she said she has bills dating back to 2010 that haven’t been paid yet and only recently received some bills from 2011. Supervisor Grace said that a way of sub-allocating specific maintenance costs, such as electric repairs, needed to be set up in the town’s KVS finance system.
Ms. Gspurning asked for $5,000 more in the employee training/testing line to cover the additional testing that will be done in 2013 as the PBA agreed to random drug and alcohol testing in its new contract.She also noted that an additional $2,000 was needed in the Employee Assistance Program line, a county run program that assists Town employees.Like other department heads, she asked for a salary increase, and cited the increased responsibilities she had taken on it 2012.
Tax Received Elfrieda Schmidt asked the Board to upgrade the staff person in her department from Grade 6 to Grade 10, at an approximate cost of $10,000. She also asked the Board to replace the current tax software package (the software used by the Finance Department) at a cost of about $30,000 with a different software package from the same company that provides the software used by the Assessor’s Department. ( A problem arose this past Augustwhen the school tax bills had to be printed because one software carries numbers to four decimal points while the other rounds to two decimal points. Supervisor Grace said the KVS people were working out the problem.)
Library Director Pat Baressi and members of the Library Board of Trustees had no problems with the Supervisor’s budget which includes funds to add an additional hour on Sundayand increase Friday hours.The trustees also asked for a raise for the library director.
Raising the issue of “guns or butter,” Councilman Bianco asked Police Chief McMahon if there was any way, other than hiring three additional officers at a total cost of $175,000 each, to reduce the overtime budget which the Supervisor has increased from $300,000 to $325,000. (The chief cited previous years when the department had three more officers.) As of November 2, the department has already spent $323,700 in overtime. Councilman Bianco noted that the department represents 46% of the $30 million General Fund budget.In response, both the Chief and Supervisor Grace said that one of the driving forces behind the high OT costs was police appearances in town court for traffic tickets. Both said that the problem had been worked out but they did not explain what the specifics of the solution were.
As part of a better accounting for police overtime, overtime charges related to parades will now be broken out to a separate budget line.
The budget includes funds for three new vehicles at an average cost, with equipment, of $35,000. The chief wanted a fourth car, and when Councilman Bianco suggested that if the department had a surplus at the end of 2012, the funds might be used for the extra car, the chief said he didn’t expect a surplus in this year’s budget. The department will be getting three new cars in 2012.(The department has purchased 14 cars over the past seven years and the chief said that the cars that have been taken out of service have been a result of their failing the annual inspection.)
The budget for the Neighborhood Watch program was increased to $3,000 from $500 to cover the cost of signs, whistles, IDs and the time a detective spent with the program. There are between 10-15 neighborhood watch groups.
In response to Councilman Paganelli’s questions about the $23,400 SPCA contract, the chief estimated that about 10 stray dogs per month were taken to the shelter (dogs with tags are returned to their owner) and that the Town didn’t have any other alternative. He also advised the Board that if a stray dog is hit by a car, according to state law, the Town is responsible for paying the vet bills.
Commenting on the overall size of the department’s budget, Councilman Biano said, “We’re going to have to pay for our choice,” adding that he thought having the department was a good choice.Councilman Paganelli’s question whether crime was running rampant in Yorktown, led to a discussion of police coverage in neighboring towns that do not have a police department. In response to Chief McMahon’s suggestion that the cost of the police department could be taken out of the General Fund budget by creating a separate Police District as a separate taxing district, Councilman Paganelli said that even though the switch would be a wash, it would let the residents see the cost of having a police department.
Chief McMahon also suggested that if Costco does result in additional demands for police services, the company should at least pay for a portion of the cost of a new officer. In response, Supervisor Grace said that he anticipated that Costco will make a contribution to the Town and will be a good neighbor.
Councilman Bianco suggested that instead of using $750,000 of fund balance to bring the tax rate down, as proposed by the Supervisor, the money be used to pay off some principal on two bonds that run until 2018.Councilman Paganelli appeared to agree that instead of using the $750,000 as a one-time revenue that would need to made up next year, it made sense to pay off the bonds earlier which would save about $500,000 a year for the next six years.The district has two outstanding bonds, one with an outstanding principal of $2.8 million and a second with $570,000 outstanding. The annual payment for principal and debt service for both bonds is $546,143. The Board asked the deputy comptroller to research whether the bonds can be paid off ahead of schedule.
The district will needan additional $2.4 million from the fund balance to complete Phase II of the installation of 7,489 new metersand Distribution Superintendent Rambo estimated that between $1 million and $1.5 million would be needed in the near term to replace water lines, valves and other equipment.Additional funds would be needed to paint water storage tanks at a cost of $250,000 per tank.
