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Supervisor Grace Spins a 7.72% Tax Rate Increase

The Supervisor's REAL budget tax rate increase is 7.72%. Combining other number mixes apples and oranges. His budget also kicks critical cans down the road for 2014.

The following comments represent my personal view and are separate and distinct from my unbiased Patch blog postings of meeting summaries for Citizens for an Informed Yorktown, ciyinfo.org. 

Welcome to Yorktown spin city – or how a 7.72% tax rate increase is being “sold” to you as either a half a percentage point tax rate decrease or only a 2.58% increase.

At least, that’s the message coming out of Supervisor Michael Grace’s office.

How can a 7.72% tax rate increase morph into a decrease, or, at best, a modest increase? Here’s how.

Yorktown has 28 different taxing districts or funds, not counting the two fire districts. Each district has its own budget and its own tax rate.

That means that your total town tax bill depends on how many districts you’re in, and that in turn depends on whether you’re a residential or commercial property owner, whether you have town water, and, if you’re in a sewer district, which district.

What Supervisor Grace is doing is combining the tax rates of multiple taxing districts so that tax decreases in some districts offset the increases in others. In other words, he’s mixing apples and oranges to mask an uncomfortable 7.72% tax rate increase in the basic tax rate.

Every taxpayer, residential and commercial, pays into three budget funds: the General, or “A” Fund, the Highway, or “D” Fund, and the Library, or “L” Fund. The total appropriations for these funds are combined into a single tax rate, referred to as the “ADL tax rate.” Historically, it’s the ADL rate increase that is used when referring to the Town budget.  The ADL rate is also the tax rate that the media uses to compare rates from one year to another or from one town to another.

In Supervisor’s 2013 budget, the ADL tax rate increase is 7.72%.

To put the 7.72% number in perspective, it’s the largest tax rate increase since 1995; since 1998, the tax rate increases have been between 2.10% and 3.95%.  In 2012, the increase was 2.55%.

A note about the confusing and misunderstood 2% tax levy cap 

The 2% cap applies only to how much the Town can levy in taxes and has nothing to do with the tax rate.  The tax levy is the amount of money the Town needs to raise in taxes in order to balance its budget after all other sources of revenue are taken into consideration. The tax rate is what property owners pay per $1,000 of assessed value. The tax rate is determined by dividing the total tax levy by the total taxable assessed value of the Town. According to this year’s tax levy calculation, the Town could spend $1.4 million more and still be within the 2% levy cap; that’s because less money needs to be raised in taxes in the Refuse and Water districts (see below).

Now for the spin

By combining the 7.72% ADL rate with a decrease in the Refuse District tax (a result of the new garbage contract) and reducing the Water District tax rate (by using $750,000 from the district’s fund balance) with smaller shifts in the Sewer and the Advanced Life Support districts, the TOTAL combined tax rate changes. For the typical homeowner with a $10,000 assessed value and with sewer and water, the combined rate results in an overall tax rate decrease of half of a percentage point while homeowners without sewer and water would see a combined tax rate increase of 2.58%.

On the surface, the minus half of a percentage point or 2.58% increase looks good. And it is good news – for 2013. The problem is: what happens in 2014?

In addition to mixing apples and oranges to wipe out a 7.72% increase in the ADL funds and  to mask long term fiscal problems in the $30 million General Fund, by far the Town’s largest fund, the Supervisor’s 2013 budget  relies too heavily on a series of one shot fixes --  and it recklessly kicks too many cans down the road. For example:

One shot revenues: The General Fund budget assumes an additional $422,000 in revenue in planning and building fees, mainly from Costco, the Fieldhome  expansion, Crompond Crossing and Croton Overlook.  Assuming all these projects come to fruition in 2013 and the fees are collected, are there a sufficient number of “new” projects in the pipeline that will generate an equivalent amount of revenue in 2014? As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that every $180,000 in lost revenue means a 1% increase in the tax rate.

