Victoria Cafarelli, Budget Director
phone (914) 762-6001
fax (914) 762-0833
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
16 Croton Avenue
Ossining, NY 10562

The Budget Office is located on the third floor of the Town offices. Office hours are Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 2:30 pm due to COVID restrictions.

 

pdf 2021 Adopted Budget (1.02 MB)

pdf 2021 Capital Plan (109 KB)

 

A Message to the Community Regarding the Supervisor’s

Tentative 2021 Budget

Dana Levenberg, Town Supervisor

October 29, 2020

 

I am sure I speak for the entire community when I say that 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for us all.  As I write this message, we are nearing eight months since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Westchester County.  Since early March, Westchester County has seen a total of over 32,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,500 of those from the Town of Ossining, inclusive of both the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff Manor.  This pandemic has brought extreme economic challenges to our community, our county, our state, and our country, affecting our family, friends and neighbors with job losses or furloughs, difficulty paying rent or mortgages and putting food on the table, all while having to grapple with an uncertain future.  Before I continue with my message on the 2021 budget, I want to express my sincerest condolences for those who lost loved ones, as well as my hope that you, your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are now managing to stay healthy and are doing well under these extraordinarily difficult circumstances. 

 

The Town of Ossining’s budget has not been immune to similar financial strain.  In an effort to protect our employees and the general public, we have incurred many unplanned expenses including purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff, outfitting offices with plexiglass and air purifiers, bringing on new staff members to perform health screenings at our public facing offices, utilizing parks staff on overtime to disinfect playgrounds and other park amenities, providing necessary technology to staff to facilitate work from home when appropriate, and much more.  We have also experienced significant revenue shortfalls in several areas of our budget.  We have sought grant funding whenever possible, but unfortunately, as a municipality of our size, we do not qualify for the limited funding streams coming out of the federal government.  The Town is seeking FEMA reimbursement for many of these expenses, but as of September 15, 2020, new guidelines were issued by FEMA making many of our expenses past that date ineligible for reimbursement.  The inaction by our federal government has been incredibly frustrating for municipalities of our size, and has made the financial landscape of the Town difficult to predict as we go into 2021. 

 

Earlier this year when it became clear we would not be operating business as usual, I asked all our departments to halt any non-essential spending that had not yet been encumbered. As we launched this 2021 budget process in late August, I asked all department heads to think long and hard about their requested expenditures going forward into the new year, and to look for savings wherever possible, no matter how small.  Most of the line items in our budget are contractual, including companies or contractors that provide services to the Town, and I am grateful to the many contractors who requested little or no increase in rates going into 2021 as part of their COVID response.  In several departments, there were also opportunities for savings due to personnel turnover and scaled back operations as a result of pandemic restrictions.  I am so appreciative to the department heads for their careful review of their 2021 budget requests in light of the uncertainty we are facing this year. I am also grateful to the Town Board, other elected officials, and the Department Heads and non-union personnel who agreed to take a salary freeze, knowing that by doing so, we would be able to help the overall picture for our taxpayers.

 

The 2021 budget will be the Town’s tenth out of ten tax cap-compliant budgets in the era of the New York State Tax Cap.  This year’s tax levy was capped at a 1.0156% increase, down from last year’s 2%.  The great news is that, thanks to our careful budgeting and significant growth in our tax base, we are not only staying under the cap for the levy but anticipate a tax rate decrease across all but one fund included in the Town’s budget. 

 

For those of you not familiar with the Town’s budget, the Town serves as the “umbrella government” for the Village of Ossining and the majority of the Village of Briarcliff Manor, and also serves 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 the fund out of which most of our municipal services are paid), 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.

 

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, respectively, 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 matching talent with the Town’s needs, and for that, we are incredibly grateful.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have also been willing to work with us as we navigated work from home arrangements and staggered shifts for some Town employees.  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. Most of these trainings we were able to continue in 2020 utilizing virtual platforms and significantly reduced in-person class sizes.  These types of trainings improve 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.  To some extent, virtual offerings have been more accessible to our employees and easier to seamlessly incorporate into the workday.  We will continue to explore ways to expand these virtual offerings to provide training to our employees that is cost effective and more efficient, with or without the pandemic as the driving force.

