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 2017 Budget
Dana Levenberg, Town Supervisor
October 28th, 2016
As we move into 2017, we mark the 6th year local governments have had to work within the constraints of the New York State imposed property tax levy cap. While we can all agree that property taxes in New York, and certainly in Westchester, are quite high, working under a tax cap without allowing exemptions for some of the expenses that are beyond the control of our municipal government continues to prove challenging. Over the past several years since the law was first implemented, our allowable levy increase has been capped at the level of inflation, which has been less than 2% since the law was signed. For the 2017 budget, this means a 0.68% increase, which is actually slightly less than last year’s 0.73% and nowhere near the level that many of our uncontrollable expenses are scheduled to increase. We are permitted an extra “multiplier,” however, that is set by New York State based on the brick and mortar construction we have seen within the Town’s borders. Over the past two years, this has helped to the balance the budget just slightly, but the cap continues to squeeze our budget more and more with each new budget cycle.
The Town’s budget document looks very different from 2016’s as we are now using full market values in order to create these new tax rates. The Town is currently wrapping up the town-wide revaluation of properties, and while we have not yet begun using the new values on tax bills, the 2016 roll will be used to determine 2017 Town, County, and School taxes and will be used in December when the Village mails out its January 2017 tax bill. Up until this year, we have used an “equalization rate” to bring our assessments up to full value, the most recent of which was 5.65%. In bringing our assessments to full market value, that multiplier is no longer necessary, but it makes the number representing our assessed value looks much larger than it ever has. Even without that, the overall assessed value for the entire town has increased by about $156 million, property and improvements that were discovered in the process of the revaluation project that had not made it to the roll over the last 40+ years since the last town-wide reassessment, and so were never taxed.
As you might imagine, after not having completed a Town-wide revaluation in several decades, the property values of some properties dropped, and some increased. There was, however, a pool of properties that saw a more significant increase. At the Town’s behest, our State legislators carried, and our Governor signed, a bill to allow for a “phase in” of tax increases resulting from the revaluation, and the Town Board voted to make this exemption available to owners of one to three family homes who were assessed an increase of 25% or more. We received 321 applications for this exemption, and the eligibility of those applicants has yet to be decided. The good news is that, in order to present the most conservative estimate possible, we have used the lowest possible Town-wide assessment in crafting this budget, or the “worst case” scenario. We expect that by the time we adopt the budget in December, we will have added back some of the denied phase-in value to the assessment, both Town-wide and in the various Special Districts.
Some more difficult news is that our expenses continue to increase. Our healthcare provider, the Empire Plan, is predicting an 8.5% rate increase for 2017, and from what we can tell by looking at the broader healthcare market, we are still getting a bargain for our employee’s health coverage. The New York State Power Authority has also predicted a nearly 9% increase; we know that we will be shielded from some of that due to our new LED fixtures throughout the Town, but for areas that did not get new fixtures yet (like our parks), we will have an increased burden to bear. Finally, our Worker’s Compensation insurance has jumped in excess of 15% for the 2017 year due to a variety of factors, and we have been advised that it will probably jump again (although not quite as high) in 2018. With all of these increases to costs beyond our local control, it has been difficult to find other ways to stay within the 0.97% increase we are allowed. Nevertheless, I am proud to say we have managed to produce another tax-cap compliant budget without affecting services or staffing levels in the Town, while still managing to retain $146,000 in unbudgeted carryover below the cap to apply to the 2018 budget.
Here are some changes we made that have gotten us there:
- In early 2016, the Town Board made the difficult decision to change from having in-house legal staff to contracting with two outside firms, one to handle Town Board/Planning Board/Zoning Board matters and another to represent the Town in tax certiorari matters and to prosecute Town court cases. The Town has realized a significant savings from making this move, and we have been incredibly pleased by the level of service that Silverberg Zalantis and Leavitt Legal have provided us.
- We have implemented credit card machines in several of our Town offices. Our hope is that, besides giving our residents a more convenient payment option, that we can increase the productivity of our staff while reducing the amount of cash on hand.
- We have applied for, and received, several grants to improve our Parks. The Town Parks have been identified by our residents and by the Town Board as a priority, and we have dedicated resources to writing grants to help us, and our taxpayers, get their parks back in tip top shape. We have been awarded a grant from State Senator David Carlucci to enhance the pond area at Cedar Lane Park with two new docks, a stone walking path, and rain barrels to provide water for our Community Garden. We are also planning a three-phased Capital Project, set to begin in 2017, to give our open spaces a bigger boost; we are developing plans for a Parks/Cemetery Improvement Projects’ capital borrow to enhance our pavilions, sports fields, park lighting, and amenities to bring these well-loved spaces into the 21st century.