Staff costs:  Although the 2013 budget represents a $1.2 million increase in total expenditures, salaries and benefits increase by a whopping $1.4 million -- and will increase again in 2014 based on existing labor contracts and likely increases in medical benefits and pension payments, two expenses over which the Town has no control -- except to the extent that these costs are determined by the number of employees. 

But, despite the fact that staff costs make up more than 78% of the General Fund budget, the Supervisor appears not to have made any effort in his 2013 to control these costs. In fact, his budget actually ADDS to this expense by adding two additional full time employees in 2013 to the two full time positions he already added in 2012. The two new hires alone represent at $100,000 in increased expense.

Keeping in mind the $180,000=1% tax rate increase equation, and absent any infusion of new revenue, any serious attempt to reduce the tax rate increase in 2014 will most likely require taking a close, hard and painful look at staffing levels.  Cutting non staff budget lines can only save pennies, not dollars.   And it takes a lot of pennies to add up to $180,000.

One shot savings: The lower 2013 tax rate reflects the $750,000 reduction in the 2013 garbage contract.  But what happens next year when that savings has already been built into the budget and there won’t be a “new” $750,000 savings for 2014 -- and other expenses in the Refuse district such as salaries and fuel costs will increase?  The Supervisor’s budget also includes a one shot savings in the Water District budget by using $750,000 from the district’s fund balance.

What happens next in the budget process? 

The Supervisor’s budget is only the first step in the budget process. Last week, the Town Board spent 10 hours going over the Supervisor’s budget with department heads. (For the highlights of those discussions visit ciyinfo.org.)  The Board will continue it discussions on Tuesday, November 13 and, if there’s a consensus on changes to the Supervisor’s budget at that time, the Board will vote to adopt a Preliminary Budget that will be the subject of a public hearing on December 5.

So, between now and  December 5, you may want to take a look at both the Supervisor’s budget that’s already on the Town’s web site, yorktownny.org, and the Town Board’s Preliminary budget  that will eventually be uploaded to the web site.

Are you comfortable with a 7.72% tax increase? If not, what changes would you like to see in the budget? 

Remember, it’s YOUR money that the Town Board will be spending.  It’s your quality of life services that are at stake. Make your voice heard on December 5.