 

A big project that we began in 2019 and completed in 2020 was a Town Wide Reappraisal.  Most residents will remember that the Town undertook a similar process in 2015, but this time, it looked a little different.  Before the last go-round, the Town had not done a comprehensive revaluation in more than 40 years. Based on the updated values 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 a 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 by doing so, we have kept the roll at 100%, as certified by New York State Office of Real Property Taxes annually. However, at the recommendation of the State, every five years it is time to do a full 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 participation of property owners who returned their data mailers and verified their property inventory.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this process was slightly delayed, causing the Town Board to extend the date by which the Assessor could file the tentative roll for 2020 (which will be used to levy 2021 taxes).  We understand this process can be a nuisance, especially at a time when all of us are feeling extraordinarily overwhelmed by forces out of our control.  But it remains as important as ever to keep up with property values so we can ensure each property has a correct value attributed to it, and is thereby taxed accurately.  As a result of this continued effort to keep our tax roll at 100% of full market value since 2015, we have seen a decrease in grievances, small claims cases, and tax certioraris.  Reducing the frequency of these costly processes to contest one’s assessment helps the Town’s bottom line, as well as that of the School Districts and the Villages, and ensures equity in our tax roll. It also helps protect those who may not have the resources to challenge their assessment, as these avenues are often only available to commercial property owners or those who can afford to hire outside representation.  I would like to thank our Assessor, Fernando Gonzalez, and his team for shepherding us through this process, answering constituent phone calls at all hours of the day and night, and often from home. 

 

As Supervisor, I have committed to regularly seeking grant funding wherever possible to offset costs to local taxpayers.  Since 2016, we have brought in more than $1 million in grant funds, and although New York State has unfortunately not opened up any new opportunities for grant funding in 2020, we have seen many of the projects for which we received funding in the past come to fruition this year.  In February of 2020, we kicked off our now very popular Food Scraps Recycling Program, in partnership with Teatown and Green Ossining, with nearly $100,000 in grant funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  We are expecting more good news heading into 2021 with this program, as Westchester County has introduced an inter-municipal agreement to allow for reduced carting costs for food scraps, similar to the price structure of solid waste.  It has been so exciting to see this program get off the ground, and grow so successfully just in the first year.  This spring, with funding from NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities Program, we completed the bike lane striping on North State Road, the first phase implementation of the Millwood-Ossining Go! Plan.  After much planning and coordination, we installed a new dock at the Cedar Lane Park pond, with $85,000 in State and Municipal Facilities funding from Senator David Carlucci.  With some funding left over in this project, we plan on continuing improvements to the walkway around the Cedar Lane Park pond, further enhancing this favorite walking route for families in the neighborhood.  With funding from the New York State Archives and in partnership with the Village of Ossining, we installed new shelving for a records storage space at the John-Paul Rodrigues Operations Center.  Heading into 2021, we anticipate using $120,000 in Multi-Modal funding from Assemblywoman Sandy Galef to support the repaving of Morningside Drive.  We did receive word this year that in addition to the $75,000 already awarded to our Senior Nutrition Program for the purchase of an all-electric bus from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, administered by the Westchester County Department of Planning, we have also been awarded $130,000 in funding to support the renovation of the Senior Nutrition Program kitchen.  We hope to get this project underway in early 2021. 

 

In 2020, the Westchester County Department of Planning also administered funding from the CARES Act, which went directly to local food pantries, loans and grants for small businesses, and rental assistance.  Although this funding did not go directly to municipalities, we know this assistance went a long way to help our residents and small businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic.   Partnering with the Village of Ossining, local faith based groups and not for profits, and with the help of staff from our Senior Nutrition program, we were able to bring those dollars back into our community with local food distributions to help people during the worst months of the pandemic to date. 

 

One of the most significant projects we launched in 2020 with grant funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Communities program was our Comprehensive Plan with Sustainability Elements.  In January, we kicked off this process by soliciting applications from the community and appointing our nine member Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.  Then, with our Committee on board, we issued a Request for Proposals to select a planning consultant to spearhead this effort.  We received several applicants, with the Committee recommending to the Town Board we appoint WXY Studios as our selected consultant.  I believe that the Committee and the Town Board made an excellent choice for this project when selecting WXY Studios, with their diverse project team, innovative approach to planning, and adept ability to develop well-designed visualizations.  We are also thrilled to have the expertise of Pace University’s Land Use Law Center on board to guide our public engagement efforts.  Pace has worked with many municipalities across the Hudson Valley on comprehensive plans and I know their thoughtful take on engaging local communities will serve us well, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  For months now, Pace has been strategizing ways to engage the Town, knowing we cannot rely on our usual tools for doing so.  That being said, Pace has already been working with other communities in the area during these past few months, and has actually seen increased levels of engagement now that people can tune into a public meeting from the comfort of their living rooms, from their phone, or wherever they might be, at any time.  We hope to capitalize on the changing landscape of community engagement to reach those who otherwise would not be interested in or able to attend an evening meeting in person on a weekday, while also looking for opportunities to hold some of the in-person meetings people have come to expect, going into early 2021.  We are still very early along in the Comprehensive Plan process, but I know with our trifecta team of an engaged steering committee, innovative planning consultant, and dedicated community engagement leaders, we are looking ahead to a productive and exciting process in the coming months. 