- Dale Cemetery, while not a taxing entity, has realized increased revenues in 2016, which we expect will continue in 2017. While the Town General Fund is still scheduled to transfer $100,000 to the Cemetery to help fund operations, we are using significantly less Cemetery Fund balance than in years past. We also managed to complete some long-needed drainage and paving work in Section 9 of the Cemetery using in-house labor and the operating budget in 2016, for which we had previously discussed borrowing as part of our Parks/Cemetery Improvement Project in 2017.
- In the 2016 budget, we moved some of the Administration payroll expenses from the General Fund to the Unincorporated Budget. For 2017, we will be re-allocating some of those numbers to reflect actual work performed:
- Budget Director : 60% to General Fund, 40% to Unincorporated Fund
- Counsel to the Town: 50% to General Fund, 50% to Unincorporated Fund
- Special Counsel: 50% to General Fund, 50% to Unincorporated Fund
- Confidential Secretary : 65% to General Fund, 35% to Cemetery Fund
- Due to the reduction in the cost of Public Safety services borne of our contract with the Ossining Police Department that started in 2015, we continue to have some flexibility in our 20 Fund, which we have used to do a variety of work for which we otherwise would need to bond. In 2015, we used some of it to supplement our CHIPS funding to pave six roads in the Unincorporated Town. In the 2016 budget, we were able to allocate some of the savings to soften the blow for the 2017 police contract increase, and put some money aside to offset the jump in Worker’s Compensation premiums. In the 2017 budget, we will be moving $275,000 to the 31, or Town Highway Fund (same taxing body as the 20 fund) so that they can purchase several new trucks to replace equipment that has outlived its useful life. We have also been building up reserves for the past several years to make the final payment on one bond for the original purchase of 507 North State Road, which becomes callable in 2017. Once this payment is made, we still have minor payments due on the initial land purchase and building improvement bonds, but we are well on our way to being police-debt free. For this, we have to thank the prior Board: as a result of their foresight, we will be able to relieve a group of our taxpayers of a significant burden they have shouldered for more than a decade.
- Our conversion to LED streetlights is nearing completion, and the new fixtures will reduce the cost of electricity on our roadways by more than 50%. The Town owns very few properties, but we also were able to add LED fixtures to our Highway Garage and Highway administrative offices in 2015, and we expect to see marked savings there as well.
The Supervisor’s Tentative 2017 Budget is available in the Town Clerk’s office at 16 Croton Avenue, the Ossining Public Library, and online at www.townofossining.com.
The Town Board will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on November 1st. Please join us at 7:30PM at the Ossining Public Library (use the downstairs entrance), where we will be gathering Board & public input on the 2017 Tentative Budget. Your opinions matter to us- we are working for you, the taxpayers, to create a sensible and sound budget, while keeping costs low and maintaining or even improving service levels.
The Ossining Town Board will also be discussing the Supervisor’s Tentative Budget during the month of November at the following times:
- Friday, November 4th: 9AM to 12PM, 16 Croton Avenue, 3rd Floor Conference Room
- Monday, November 7th: 9AM to 12PM, 16 Croton Avenue, 3rd Floor Conference Room
- Friday, November 18th: 2PM to 5PM, 16 Croton Avenue, 3rd Floor Conference Room
pdf Town of Ossining - Fund Balance Policy (54 KB) (Passed by Town Board June 2, 2010)
pdf Justice Court - Finance Audit 2010 (54 KB) - Statment of Cash Receipts, Cash Disbursements, and Cash Balances
folder Archive - Voucher Detail Reports - Approved vouchers by the Town Board.
Budget Implications of NYS Tax Cap Legislation – Town of Ossining
Four Year Projected Financial Impacts, 2012 to 2014
(Projected Years prepared by Town Comptroller, August 2011)
Earlier this year, New York State passed a law stating that municipalities and school districts in New York State cannot have a tax levy increase of greater that 2% from the previous year. The law includes some exemptions, including municipalities who consolidate by taking over a service that was formerly the responsibility of another government.
Municipalities have certain ongoing financial obligations such as contributions to the NYS Retirement System, health care costs (to the Empire Plan in the case of the Town of Ossining), and energy costs, the cost of which is outside of the control of the municipality.
In order to do good long term financial planning as we begin the 2012 budget process, the Town did an analysis of how much of an increase we anticipate the fixed costs will be for our budget for the next years, in order determine how much money must be cut out of other area of the budgets. Some assumptions about infationalry and personnel costs are included and are in the notations on the side of the charts.
The charts are divided into Town General fund, (which is paid for by all of the Town of Ossining, including the Villages of Ossining and Briarcliff,) and the Unincorporated Area funds, which are paid only by those in the unincorporated area.
This is a planning tool for information purposes only to help the Town to develop responsible budgets and spending cut decisions.
For more information, contact the Town Supervisor at 762-6001.
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.