Maddi Zachacz, Budget Director
phone (914) 762-6001
fax (914) 762-0833
16 Croton Avenue
Ossining, NY 10562
The Budget Office is located on the third floor of the Town offices. Office hours are Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.
A Message to the Community Regarding the Supervisor’s
Tentative 2020 Budget
Dana Levenberg, Town Supervisor
October 30th, 2019
This has been such an exciting year in the Town of Ossining, it’s hard to believe we are back here again preparing for 2020. I have so much to share with you about how we have crafted this budget, what we have been working on, and what we will plan to use your hard-earned tax dollars for in 2020. However, I would like to start on a personal note. This year will mark the end of my second elected term as Town Supervisor in a Town where I have lived for 23 years. I have learned so much about my community over the years as a PTA volunteer, a School Board member, and as Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, but the level of appreciation for Ossining that I have discovered as Town Supervisor is extraordinary. My colleagues on the Town Board are thoughtful and open-minded, and while we may sometimes disagree, I know that we all want what is best for Ossining and all who we call neighbors. Our department heads are forward-thinking, and can always be counted on to bring new and exciting ideas to the table that will help us extend our offerings to residents and business owners, as well as ensure that all who they serve are treated fairly and do not pay more for necessary services than they need to. And finally, our amazing staff continues to be the highlight of serving as your Chief Elected Official in the Town—not a day goes by that I do not see at least one of our employees go above and beyond for a resident or share an idea about how we can perform our roles more efficiently. I am honored, proud and eager to continue this work for another term, and I feel confident that the Town will continue to provide you, our “customers,” with exemplary service at a tremendous value long into the future. Now let’s get to the fun stuff.
The Town continues to run a very tight ship—in the era of the Tax Cap (the 2020 Budget will be Town’s ninth out of nine tax cap compliant budgets), we look under every rock to find alternative funding sources for the projects we philosophically believe will help to make Ossining healthier in every sense of the word. We serve as the “umbrella government” for the Village of Ossining and the majority of the Village of Briarcliff Manor, and also serve as the direct government for the 5,500 residents of the Unincorporated Town. Our budget is relatively small, compared to other local municipalities, but complex—the Town oversees multiple funds, the largest being the General Fund (everyone who lives in Ossining pays Town General taxes, and this is where most of our municipal services are paid for), the Unincorporated Fund (police, building, planning, zoning, and animal control services), and the Highway Fund (road maintenance and snow removal). In addition, we have several smaller Special Districts, which apportion expenses and debt from capital improvements to our sewers and street lighting, as well as contracts for service for refuse and recycling, fire protection and emergency response. Keeping in mind that our residents are used to exceptional service in all of these spheres, we approached the 2020 budget with an eye towards increased efficiencies and what we hope will be enhanced service delivery, while staying comfortably within the Tax Cap. For 2020, we were fortunate enough to be allowed a two percent increase to the levy, reflective of a healthy economy throughout the state of New York. This is only the second time in nine years that municipalities have been able to increase spending by two percent -- the number in past years has often allowed for very little increased spending, which ties our hands significantly when it comes to contractually obligated personnel, medical and utility costs, not to mention updates and improvements to infrastructure. Unlike school districts, Towns are not permitted to exempt infrastructure spending from their tax cap calculation. Two percent is still a fraction of how much our costs increase each year, but we will happily take it compared with our limits in years past. Luckily, we have seen a couple of other revenue lines increase, but to stay within the two percent cap in years when we did not have a true two, we have had to get creative with how we provide services to the Town.
One of our biggest cost drivers, as in most organizations, is our staff. The Town of Ossining employs roughly 60 employees, more than half of whom belong to one of two collective bargaining units. During my tenure as Supervisor thus far, I have negotiated one contract with each of these unions, and I can confidently say that they, too, understand the constraints we are under when it comes to our annual budget allowances. The leadership teams for both unions continue to work with us to get more agile when it comes to reallocating job functions and helping good talent be recognized, and for that, we are incredibly grateful. I understand that this is somewhat rare in the municipal environment, so we are tremendously lucky to work with such progressive thought leaders. I believe they also see that we make an active effort to invest in the safety, well-being and health of our employees, which then helps them live safer, happier and healthier lives on and off the job. Over the past few years, we have worked closely with a variety of trainers (some private, some through an Intermunicipal Agreement with Westchester County), often at a reduced cost, to provide new and innovative trainings for worksite and driving safety, as well as soft skills like customer service and Cultural Competency. This type of training improves our municipal culture and, by extension, how our employees interact with one another and with our diverse community members. Creating a more positive work culture for staff has become a hallmark of my tenure, and it bears out in the numbers—our Workers Compensation costs are dropping, which is a direct result of employees being more mentally present on the job. We will continue to take advantage of these free or inexpensive opportunities in 2020, as well as making a significant investment in new safety equipment for our Highway/Parks/Cemetery staff.