Superintendent Rambo said that the Phase II meter implementation program could be phased in over a number of years and that the installation could be done either in house or by hiring an outside company. He assured the Board that the two employees currently involved in the meter unit would continue to have jobs in the department.
The Board will look into the potential cost savings of taking water billing back in house from the Joint Water Works. Currently the town is paying $20.30 per household to have the Joint Water Works send out three bills per year.
Town Attorney Koster explained that the increase in her department’s salary line included a $30,000 raise for her.(As an alternative to a raise, she asked for an additional week of vacation time.) She also explained the addition of $35,000 to the budget for a part time attorney who she felt could handle routine legal matters such as foreclosure and contracts.She said she has reduced the expense for outside counsel by handlingArticle 78 lawsuits in house.
As an alternative to the part time plan, the Board discussed the possibility of hiring a full time “junior attorney” at a salary of $50,000-$70,000 which would eliminate the $27,000 retainer for outside counsel for the Planning and Zoning Boards and the $12,000 town prosecutor who handles state traffic tickets and code enforcement cases.Ms. Koster advised the Board that it still needed to retain outside counsel for labor issues and Supervisor Grace said that outside counsel was needed for tax certiorari matters.
Ms. Koster will prepare a plan for the Board on how a full time attorney could be utilized.
Justices Lagonia and Raniolo and Court Clerk Klein gave the Board a recap of court revenue and expenses from 2007-2011 that showed that last year, the court generated more revenue from fines than what the department actually spent.
In response to Councilman Patel’s question whether the increased revenue stream would continue if the ticket backlog is caught up Judge Lagoniaassured the Board that the revenue stream would continue even though there was no more state backlog. In addition to town tickets, he said that nine other outside agencies write tickets that are heard in the town court.
The Board discussed reducing the salary line by $75,000 to reflect changes in the position of comptroller.
And Deputy Comoptroller Caporale said that $55,000 had to be added to the budget for annual computer hardware and software upgrades.
Supervisor and Town Board
The Board wants to add a total of $750 for uniforms (shirts and jackets) for the four councilmen and the supervisor. They would be worn during parades and when board members are dealing with emergencies.
Councilman Bianco raised the issue of pay raises for all elected officials, noting that they haven’t had a raise in six years.He suggested something in the 3% -04% range.(The supervisor earns $112,095 and the councilman $18,085.) Supervisor Grace suggested that some type of formula was needed for the different elected officials and also to take into account the ratio between the Supervisor and the Town’s department heads. It was noted that the police chief earns over $150,000 when extra payments are added to his base salary of $135,226 and that the Highway Superintendent’s salary of $125,000 includes the extra money he was given when he was the Director of Labor Operations but which couldnot be taken away when the position was eliminated.
The decrease in salary line in the Supervisor’s budget reflects the elimination of the position of part time purchasing clerk following the resignation of the person who held that position earlier this year and the decentralization of purchasing operations.
The budget includes $10,500 for part time staff for the community service alternative sentencing program although Judge Lagonia said that the program has only beenused about once this year because there are other sentencing options.
The Highway Superintendent was not available to meet with the Board. The department’s budget will be reviewed by the Board on November 13.
Salary increases for department heads
This issue came up during the review of several departments with department heads noting that they have not received raises in several years.Several department heads gave the Board surveys of what their colleagues in other towns are receiving.
The Board postponed any discussion on the issue until next week when Councilman Murphy will return from vacation.
Adjustments to Town Attorney’s 2012 budget
Town Bo9ard, 9-4-2012
The Board approved a series of eight adjustments in the 2012 budget, shifting $121,000 from one line item to another. The only major shift was moving $100,000 from “litigation fee for outside counsel” to “legal settlements” for a total of $107,000 in the settlements line. No details were given., In a last minute change, the approved budget transfers differed slightly from the amounts included in the published meeting agenda.
Town Board, 8-13-2013
Nick DiSantis of the outside auditing firm of O’Connor Davies, along with a second representative of the company, presented a summary of the 2012 audit which is still in draft form pending some legal opinions. The auditors are expected to make a public presentation at the September 3 meeting. Overall, the auditors stated that the town is in very good and sound financial shape. They noted that the town benefited from increased economic activity, that the town did a good job of managing the budget and that the town was able to absorb the unanticipated costs of Hurricane Sandy (note: the FEMA reimbursement will be revenue for 2013.)
(Note: The following numbers are based on the verbal presentation and may not be 100% accurate.)
The general fund ended the year with a $1.2 million revenue surplus, the largest variances from the budget coming from $394,000 more in sales tax and franchise fees, $240,000 from licenses and permits, mostly building permits, and $114,000 in state aid. Expenses were $252,000 less than the revised budget.
The total fund balance for the general fund is somewhat more than $7 million, but of that amount only $4.7 million is unassigned, an increase of $1.6 million from the 2011 fund balance. The funds within the remaining four categories of the fund balance are committed to other expenses.
