Sunday, November 25, 2007

BUDGET HEARING WEDNESDAY NIGHT--$325,000 NEEDED TO CUT TAXES BY 1%

The Greenburgh Town Board will be holding the first of two budget hearings on the 2008 budget this Wednesday night at 7:15 PM. To cut the tax hike by 1% we have to find $325,000 to cut from the budget. Your suggestions are welcome.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sell Waterwheel

hal samis said...

Although it is months away, there is a lurking villain whose presence strikes fear into the hearts of all who understand the budget. Its calling card can be found within the Budget that will the subject of the Public Hearings but it is overlooked because it is not found among the line items of each Department's operating expenses. It may receive some oblique reference in comments from the Town Board but nobody really shines a light on it because they are all focused on the usual suspects, the Departments like the Police, Parks and DPW where the generous union contracts are their undoing or on places like the Community Center where those that don't need it would deny it to those who do. And, there is the Library but after all, it is the LIBRARY. Here's a novel thought, instead of reducing their annual budget increase, how about starting now to reduce the existing operating structure? Force the Library into seeking Library District status and when residents start to see how much the Library asks for on a stand- alone basis (not an elusive part of the Town's total) they may view the LIBRARY as just the library.

But let's return to my original thought and expose the villain.
Some of you may already have formed their own conclusions but if you had guessed CAPITAL BUDGET you would be right. The 2007 Capital Budget came to $6,300,000 and we visit it in the tentative budget book on page X before the Departmental line reviews. However, what is lacking among those six columns (issue date, rate, due date, balances at end of 2007,2008 and final maturity date) is the one that might be most informative when thinking about what gets reflected and transferred to the annual operating budget: debt service. Maybe taxpayers should see what it costs each year to pay for some of the things that we "have" to have.
For example, according to Supervisor Feiner in today's Journal News, this years's Library debt service is $824,000 which reflects only the bonds already issued. Next year, taxpayers will feel the benefit of the still unissued $7 million plus which will be debt service in addition to this years. Why do I say "benefit"? Because it is something that you've got to learn to love because you'll be living with it for the next 20+ years.

As you will for all those police cars that you never see on your street and a mobile command center for emergency use; or the $1.3 million capital expense to be requested in 2008 and 2009 which will go to East Rumbrook Park following the $1.2 million spent in 2004-2007. On the other hand, what you won't see is any money going for Taxter Ridge Park (other than the $100,000 bonded in 2004 for an emergency repair) in 2007, 2008, 2009 so this burden won't add to the existing debt service on the townwide budget debt of $3.2million for the 2004 acquisition. Nor will anyone in New York State be able to use the park until 2011 the earliest if the Town Board decides to allocate some money in 2010 for parking, lighting, phone system etc. Bottom line? Unwise investment on the part of the Town Board.

So as we go into the Budget Hearings and it is comforting to hear that Feiner, Sheehan and Bass all want to hear from the Public; remember that the large, individual ticket items are not to be found in the Budget that is being discussed -- only their fractional footprints appearing as consolidated lines for total annual debt service. Unless the Town Board takes a hard line at the CSEA contract talks (2008 salaries shown in the budget do not reflect any potential increases arising from these negotiations) and starts making staff reductions and benefit costs -- at least for new hires -- then we are on a track that means all those Town Board meetings discussing sidewalks and a new Court/Police Station were a waste of time because taxpayers can't afford to leverage new debt on top of old debt. It doesn't matter if our bond rating is high which means we pay a lower interest rate when we borrow, taxpayers can't afford to make the payments on any additional borrowed principal, even at 0% interest.

And if taxpayers are truly concerned about paying less, than tell the Town Board that we cannot afford to continue voting for the "Study Du Jour" or hiring outside legal counsel for every "issue" or "irritant" that comes our way. Specifically that means no money for Tappan Zee studies to study other studies, no money for outside counsel for the ethics board (a body with no power other than to make recommendations), no Comprehensive Plan, no mediation specialists...

The business as usual basis when voting for these handouts is to consider them as meeting the needs of constituents or at least those with the loudest voices. Filling town hall with advocates who vanish after a one night stand is not the true mark of concerned citizens but merely a mess organized for a single purpose and appearing at the direction of the loudest voice.

However, I suggest a new way of doing business. Looking first at whether we can afford it. Just because there is a fund balance doesn't mean it should be used on sunny days. The small withdrawals add up over a year's time and when the inevitable rainy day appears, we need to open our umbrella we find what remains isn't big enough to keep us dry.