For more general information about the budget, visit yorktownbettergovernment.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Evan Bray November 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Wow. Republicans in Westchester are an exotic breed of RINOs. So the money saved on the garbage contract essentially pays for the water district tax "break" that is coming out of the general fund just because it's there and burning a hole in our pocket? Why are we even going through the motions of pretending that Costco might not get approved? Very depressing that they are already budgeting the building dept permit fees (not the nominal taxes the Yorktown Central School District would receive). They should just call off the public hearings and rubber stamp it like they will anyway. Would save a lot of time and people's breath. What an overt nod and wink. "Hey Costco, we need you to fill out this here application and get 'approval' from the planning board, but don't worry, we've instructed them that it's an offer they can't refuse and we'll count your permit fees to mask our fiscal decline. USA! USA!" So, in summary, welcome to Yorktown--home of many exotic and rare breeds like the elusive, fiscally irresponsible RINO. Ooooh look, a red breasted Costco! This is why we can't have nice things.
Bob Rohr November 13, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Evan, this is not my style but i have to call BS on you and your group.You crow barred Costco into another topic. You all want to preserve the" beautiful and Historic" Yorktown. There was another post about truly Historic homes in danger of being demolished, not a peep out of any of you. You and your friends have one agenda and I am wondering about your motives.
Stephen November 13, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Bob, in my humble opinion, all Evan is trying to do is point out the obvious. The Supervisior is already accounting for funds in his budget which are still in a Planning Board Process. You don't find this disturbing ? What Evan is saying is that why bother going thru the process, when it is clear the Supervisor is already counting the money. Remember this is our Town's budget and a clear sign of that agendy he is trying to push. Please Bob, read it for what it is worth and see what is really going on behind the scenes. I was in the Yorktown Town Board Meeting, work session, about the Garbage collection and believe me so was Susan and many others. It is clear by the actions of the Board and the Supervisor that things are NOT all red and rosey. The people were outraged and while we can all agree our Taxes are too high already. There needs to be ways in which our leaders look outside the box and actually get things done. Kicking the can, down the street never is a good thing. Why fix it now, when you can put it off for someone who can do it later ? This is something that, come next elections, you remember. Yorktown CAN DO BETTER. If we get good leadership, we will NOT be known as the Newest Town to be OPEN for business, if you speak to the right people. Wink Wink. Bob, you are 100% they are violating the Town motto of Progress with Preservation. PLEASE, remember this next year and tell all you can then. We need good leadership who will NOT sell us out. We all deserve better.
Bob Rohr November 14, 2012 at 01:19 AM
OK Stephan I was not there. I knew someone in the private carting business that was going to bid the contact several years ago. He would have bid it lower that the current contract at that time by a lot, and he would have had to get additional equipment and employees. He decided against doing Municipal work. I suspect it will not be perfect from day one. I have raised your taxes several times, sometimes less than others. I was a founding member of the old UTY so I am not pro tax, not then and not now. I do understand using fund balances to adjust the rate. This is Mr. Grace's first budget and I do not know what he inherited. Where I became a bit annoyed with Evan and others is the lack of any response to a post named "Yorktown is Tearing Itself Down". Do you all want a Historic and open spaced Town, or do you just don't want Costco. Sounds like the latter to me, not a peep about the Historic Yorktown being bulldozed. Odd I think. You can have Progress with Preservation, if you identify areas where you can have Tax ratables in a contained area, and use zoning to control the rest.
Evan Bray November 14, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I'm not a part of any group, Bob. I didn't bring Costco up. It's literally mentioned in this article. I believe you could say they are counting their chicken, before it hatched, but they know it will hatch; they hired Al Capellini, right? I'm resigned to live with it. Do you really think there's any possibility it doesn't get approved?
Evan Bray November 14, 2012 at 01:25 AM
And in other news: Stephen hits the nail on the head.
Evan Bray November 14, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Not true, Bob. Let's have a coffee or beer and get to know each other. I promise I'm not some radical preservationist and my day job is literally to get development done. I think we could do better. I know we could put more than 3 Whole Foods--literally--in that spot (they average 47K s.f.; Costco is over 150K s.f.) There has been discussion of the historic home and Mr. de Laperouse has made a great argument to preserve some of what's there. I appreciate his passion and the results produced and awareness raised. I'm just one man, not a part of any subversive group, and think it's the wrong direction for Yorktown. End of day, it doesn't matter. It's a done deal. You know it and I know it. Grace is literally already banking on it [see article above].