A big project that we began anew in 2019 was a Town Wide Reappraisal. This may sound familiar, as the Town did something similar in 2015, but the process is a bit different this time. Before the last go-round, the Town had not done a comprehensive revaluation in more than 40 years. Based on the updated value of their homes and properties, many folks were paying too much in their property taxes and just as many were paying too little. By performing internal inspections on as many Town properties as possible, the Assessor’s Office, along with the team from Tyler Technologies, was able to eliminate our equalization rate and bring all 10,200 parcels to 100% of full market value. Each year since, our Assessor has used ratio analysis to increase or decrease neighborhood values by examining sales and market trends and we have kept the roll at 100%, as certified by New York State Office of Real Property Taxes. However, at the recommendation of the State, every five years it is time to do a reappraisal, verifying the accuracy of the property inventory with physical inspections as necessary and applying a new model based on recent market sales. We appreciate the overwhelming participation by property owners returning the data mailers and verifying the property inventory.. This work should be done within the next few weeks, and all changes will be made on the 2020 roll (used to levy 2021 taxes). We understand that this process can be a nuisance and a bit challenging to understand, but by keeping up with property values, we can ensure that all property is valued accurately—the idea is that, at any given moment, a property owner should be able to know precisely what their home would sell for on the current market and be taxed for the corresponding value.
Even though regular reviews of our building stock assists us in keeping taxes fair, we continue to beat the bushes for any and all funding streams that can offset local taxpayer expense. The Supervisor’s Office has brought in more than $1 million in grant funds since my first term began in 2016. This year, our primary use of grant funds has been to further our commitment to sustainability and reduce our impact on the environment. We received $75,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the Westchester County Department of Planning, with funds from the Federal Government, to go towards the purchase of a new all-electric bus for the Senior Nutrition Program. We continue to take advantage of New York State rebate programs for incorporating hybrid and electric cars into our fleet, with the addition of two new vans for the Senior Nutrition Program and new car for our Building Inspector. We continue to prioritize alternative modes of transportation and plan to re-stripe North State Road to accommodate a bicycle lane before the end of 2019, with funds from NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program. Thanks to Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, we have $120,000 in Multi-Modal Funds available to us, and we plan to use these funds next year to improve our highway infrastructure and explore other ways to connect the North State Road corridor to the North County Trailway/Empire State Trail, a hallmark goal of the Millwood-Ossining Go! bike and pedestrian plan. In order to better understand how to cultivate a healthy community forest in Ossining, we completed a tree inventory along all town roadways in 2019, with funding from New York State’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. This complements our Tree Bank legislation and newly established fees for that Tree Bank Fund.
We are kicking off a new Comprehensive Plan with Sustainability Elements with funding from the Climate Smart Communities program, and working with Pace University’s Land Use Law Center to implement a complete streets policy and explore smart growth through the lens of public health along North State Road. Although not a grant stream, the Town and Village of Ossining were also selected as the host community for Cornell University’s Climate-adaptive Design Studio. At no cost to us, we will receive design schematics by Cornell students for ways to make our waterfront more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and flooding. In 2019, we also received just over $99,000 to implement a food scrap recycling program in Ossining in partnership with Teatown Lake Reservation and Green Ossining. And finally, behind the scenes, we received nearly $150,000 in grant funding from the New York State Archives to inventory our inactive records and install shelving to store these records. As we go into 2020, we will continue to actively seek out grant funding to provide high quality services to our residents and improve our infrastructure while decreasing our carbon footprint.