If taxpayers are truly concerned about paying high taxes that means
realizing that EVERY dollar counts.
That means EVERY dollar including my annual favorites.

NO MORE $65,000 Council on the Arts (hanging pictures in Town Hall and Multipurpose Center, poetry contest)...the pictures can be hung by the artists themselves whose work is for sale and the Library has marketed itself as a cultural center so let them run the Poetry contest.
NO MORE $3500 Sculpture Curator for Desanti Plaza (Hartsdale train station). If sculptors want to display their work, we can find a volunteer for the quarterly selection.

Finally, if the Town Board truly wants to hear from the Public and since the Budget must be approved by December 21, then they should schedule more Public Hearings now (Public Hearings are required to be properly noticed in advance). These meetings can always be cancelled if unneeded. And stop the game of "the record will be held open for written comments..." because no one ever reads the post hearing transcripts (where these written comments go, as in "go directly to jail, do not collect $200") after the fact.

And hopefully Mr. Sheehan meant what he was quoted as saying. the Public Hearing is the opportunity for the Public to register their opinions and information with the Town Board in the hope that their input will be listened to by the Town Board -- and changes will be made as a result. In the past, Public Hearing has been interpreted as Mr. Sheehan's opportunity to conduct a seminar on whatever announced topic he chooses -- choose from Column A, B or C -- but they are all similar in that they end with criticism of the Supervisor and defending the Town Council.

Again, the election is over and
just three votes.

Anonymous said...

SELL THE WATERWHEEL PROPERTY.WE NEED THE MONEY.

Anonymous said...

A small item -- can we charge for parking at the new library for non-TOV residents.

Anonymous said...

Sell waterwheel at an auction or bid system --not a below market sale.

Anonymous said...

Charging for parking is a must. There has to be a police person available to do this job.
We do have a good amount of police persons to take over this position.

Anonymous said...

Daer All,

To those who want to sell the Waterwheel property, just remember that the proceeds go into the "A" fund and that is not where the big tax increase is this year.

While I am on this topic, the Town Board needs to start adopting real policies, such as how long does it hold on to properties acquired in tax foreclosures. Then the politics goes away.

As to the labor contracts and benefits, the average citizen does not appreciate that the cash costs of benefits provided to employees adds approximately $.45 for every dollar of direct compensation. Putting it in terms you may understand more readily, the individual who has an indicated salary of say $50,000, actually costs on average another $22,500 for a total cost to us the taxpayers of %72,500 and that is not the true total cost because it doesn't include the lifetime free medical coverage which the Town provides to certain retired employees. Eddie Mae Barnes, for example, will "retire" at the end of December and be eligible for lifetime medical coverage that could at present cost about $14,400 annually ($1,200 per month for family coverage). Since she has a life expectancy of probably 12 years, that's another cost to us of about $172,000 (tax free) to her, on your nickel. Getting sick yet? The same applies to all employees. A police officer retiring at age 45 according to the report issued by the Town's consultant (interesting reading I might add) will receive a tax free benefit of over $400,000.

Read'em and weep suckers!!

hal samis said...

We do have a surfeit of Police not on patrol and it would mean that the Chief would probably have to reasign the officer would is in charge of deliveries to this assignment. But do you really think that there is so much parking revenue to be collected from non-Greenburgh residents?

Speaking of deliveries, do we really need in townwide central services (dept 1610) page 13 lines 100.1 and 100.2, Senior Messenger and Messenger earning $54,620 and $47,692 respectively (before the CSEA increase)? I don't care how cleverly you mask their function, I suspect this work could be outsourced and eliminate the 40% extra in benefits while some of the deliveries could be overnighted or EFT in lieu of hand delivery. I say eliminate the positions. And how do they perform their messenger work? Where's the transportation which is not shown?

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

My apologies for my posting of 5:08PM. In fact if one goes to the Social Security Administration website and look at the actuarial tables, a female of aged 68 (which I believe is the age of Ms. Barnes) has a life expectancy of 16.76 years. So I understated the present potential value of her benefit. The correct calculation would be $234,640 if she has family coverage. If she "only" gets single coverage at say $550 per month or $6,600 per year, her "cost" to the taxpayers (again tax free to her) is only $110,616.

I apologize for not checking the actuarial tables before I posted my comment.

www.annuityadvantage.com\lifeexpectancy

Anonymous said...

oh please you dont need a police person to charge for parking. This is just a way to avoid charging. there are meters throughout Greenburgh wihtout a dedicated police officer.

Anonymous said...

