By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Net-net, on a taxable assessed value of $3,169,683,425, the new tax rate per $1,000 will be 3.2831, a tax rate increase of 0.1105 over the 2018-2019 number.
The tax levy in the newly approved budget is $10,406,300, representing an increase of $385,628, translating into a levy of 3.85% (due to the way the New York State 2% tax cap is calculated, we actually stayed under the cap, negating the need for the tax cap override legislation we passed as a precautionary measure early in April).
It is extremely hard to find savings, as the major source of expense – staffing – is at a modern-day all-time low. As example, when I first got involved in village government, the police department and the public works department both had staffs of twenty-seven. They are now down to twenty. Given our numbers, the men and women who work for the village do yeoman service.
Despite tight staffing, the costs associated with government employment continue to rise totally beyond local control. The perennial cost drivers – health care and pension contribution – show no signs of a downward trend. In fact, health costs have increased by double digits consistently over the past few years. We receive no advance warning as to the potential variations, making budgeting a challenge.
In addition to these fixed costs, we have added some funding, albeit small, on the quality-of-life side. As illustration, given the changing nature of policing, much of the allotted overtime budget went to address the mail fraud syndicate, which played havoc for many village residents, rather than adding a walking patrol or augmenting speeding and crossing-the-double-yellow-line enforcement.
If one request came in loud and clear this year, it was residents’ desire to have police presence increased throughout the village. The additional funding will aid in this endeavor.
Our debt service is also relatively high due to the board’s decision to take advantage of the current interest rates, capitalizing on our Triple A bond rating, and tackle our aging infrastructure before emergencies arise and, with them, property damage and expensive repairs.
On the revenue side, we see little growth potential, save raising fees on existing services. We are now essentially built out with the completion of Villa BXV and the NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital expansion project, so building permit fees will return to the normal residential improvement numbers, and big one-shot infusions are no longer in the equation.
In what is clearly a double-edged sword for the village and our loyal merchants, additional revenue could come from the bill raising Westchester sales tax by 1%. Passed by both the New York State House and Senate and just awaiting the governor’s signature, it could add to our almost $1 million local sales tax apportionment.
It is thanks to residents making the choice to shop locally vs. online purchasing that this number is so advantageous for the village. Without this level of loyalty, taxes would have to be raised in the neighborhood of 12%.
Our savings and/or revenue opportunities are getting harder and harder to find. We are upping our efforts for federal and state grant monies that are tied to resident income levels and we are doubling our efforts to find ways to share services such as joint purchasing of supplies, road-paving materials, and equipment that is not needed on a daily basis with our neighboring communities.
We also have to at least have a serious discussion about contribution by our nonprofits to essential village services. At present, the resident living in our smallest apartment contributes more to police services, road maintenance, and street lighting than any of our major institutions.
By its nature, the budget is a fluid document and if needs arise during the year, we do have healthy reserves to tap into if need be.