VILLAGE BOARD ADOPTS $5.67 MILLION BUDGET; TAX LEVY 7% BELOW CAP
April 18 2015 -- At its April 14 meeting and budget hearing, the Sea Cliff Village Board voted unanimously to adopt a spending plan of $5,670,149 for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which represents a budget to budget increase of 2.48%. The average homeowner with a property assessed at $600,000 in 2014 will see a $56 or 2.47%, increase in his tax bill for this coming year.
On the revenue side, the village will collect a total of $5,028,153 in taxes - a 2.4% increase over last year and $34,402, or 7%, below the tax levy limit established by New York State. Mayor Bruce Kennedy noted that it would be the fourth straight year that the levy would be below the limit since the tax cap law was implemented in 2012, and the seventh straight year if the tax cap had been in effect before that.
Although New York State officials tout the levy limit as a "2% cap", the complicated formula for figuring each individual municipality's tax levy limit, almost never results in that limit equaling 2%.
The difference between the spending side and the amount raised in taxes will be made up for with other revenues, including various types of fees, $24,000 in PILOTS, and state aid. Additionally, the village will apply $25,000 from fund balance to reduce the levy.
The average homeowner's 2.47% increase in his tax bill, slightly higher than the aggregate $2.4% increase in the tax levy, can be attributed to the shifting of a portion of the non-homestead properties' tax burden to the residential class. The assessed value of properties in the residential property class rose by 2.77%, while those in the non-homestead class (commercial, industrial and utilities) declined by 2.68%. Residential properties contribute 78.5% to the amount the village collects in taxes, while non-residential contribute 21.5% to the total.
Because the percentage increase in the assessed value of an average homeowner's property is greater than the percentage of the tax increase, the tax rate for residential properties will actually decline from 3.77% to 3.76% per $1000 of assessed value. The inverse is true for non-residential property owners, whose tax rate will increase from 10.74% to 11.32% per $1000 of assessed value.
The Mayor later said to Northwordnews that most residents would effectively see no increase in their taxes, since, because the village is staying within the tax cap, the difference between this year and last year will be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebate check from the state.
On the spending side, keeping overall budget expenditures in check was a decrease in the required contribution to the New York State Employee Retirement System (ERS). That budget line actually declined by just over $33,000 after five years of steady increases. With employer contributions based on market performance over the past five years, those increases had largely been a result of the 2008-09 stock market collapse. The amount budgeted for other employee benefits, such as medical and dental benefits, remains more or less flat compared to last year.
The Mayor stated that increases in expenditures for most of the major departments including Public Works, Public Safety, the Library and the Fire Department will be under 2%. The 21% (from 76,500 to $92,600) increase in the building repair and maintenance line (under "General Government") is largely attributable to upgrades being done at the firehouse including electrical work and heating the garage, the Mayor said. Trustee Elena Villafane explained that the addition of heating to the garage is necessary to keep medications stored in the ambulance from freezing, as well as water that remains in valves in the trucks that can cause damage to the equipment if frozen. She said that because of this winter's cold, repair work to address damage resulting from that particular problem cost the village $3,000.
Commenting on the budget, Mayor Kennedy said Tuesday night that he believed "this is an excellent budget." While taking a last look at it early that day, he said he "could not find any other area that could be cut, and plenty of areas where funding could be added." Despite what he characterized as a lean spending plan, he said the village would be able to "appropriate a record amount towards road improvements." Additionally phase two of the renovations to Village Hall, with all of the funding coming through grants, will be done this year. The project includes replacing the roof, pointing the brick work, and making improvements to the downstairs court room. Also through grant money, new windows will be installed at the firehouse, and new Scott Packs (self contained breathing apparatuses) purchased for the fire department, through what is likely to be a $218,000 grant from FEMA, with the village only having to provide $11,000 in matching funds.
“I am very pleased with this year’s budget as it maintains all our superior services, includes significant capital improvements, stays within the tax cap, and doesn’t increase debt," the Mayor said later in response to questions from Northwordnews. "While there will be a minor increase in most property owners Village tax bill this year, our residents will receive a refund check in the amount equal to the increase from last year – ultimately keeping the taxes flat from last year. The Board of Trustees and I spent countless hours reviewing and revising our fiscal plan for the upcoming year and have presented an sound budget. I am grateful for the Board’s dedication and hard work as well as the professional guidance and direction of our Village Treasurer Marianne Lennon.”
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