I realize that the sale of Waterwheel would go into the A budget. Teh funds should be reserved for the needed town court.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous 7:07 PM,

Why should the current taxpayers use their funds to pay for a facility that will benefit future taxpayers? Just borrow the money and let the debt service match the future "beneficiaries" and taxpayers. Give the current taxpayers back any excess funds that they have alreday paid in the form of reduced future taxes.

Anonymous said...

The Town Court doesn't need a new courthouse. It needs more parking space. The court house is one of the best in Westchester. Like other departments, it has too many employees, including a chief clerk who doesn't know how to manage cash receipts and disbursements.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway to ascertain how much outsourcing legal services is to cost? There seems to be a lot of this even though we are paying for legal department.

Anonymous said...

Now that Fall Guy Whiner has a guaranteed majority on the Board, we don't really need the other two Town Board members - that should save at least $325,000.
All Hail the Paulitburo!

Surprise said...

The 8:39 blogger seems to think that Morgan and Brown will rubber-stamp anything Feiner wants. He may be in for a surprise. They are tough and independent and won't hesitate to didsagree with Feiner if they think he is off-base. The one thing that you can be sure of is that they won't oppose Feiner just for the sake of opposing, as Bass and Barnes, under the leadership of Sheehan, did.

Anonymous said...

I forsee money going illegally to Valhalla and G7.

hal samis said...

Maybe on Wednesday we'll hear the long overdue admission from the Town Council that they too made a mistake. If the Supervisor can admit to making a mistake in using the fund balance to reduce taxes, I don't understand why the Town Council, which took even additional money from the fund balance, can't make a similar acknowledgement.

At the last Town Board meeting Mr. Sheehan gave one of his famous slight-of-hand lectures, using as a visual aid, some charts accompanying a report submitted by Mike Kolesar. Never mind that Mr. Sheehan initially opposed the hiring of Mike, now we witness Sheehan's quoting him. The show ran in an abbreviated version at the following night's Greenburgh Democratic Party meeting. But what was he quoting? The presentation was ostensibly given to illustrate how the Town Counsel was doing good and the Supervisor was as usual doing bad in a world without a fund balance policy; however all that the charts really showed was that it is important to maintain a fund balance of certain dollars. Of course since everyone was expected to tune out, it was an easy task to make the erroneous conversion between the data and the conclusion that the Town Council was really on top of things.

The reality is that the data had nothing to do with that conclusion but it is how Sheehan operates -- bore you to the point that you will believe whatever he says regardless of how he got there just out of gratitude that the lecture is over.

The reality of what happened in the last two years of budget votes was that both the Supervisor and the Town Council wanted to keep taxes down, probably with this year's election in mind. The Supervisor used the fund balance to lower taxes and not to be left out, the Town Council used more fund balance money so they could be seen as the winners of the zero tax increase competition.

The Supervisor now recognizes that this policy is a win-lose strategy and has apologized. Now, let's hear the same from the Town Council.

Anonymous said...

Can we go back to the suggestion of why not charge non TOV residents for parking at the new library? The town charges for parking at meters and and at the Hartdsale station. I dont think it should take a rocket scientist to figure this out. And the person who said we would have to hire a police man to monitor -- that was really uncalled for, somehow we monitor meeters etc elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry if I mis wrote about a police officer monitoring the meters.What I ment to say they are needed to issue summones to those who abuse the use of the meters.
Those who will not pay and those who park with the meter on violation.Summonses should be issued and who will be in charge of doing this I'm sure only the police dept.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think that is how it works at Hartsdale station. Also, there will be limited spots. Should be reserved first for TOVs

hal samis said...

There is supposed to be parking for 120 cars (with 34 spaces land-banked for future need).

Let's assume all 120 spaces are available for the public and all of them are used by NON RESIDENTS and all them are always occupied and paying, say at $1.00 per hour and assuming a 10 hour day, 7 days a week x 51 weeks (allow some days for the Library being closed)...
and you get $428,000 under the maximum revenue scenario. Now let's consider costs.

Cost to buy and install meters ?
"Meter Maid" hours at the schedule above, 3570 hours not including breaks, lunch, dinner, sick time...
3570 hours x $60 (including benefits) = $214,200.

$428,000 - $214,200 = $213,800
before the cost of the meters and maintaining them
AND if all 120 spaces are used by a) the visitors and if all of the visitors are
b) non residents and
c) they are continuously used
d) none are ever blocked by snow
e) none of the meters are even broken into
or any of the myriad of circumstances happen.

However, I think the telling one would be the expectation that some unincorporated residents might want to use some of the spaces to visit the library.

And no one, resident or non-resident will be happy with this arrangement.