Stephen November 14, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Bob, Well, I have become very active now with all the Town Government activities. I will say, what I saw was horrible. I have seen every chance given to those whom are IN FAVOR. It's sad to see what really goes on behind the scenes that comes forth. This is why people just give up and walk away, because they know of what is going on and feel like they cannot deal with it. This is what the politicians want you to feel and think. I have a great deal of notes on all of this and I will be bringing most of it to light, when the time is right. Let me say this. I am a registered republician and I did have Grace signs on my lawn for the last election. If I had it to do over, I would NOT have had those signs there. I guess looking back, we are always smarter. Point of fact is this, I am a life long 4th. Generation Yorktowner. I have seen this town have it moments. We are currently in one of them. It is NOT about if I am for or against Costco. I am for what is right for the direction of Yorktown. Costco is NOT about this conversation, this was a totally different conversation. I would love to sit down with you Bob and fully explain how and why I feel this way. Trust me when I tell you, that is NOT the answer to Yorktown's problems. There are solutions here, right in front of us and what we truly need is Sustainable Growth. It's that simple, I have 3 ways we can get there, myself. Other's have ways too. It just takes an open mind to see these solutions. Trust me, we all live here.
Bob Rohr November 14, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Stephan, You are right Costco is a done deal and I know it from day one. When I mention it to people they have no problem with it. They think 202 is a disgrace. One neighbor is an Architect, he does Mansions and he is really bright has no problem with Costco, but he would like to see something more creative done also. Now, you can walk away or you can make a change. I would suggest you form a Committee and offer Town Board your services in inviting businesses into Yorktown. You see Costco is proof of concept. If they can make it here others will come. The trick is to control who comes. An endless string of fast food joints is unacceptable. Clothing, Markets, good furniture. Individual stores will be tough since credit is tight at the moment. With the Hospital close by, medical offices are not out of the question, There are more. The point is be positive and not alienate people. All this name calling and accusing people of "Wink Wink" will get you no where but more angry and disillusioned. Oh yeah, my Great Aunt and Uncle founded the Corner Store on Gomer street. I have been coming here since the 1950's when there were hitching posts on Commerce street. Be a positive force, you would be surprised how well it works.
Stephen November 14, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Bob, I never said Costco was a done deal. I said, this is not the right place to have a debate about Costco. In my humble opinion, there is going to be law suits flying all over the place. I will say this. The are serious problems and issues that need to be addressed first. I have a feeling this will be going to a Court for further clarification. I just know that the Town of Yorktown will suffer greatly from having Costco come in. They (the people heading up this Costco movement) are lying about a lot of things and I was at a Yorktown Town Board Meeting (work session) where a developer was pushing to put 68 units or condo's/townhouses in on 9 acres of land at the bottom of route 202, behind the Chase Bank and next to the New Crompond Corners. I know for a fact two of the 5 members of the Board were clearly against it, when Michael Grace sat there and said this is great for the town. The developer called it Affordable Housing, which we all know is code for. So, Yorktown will soon become the Yonkers of North Westchester. Am I saying there is something wrong with Yonkers, NO. I am saying people moved up here to get away from that to a more country type environment. Now they are going to be getting it right back in their face. The time has come for people to see what is really going on and if we don't act before it is too late, what will come here next. Oh, without the roads by the way. Which NYS DOT has NO plans to fix, anytime soon. Come Monday night see first hand.
Bob Rohr November 15, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Stephan, I think I will stop here.
Bill November 15, 2012 at 04:49 PM
You forgot to add "non-white people" in your post about what we'd be getting from Yonkers. Just because you're too chicken to say it doesn't mean we can't come out and say what this is "code" for. I don't have any information on this, but I'd be wiling to bet that many of the people in the affordable housing that already exists in Yorktown are not like the people you claim residents are trying to get away from in Yonkers. They may be more like you than you think. And the county is under court order to add affordable housing as part of a settlement by Spano, so we're getting it whether you want it or not. Hey, maybe some town workers who cannot afford to live in Yorktown now could get some of it. Also if you had been paying attention, you'd know that the state DOT *is* finally planning to fix much of 202, with Costco funding another stretch.
eyesonyorktown November 15, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Don’t believe everything you read on this website, particularly coming from one who cost the taxpayers one million dollars when she held the office.
bertie November 15, 2012 at 06:08 PM
This is confusing. "Eyes on Yorktown" makes no specific criticism to Siegel's analysis of the current Supervisor's 2013 budget, which is being discussed here...just throws dirt in her general direction. In another place,Siegel claims that she was responsible (along with town employees)for collecting about $2,000,000.00 in back taxes while she was Supervisor. So if "Eyes" (whoever that is) has something to say, I think he/she/it should just say it, stop pussyfooting around, and give Siegel a chance to answer it.
eyesonyorktown November 15, 2012 at 10:43 PM
deena, just do the math,She fudged the numbers along with her partner in crime JG. “I think he/she/it should just say it, stop pussyfooting around,” Ok she was the worst supervisor to ever hold the office and I am sad to say I voted for her.
bertie November 15, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I still don't know what you mean. Really. "Fudged" the numbers means very little to me without specifics to back up this...this...accusation?
bertie November 15, 2012 at 11:30 PM
I remind you, EyesonYorktown, that people are protected against assaults on their character by laws of slander and libel. I also remind you that Siegel was the one who called in state auditors to examine the town business and procedures. So if you have evidence of wrong-doing or malfeasance , produce it.

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