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Villages Override State Tax Cap as Security Blanket

Saturday, 05 May 2012 20:00 Published in Government

The three local village boards each voted to override the state imposed 2% tax levy cap, not as a protest or a way to secure additional funding, but to protect themselves from any possible penalties in the future.

“It’s not a political statement. It’s not a philosophical statement. This was really a technique used to provide protection for the village,” said Irvington Village Administrator Larry Schopfer, who noted the village delivered its $15.37 million budget $182,200 below the allowable cap.

Tarrytown also was $69,000 below the cap with its $21.1 million budget, but Village Manager Michael Blau remarked, “We have a lot of room here, but why mess around if you can be protected?”

Sleepy Hollow Village Manager Anthony Giaccio said with the tax cap being a new concept and three state agencies administering it, there have been different interpretations of the law that could result in some miscalculations that may prove costly to municipalities.

“The board did override the tax cap just to be safe so we can’t get into trouble,” said Giaccio. “We’re pretty sure the state isn’t certain how the tax cap works. We could make an error in our calculations because it’s so new. The board has been trying to stay within the cap, but it may be unrealistic.”

As of press time, Sleepy Hollow still had not approved what currently stands as a $14 million budget with proposed tax increases of 1.2% for most homeowners and 7.2% for commercial and large apartment complexes. There are about 10,000 residents that call Sleepy Hollow home.

Faced with increases in pension costs, debt service and insurance, village officials were taking a last minute look at requests in the police department and department of public works before signing off on the spending plan, which must be adopted by May 1 and goes into effect June 1.

Neither Tarrytown nor Irvington were able to avoid layoffs in what Blau termed “one of the most difficult budgets we ever put together.”

“It was an extremely challenging year budget-wise. Not only did we have to deal with the 2% tax cap, we also had to deal with a significant loss ($1.2 million) of assessables,” Blau said. “We had to make personnel modifications to get to a tax rate that was acceptable. We’re not doing anything differently than any other community.”

Taxes for Tarrytown’s 11,277 residents will increase by 4.74% or by an average of $192.66. Cut from the budget is one full-time police dispatcher, one part-time worker in the recreation department and less hours for some part-time clerical staff.

In Irvington, where taxes will rise 3.9% or an average of $209 for the village’s approximately 6,500 residents, three employees in the Department of Public Works were terminated as of April 19. Over the last three years, nine employees from DPW have been let go, in part due to new regulations enacted in 2010 that requires property owners to shovel snow and mow the grass on and around sidewalks.

Funding was also not included in the budget for the Halloween parade, Turkey Trot, fireworks or transportation for seniors, although outside fundraising, such as the Irvington Penguin Plunge, could assist in restoring some of those events and services.

Sleepy Hollow’s boys’ varsity lacrosse team is returning to the field after last year’s successful run, which included a 13-5 record and a trip to the playoffs. With eight returning players, senior captains Tyler O’Donnell and LJ Garrant both hope to go far this season.

Homegrown on the Hudson-A Bird in the Hand

Saturday, 05 May 2012 20:00 Published in Gardening

Each spring at our house we dust off our field guides and binoculars and we head outside to try to get a good look and listen. The past week was spent attempting to figure out who moved in next door—a hardy fly-catching little guy, with a creamy belly and olive-colored wings. And just this morning we got a good look at him while heading out to school. An Eastern Phoebe.