 

Although we were disappointed that we had to cancel many annual events this year, including Green Ossining’s Earth Day and the Forest O’ Fears Haunting at Cedar Lane Park, as well as our annual Independence Day celebration, I am so happy that we were able to adapt some of these events to fit into our new COVID-19 reality.  Our Summer Concert Series went virtual, with the help of Mike and Miriam Risko of Mike Risko Music as our hosts, via Facebook Live.  We also made a concerted effort (pun intended) to feature local businesses during the Facebook Live concerts by grabbing takeout to enjoy dinner and a show in the comfort of our homes.  We also participated in Organ Donor Enrollment Day with our first ever Zoom-a-thon, featuring doctors, first responders, families and friends of organ donors and transplant recipients, and elected officials, all sharing the importance of signing up to become an organ donor to give hope to the thousands of people in New York State awaiting a lifesaving transplant. 

 

Finally, one of the initiatives of which I am most proud, is the Community Equity Task Force.  This task force formed in 2019 in response to several unfortunate incidents where racial slurs and hateful symbols appeared around Ossining, including in our schools and parks.  The need for this initiative was reinvigorated in 2020, as we were inspired by the call to action around the country following the senseless murder of George Floyd.  Here in Ossining, we know our diversity is one of our strengths and we aim to be an inclusive and equitable community for all.  However, we also know we often fall short of these laudable goals.  The Community Equity Task Force is comprised of community members, leaders in municipal government, our library, and schools, faith leaders, students, young people, and more.  Throughout 2020 we have gathered virtually to discuss how we can do better to achieve equity for all in Ossining through our personal and professional lives.  I look forward to continuing this initiative into 2021, and ask anyone who is interested in participating to please reach out to me. 

 

We have even more, in addition to those initiatives mentioned above, on our collective plate for 2021:

 

  • 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 2021, we are focusing on our courts and fields for capital improvements. We plan on borrowing funds at the current low rates to complete these projects, and by focusing on hiring local contractors, hopefully spurring growth in the local economy in the process. We also had a number of excellent, socially distanced volunteer efforts to help with some of our trickier park settings, to reduce garbage as well as invasive species spread, which we hope to further capitalize on in 2021.

 

  • The restoration of McCarthy Drive was postponed in 2020 and 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 and improved water line, paid for by the Village of Ossining’s water fund, as well as the widening of the road, and much improved drainage to bring it into conformance with municipal road standards.

 

  • We have heard your feedback about how navigating the Town website can be a challenge, so we will be moving forward to complete a website redesign this year. Coupled with our efforts to make more and more of our services available online, this will be a welcome accomplishment in 2021. We are also exploring additional online services in 2021, including online building permit applications and enhanced emergency communication.

 

The Supervisor’s Tentative 2021 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 Town Board Work Session on Tuesday, November 17, which is scheduled to take place at 7:30pm via Zoom.  Here is the Zoom access information for the November 17 Work Session:

 

 

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81765095772?pwd=UHpnNjUyZ0R6SW5qUTAyMS9ncDdyQT09

Meeting ID: 817 6509 5772

Passcode: 397944

                        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbhLMNgJFS

 

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, via Zoom:

Date

Time

Department

Zoom Access

Wed., 11/4

11am

Building/Zoning/Planning

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88012045184?pwd=VXFUd3RnbUZzR202bi9tNlBxbGNtUT09

Meeting ID: 880 1204 5184

Passcode: 015725

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kz31bFaG8

Fri., 11/6

8:30am

Clerk

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88051294822?pwd=S3N1U0hyQ3JTQlhBc2pvaFBEN3JFUT09

Meeting ID: 880 5129 4822

Passcode: 372774

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdYBmy8JK1

9:30am

Tax

10:30am

Assessor

11:30am

Senior Nutrition Program

12:30pm – 1:30pm

(Lunch Break)

1:30pm

Cemetery

2:30pm

Highway

3:30pm

Parks

Tues., 11/10

5:30pm

Justice Court

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88237838181?pwd=RkNtZkxzRm9DM250a1NpWERsNk5SQT09

Meeting ID: 882 3783 8181

Passcode: 301969

        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/khUnbNMiw

 

The Town Board will also hold a Public Hearing at 7:30pm on Tuesday, November 24 via Zoom.  Members of the public can join us on the evening of November 24 to view this Public Hearing and make comments by using the Zoom access below:

 

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81955646790?pwd=a214cE8vZGxRMkV1TWpiWWZIaU9Ddz09

Meeting ID: 819 5564 6790

Passcode: 714943

                        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/koJsR9vDh

 

We urge members of the public to review the budget and either make comments at the Public Hearing, contact my office at (914) 762-6001, or email the Town Board at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

--Dana



pdf Town of Ossining - Fund Balance Policy (Passed by Town Board June 2, 2010)

folder Audits & Financial Statements - Archive

folder Archive - Voucher Detail Reports - Approved vouchers by the Town Board.

 


 

Town of Ossining Fund Balance Policy

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.

Download the Fund Balance Policy for full details...


 

folder Download Town Budgets from the Archives...

folder Download Audits and Financial Statements from the Archives...