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Mayor Walsh Debriefs After Filing Harrison Budget

HARRISON, N.Y. – Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh submitted the proposed tentative budget for 2012 Monday. She sent the following letter to residents to recap her efforts to adhere to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's 2 percent tax cap .

Dear Residents:

It has been a hard struggle, but I am pleased to tell you that we have brought the 2012 Tentative Budget in under the 2% Tax Levy Cap, as mandated by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The proposed tax increase for 2012 is 4.254%.

It was a hard struggle for two reasons. The first is that because we have been cutting expenses each year that I have been Mayor, there was very little left to cut without reducing or eliminating municipal services. This budget maintains municipal services at their current levels and provides sufficient funds to operate the Town/Village safely and professionally.

The second reason is the increase in costs which we cannot control.  What are they?  (1) Health Plan costs.  These costs are out of control and, because we are self-insured, we must budget enough money to cover these costs:  and (2) Increased pension costs mandated by Albany.  In 2011 and again for 2012, without these uncontrollable cost increases, we would have had a “flat” budget, with little or no increases in spending. For 2012, these increases alone would have put us over the 2% Tax Levy Cap.

I am sure you are wondering how we can meet the 2% Tax Levy Cap and still have a tax increase of 4.254%.   Simply put, the 2% Tax Levy Cap applies to the tax levy and not the tax rate. The tax levy is the amount of money raised by taxing real property and, based on our projected increases in spending, the tax increase should only have been 2.210%.

However, the Assessment Roll – the assessed value of all property within the town- has fallen from $151 million in 2005, down to $139 million for 2011 and $137 million for 2012. A reflection of the decreasing values of real estate in these economic times. The drop in assessables necessitated an additional 2.044% tax increase which brings the total proposed tax increase to 4.254%.

Our non-property tax revenues have also decreased. Think sales tax revenues – while they have increased recently, they are far below what they were in the past. The downturn in the economy has brought to a halt new construction and renovations which has severely reduced the fees earned by our Building Department.  Revenue from mortgage recording taxes is down from its peak of $3.2 million per year to around $1 million projected for 2012. Interest on funds in the bank? Less than 1%, down from 3% or 4% in good times. All these decreases in non-property tax revenues put pressure on the tax rate.

I am as unhappy with this Budget as you probably are. I certainly wish we could have had a flat or decreased tax rate. Although we have reduced and controlled spending for four years with the cooperation of all our employees, expenses out of our control continue to require us to raise property taxes.

This Tentative Budget is the responsibility of the Supervisor/Mayor. It now goes to the full Board for review and revisions with the adoption of the Final Budget in December.

Joan B. Walsh Supervisor/Mayor

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