Fund balances for the other funds were:
Combined water districts: $6.2 million
Combined sewer: $6.175 million
(Note: the auditors did not distinguish what portion of these fund balances were unassigned.)
In response to the auditor’s comments about the $1.1 million in general fund revenue from transfer payments from the special districts, Councilman Bianco asked the auditor if there was a formula for how to assess those payments. In response, the auditor said that there are a variety of ways the amount of the payments can be determined but that there should be a plan describing how those payments are arrived at, the methodology should be documented and the methodology should be periodically reviewed and updated. The auditor offered his assistance in helping the town arrive at a methology.
Supervisor Grace stated that 17% of the town’s budget represented special districts and that if the town was run like a business, it would be able to shed 17% of its overhead. When he noted that it cost the town money to save $800,000 on the garbage contract (to prepare the new contract), he said that the cost to administer the new contract didn’t change. Which led Councilman Bianco to state that by the same token, then next year the payment could be reduced.
The auditors noted that under new accounting rules, the town has to quantify its long term costs for health benefits for current and retired employees although it is not required to set aside money for that future expense. They said the town’s liability was $37 million. (The discussion was not clear on how that translated into yearly costs compared to what the town currently pays but the auditors did say that basically the town couldn’t afford to put that future requirement into a current reserve fund.)
There was also a brief discussion about debt service and the amount of debt service the town could take on in future years. (See below for discussion on capital budget.) Debt service currently costs the town $2.5 million but that amount is scheduled to drop through 2015 and then drop more quickly after that. The auditors suggested that as the debt service payments for existing debt decreased, the town could, if it wanted, incur new debt without increasing the overall debt service portion of the town budget. The auditor advised the Board to discuss debt service issues, including the changing interest rate picture, with its financial advisor.
Town Board, 7-24-2012
Joseph Komek of Toski, Schaefer & Co, the Town’s outside auditors, presented a draft reporton the 2011 audit.A final copy should be available in about a week.
The 73 page report concludes that there are no material weaknesses or deficiencies in the Town’s accounts and that the Town is in compliance with all applicable laws.
(note; as copies of the report were not available to the public, the following numbers, taken down during the presentation, may not be 100% accurate.)
The Town’s General Fund Balance at the end of 2011 was $6.7 million, of which $4.1 is not reserved or restricted.During 2011, the Fund Balance grew about $1.5 million.Revenues exceeded budget projections by $1.8 million; it was not clear how actual expenses varied from budget estimates.
Town Board, 7/10/2012
Six month financial update
Comptroller Joan Goldberg gave the Board a three-part financial update: on the fund balance, how 2012 revenue and expense numbers were tracking compared to budget estimates, and 2013 budget issues.The report showed that the Town was “in good shape.”
Long range planning
Supervisor Grace said he asked for the tracking update as he knew the Town had been buying a lot and he wanted to know what monies were available for other possible economic development projects he had in mind, such as the Route 202 road and drainage improvements which he said would require the Town to hire outside professional services. He said that the Town had to have a “vision” and have projects ready and on the shelf so that when grant money became available, the Town would have a better chance of getting funds. He said that the state’s regional councils had a lot of money available but that Yorktown had nothing to offer in the way of shovelready projects. There was also money available for MS4 stormwater improvements. He specifically mentioned the proposed State Lane parcel on Route 202. Councilman Murphy supported this line of thinking, adding that when he and the supervisor met with DOT officials they wanted to know “how far along” the Route 202 projects were.
Councilman Bianco said that some pre planning had been done for Route 202 as part of the 2004 Sustainable Development Study and that any new Route 202 planning would have to be done in conjunction with the DOT. He reminded the Board that when the Town spent$400,000 of its own money to make the right turn lane at Lexington Avenue, the state later tore up the work and redid the intersection –at no cost to Cortlandt.
Plannning Director Tegeder said that having shelf ready plans somewhere between concept and final engineering was helpful in securing grants.
Comptroller Goldberg reported that based on current revenue receipts and expenses, the Town could end 2012 shy about $170,000. While sales tax revenue was tracking on target, mortgage tax revenue was 3% under projections. Antenna rent was up 10% and fines and bail up 20%. Building permits were also higher than projected but she noted that this was because of two one-time projects. Offsetting the gains was a 23% overage in police overtime.
She reported that the Town would be receiving about $300,000 in state CHIPS money for road paving, an increase from the conservatively budgeted $240,000.When asked how much the Town could expect from FEMA reimbursements for Hurricane Irene, Supervisor Grace said he didn’t know the exact number but he said it would be “significant.” He said that when the money is received, it should go back to the departments that laid out money during the storm.
