The Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees of Scarsdale met for a brief meeting on Monday night 4/16 to review options for lowering the tax increase for 2012-13. At an earlier meeting, Trustee Bob Harrison had suggested that the Village dip into reserves to reduce the increase and comply with the state-imposed 2% tax cap. At this meeting he again made his please, claiming that over the last four years the village tax rates has grown at a compounded rate of 26%.
All the trustees who spoke at the meeting expressed concern about rising rates, but the consensus was that raiding reserves could set a bad precedent for future years and have an impact on the Village’s bond rating.
Jon Mark said, “we are all sensitive to taxes, we all pay taxes and we all feel the pain.” He urged the Board of grapple with the underlying issue of the needs for services in a time of shrinking revenues and said, “We should pound the doors in Albany to reduce mandates.”
Stacey Brodsky also cautioned against using “band aids,” and said, “The real analysis is to look at spending and separate out mandated expenses. We have gone as far as we can go with slashing costs without impacting residents. The next step is to engage people in the community in conversation to find out if there are services they are willing to forego in order to contain expenses.”
Kay Eisenman agreed, saying, “Dipping into fund balances is a dangerous way to go. We may have unforeseen circumstances that will necessitate dipping into the reserves. Even though one gentleman lambasted us (about tax increases) the other night (at the Village Board meeting), he didn’t say what he would like to see cut.”
Mayor Flisser concurred. She said, “We are facing significant infrastructure deterioration that could pose safety issues. We should not use reserves to fund the budget. In hard times, you don’t take the money out of the bank to spend, you save it.”
Bob Steves, who heads the Finance Committee proposed a compromise to allow the Village to lower the tax rate increase without using reserves. He proposed to transfer a portion of the savings from the 2011-12 budget to next year’s budget. The Village has saved a considerable amount in snow removal costs due to the warm winter. Though it’s too early to know exactly how the year will close out, Steves, Village Manager Al Gatta and Treasurer Mary Lou McClure were confident that $246,000 from this year’s budget could be transferred to 2012-13 at the close.
Therefore, the Trustees moved to decrease the tax levy by $246,000 for 2012-13. In conjunction with the $208,000 reduction already made to next year's budget the tax rate increase will be approximately 4.1% and put the Village in compliance with the state cap – after allowable exemptions.