Anonymous said...

Why do people believe that the library will be visited by non-residents of unincorporated?

Won't happen. Maybe a handful, but most will go to their own library, which is more convenient. If their own library doesn't have a book it will be ordered from another Westchester library, maybe ours and maybe another town's or village's library.

This metering is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Why did we need a new library anyway. The one we had was just fine. should have sold off the old town hall property or rented it as office space.

Anonymous said...

Hal, you dont need full time meter maid. They can be shared with whomever enforces meters along streets etc. And you know it. And WP has metered parking at their library.

hal samis said...

And which streets in unincorporated do you think have enforced metered parking?
The only ones I know of are those handled by Hartsdale Parking (East Hartsdale Avenue and nearby Central Avenue). So, while in transit between locations, fines are not being levied.

Anonymous said...

There are no metered streets here in Greenburgh.The only area that I know of is Hartsdale Ave.

hal samis said...

Which is why 3:04 is a jerk.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty sad that the CFO of such a major municipality can't figure out how to trim just $325,000 from such a massive budget with a lot of fluff items.

hal samis said...

It is pretty said that anonymous bloggers can see only the need to trim $325,000. Perhaps it need be written out more clearly:

EACH $325,000 reduction in taxes will reduce the tax increase by 1%.

Perhaps having a CFO who would increase the tax increase only 1% would cheer you up. If so, got news for you, Feiner already reduced a higher tax increase to the current number; he did this as the CFO in what might be considered an out-patient procedure.

The really hard part, the major surgery requiring a hospital stay, lies ahead and the public shall speak as to whether it wants the elective surgery (reducing costs by reducing services drastically) or whether it wants to pay more in taxes.

Thus, wouldn't you think that more revenue from the tennis bubble and new development on Central Avenue would be warmly embraced? Read the comments on these blog topics if you want to feel really sad.

Anonymous said...

Hal,

If Paul really wanted to show leadership, he could attempt these things in a fair and less divisive manner. Instead, he is continually one-sided. If he were willing to compromise he wouldnt end up in court as much.

Anonymous said...

Construction and more construction.homes or businesses are need to help us with property taxes.
The schools should be investigated since there is too much waste.
There is no need to pay as much as we do for schooling, it turns out to be more than private schools.The parents that send their children to private school have to pay double .the tax and then the tuition.Is that fair.

hal samis said...

Dear 6:49,

"if Paul wanted to show leadership"

Whereas I am not privvy to the
Supervisor's thoughts, as an observer let me comment thusly:
He doesn't have to show leadership because he is the leader and the electoral system, which allows residents to come out and vote or not, has just recently confirmed that voters wanted their leader to be Feiner.

Since I don't believe anyone named "anonymous said" attempted to vote, I conclude that you chose not to exercise your right to determine your leader.

Furthermore, the snippets of one-sided and divisive are your opinions and not to be accredited as anything more. especially as you offer no specifics. And you are still unable to process the thought that at least three votes are needed to find your Town in Court.

A contrary view said...

Chief kapica made his case but where are the rest of the department heads to make theirs?

Herb Rosenberg was right for a change in calling for a Wal-Mart style top to bottom review of all departments to wring out savings. Thats what we need. If you want to sell to Wal-Mart you have to make your case to them. Every department should be able to justify its budget. One wonders why Herb is often so wrong on A vs. B budget matters.

The only problem with kapica's view is that yes, if you do not want catastrophe's you must fully fund his operation. But what if we cannot afford 110% safety? Just like in law, you get the justice you can afford.

It may not be fair but its reality. Either way, you must pay the piper or put up with reduced services and increased margin of danger. Telling people that is leadership. Something no one last night was willing to do other than Hal Samis.

Anonymous said...

Lorne brown you have come back from defeat and guess what you didn't make sense before and you didn't make sense at the budget hearing.
If I were you I would attend the meetings but keep my mouth shut.
You just don't make sense.
You hatred for the supervisor shows the minute you walk up to the podium,and you just don't make sense .
If you can't say something in an intellegent manner keep your mouth shut.

Anonymous said...

The raise that the police are seeking is way out of line.
Yes they are thinking retirement,doesn't every civil service person think this way.But at this time their raises should be put at the minimum.
The residents cannot afford what they are asking for.
Let's see what other dept. heads are asking for,and they too should get the minimum.
They all wantmore but we cannot afford what they are asking for,so we do hope the board could trim down the budget that maybe we could handle.
If not you have to go back to the drawing board.
Samis had good ideas I do hope that you will consider looking into what he proposed.