At the same time, we have expanded the programming that we offer in order to get our residents and visitors into our open spaces and get Ossining on the map for our annual events. Between Green Ossining’s Earth Day (the biggest event of its kind in Westchester County), the Forest o’ Fears Haunting at Cedar Lane Park, our Independence Day fireworks display and our beloved Summer Concert Series now expanded to include Food Truck Fridays, Mind Body Spirit Ossining, we bring thousands of residents and visitors into our parks to enjoy our facilities each year. Since I became Supervisor, we have also ramped up the campaign to get outside sponsors for these events, as well as brought in strategic partners like the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, Mike Risko Music, and Sing Sing Kill Brewery to expand our reach into the business community through Ossining and beyond. We continue bringing good press to Ossining for initiatives that help our neighbors, such as Organ Donor Enrollment Day and International Car Free Day, the Ossining Basics, MBK, Explore & Learn and Block Parties, and in 2020, we plan to work with the Ossining School District (a close partner in all that we do) to enact a community-wide Equity Task Force, and the Schools, Libraries and Villages to make sure we get a complete count for the 2020 Census, which is critical to ensure we get our correct share of Federal, State and County funding as well as representation at all levels of government. While we focus our everyday efforts on the day to day work to be done right here at home, we have coupled that with a strategy of reaching out and working more cooperatively with organizations in our midst that share our goals. I am proud of what we achieved in 2019, and there is so much more to come.
There is even more, in addition to those initiatives mentioned above, on our collective plate for 2020:
- Our Parks continue to be a focus—after many years of neglect due to budgetary shortfalls, we have picked up where my predecessor left off and made our open spaces a priority. In 2020, we are planning to finish the dock project at Cedar Lane Park, funded by a grant from Senator David Carlucci, as well as widen and pave the road up to the Dog Park and explore adding lighting to the upper parking lot and other improvements to the Dog Park itself to go along with the new registration program. The other large park project planned for 2020 will be, at long last, installing an LED field lighting system for Gerlach Park—we have been discussing this project for the entire time I have been Supervisor, but the ability to get a good price has continued to evade us. The restoration of Sally Swope Sitting Park on Hawkes Avenue has begun, but will continue in earnest in 2020.
- The restoration of McCarthy Drive should get off the ground this Spring after nearly a year of surveying and engineering work, kick started by our attorney’s discovery that the Town did have legal obligations to the road’s repair and maintenance. This is going to be a massive undertaking, one of the largest projects the Town has undertaken in many years, and will include a new water line as well as the widening of the road to get it in conformance with Town road standards. We also plan to repave Morningside Drive, at the behest of our Highway Superintendent, which will likely require a significant borrow to the tune of over $700,000. However, this is a well-traveled road that has certainly seen better days, and we are excited to formally add it to our list for 2020.
- The Superintendent’s Cottage at Dale Cemetery will be completed by fall of 2020 after a long process to get us there. The Town Board will award the contract in January of 2020 to make historically appropriate repairs to the front façade (Havell Street side) and return the site to its former glory.
- We have heard your feedback about how navigating the Town website can be a challenge, so we will be moving forward in doing a complete website redesign this year. We have already interviewed several companies and plan to make a decision in December about who we will hire to implement a more robust and user friendly site.
The Supervisor’s Tentative 2020 Budget is available in the Town Clerk’s Office at 16 Croton Avenue, the Ossining Public Library, and online at www.townofossining.com. There will be a short presentation on the proposed budget at the Tuesday, November 19th Town Board Work Session, which is scheduled to take place at 16 Croton Avenue beginning at 7:30PM.
The Ossining Town Board will also be discussing the Supervisor’s Tentative Budget with our department heads during the month of November on the following days and times:
- Wednesday, November 20th: 11AM- 4PM, 16 Croton Avenue, 3rd Floor Conference Room
- Friday, November 22nd: 12PM- 5PM, 16 Croton Avenue, 3rd Floor Conference Room
pdf Town of Ossining - Fund Balance Policy (54 KB) (Passed by Town Board June 2, 2010)
folder Archive - Voucher Detail Reports - Approved vouchers by the Town Board.
The Town of Ossining (the “Town”) has an important responsibility to its citizens to carefully account for public funds, to manage municipal finances wisely and to plan the adequate funding of services desired by the public, including the provision and maintenance of public facilities.
An important indicator of the financial stability of the Town is its un-reserved fund balance that represents the un-assigned and unencumbered balance of the Town’s revenues held in the Town’s numerous funds.