Ms. Goldberg asked the board for permission to buy new copier machines for the Highway and Planning Departments off state contract as opposed to the prices included in the recently awarded “local” bid. She explained that while the local bid price for the copiers was 10% less than the state price, the copiers off the state contract could be paid for over 48 months at no interests which was a better deal for the town than saving $500. The town okayed the purchase.
Ms. Goldberg reported that as of the end of 2011, the total fund balance was $6.6 million, but that the unreserved balance (money not already committed for other uses) was $4.3 million.However, since $600,000 of the unreserved amount was already committed (for PBA raises, the Holland Club demolition and legal settlements), the actual amount left in the unreserved fund balance was $3.7 million. She added that a $3 million fund balance was a “safe” number.
Supervisor Grace repeated his suggestion that the Board needed to adopt a fund balance policy. (See discussion at 6/28/2012 meeting.) Having such a policy, he suggested, would add to the Town’s credibility. When Councilman Paganelli noted that a healthy fund balance was a factor in getting a better bond rating, Supervisor Grace said that with interest rates as low as they are, the bond rating didn’t matter. Councilman Bianco said that this was an issue that should be discussed at budget time. No one offered any precise suggestions on what would be an appropriate amount to keep in the fund balance,
Ms. Goldberg reminded the Board that recent budgets had not included money for paving or vehicle purchases.
Ms. Goldberg said that the town currently had $900,000 in long term debt for one of the town’s two pools. That debt will be paid off in two years. The $1.7 million cost for rebuilding the second pool was financed from fund balance. She anticipated that some of the town’s current $8.5 million in short term debt, mostly for sewer projects, would be converted to long term bonds to take advantage of the current interest rates.
2013 budget projections
Comptroller Goldberg reported that based on current projections of increased expenses, the 2013 budget would need at additional $1 million. Using the rule of thumb that for every $178,000 that has to be raised, there’s a 1% impact on the tax rate, she said this gap would mean a 5.66% tax increase.Anticipated expense increases included: $275,000 for medical benefits, $290,000 to replace what was taken from the fund balance in the 2012 budget, $418,000 for PBA raises and $24,000 to cover CSEA raises ($100,000 of this expense was already included in the 2012 budget).
If the 2013 budget stayed within the 2% tax levy guidelines, the town would only be able to increase its expenditures by $351,000, leaving a $650,000 shortfall.The options for addressing the potential shortfall would be:
·Exceeding the 2% cap
·Taking money from fund balance (which would create problems with the 2014 budg3et)
·Find additional revenue sources
Ms. Goldberg added that the assessor has estimated that the value of the assessment roll would decrease by about $260,000 year and that this would have an impact on the tax rate
Town Board, 4/`17/2012
Reserve Fund: To create an Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve Fund.Councilman Bianco explained that the Town had a $1.3 million liability to pay departing employees for their accrued vacation and sick time. Even though it was unlikely that all employees would leave at the same time, the Town’s auditors had recommended setting aside these funds.(Note: It was not clear if the Town was putting $1.3 million into the fund or only $800,000, a figure stated by Mr. Bianco.)Mr. Bianco said that after setting aside these funds , about $4.2 million would be left in the fund balance.
Budget transfers: A series of transfers were approved to fund the Town’s workers’ compensation and liability funds. (See 4/10/2012.)
Town Board, 4/10/2012
The board reviewed, and subsequently approved, a list of 2011 budget transfers with Comptroller Joan Goldberg and a representative of the Town’s outside auditing firm.
As part of the discussion, the board agreed with the auditor’s’ suggestion that a reserve fund be set up for “compensated absences,” i.e., the money the Town has to pay out for accumulated vacation time and sick time when an employee retires. As explained by Ms. Goldberg, when an employee gives the town advance notice of a pending retirement, the money can be put in the budget, but sometimes the Town is notified after the budget has been adopted and no money has been set aside to cover the expense. This happened in 2011 resulting in an unanticipated $45,000 expense for one department. Alternately, in the past, because a staff member gave notice of her intent to retire the following year, money was put in the following year’s budget to cover the expense but the person later changed her mind.The amount of fund balance money that will be set aside in this reserve fund was not discussed. In supporting the establishment of the fund, Supervisor Grace said that it wasn’t fair to future boards that would have to pick up these expenses that could be anticipated in advance.
The board also agreed to a series of 2011 budget transfers for several capital funds that are still ongoing or have remaining debt service payments.
Ms. Goldberg also advised the board that because the Town is self insured for workers’ compensation, it would have to transfer $270,000 into the Town’s Workers’ Compensation Fund, plus $200,000 into the Liability Fund as a reserve against pending liability claims.Both transfers will be apportioned to the Town’s various funds, as appropriate. For example, of the $200,000 needed for the Liability Fund, $140,000 will come from the Highway Fund.