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Walsh Files 2012 Harrison Budget Proposal

HARRISON, N.Y. – The following announcement was written in its entirety by Supervisor and Mayor Joan Walsh regarding the proposed tentative 2012 budget that she submitted to the town clerk on Monday.

Supervisor/Mayor Joan Walsh of the Town/Village of Harrison filed the proposed tentative budget for 2012 today with the Harrison Town Clerk. Supervisor Walsh stated that "The 2012 Budget that I am proposing meets the 2% Tax Levy Cap mandated by New York State." Under the proposed "tentative" budget, property taxes will rise 4.254%. "This is only the mid-point of the budget process...a final budget must be adopted by December 20th and much work remains to be done before then," said Supervisor Joan Walsh.

In calling the proposed budget a "work in progress", Supervisor Walsh stated that "Harrison continues to experience material adverse changes to its fiscal condition and faces the same challenges as all local governments across the Nation ... higher operating costs, unfunded state mandates and falling real property assessed valuations." She said "Significant increases for pension contributions required by the New York State Retirement System, increased major medical costs, debt service and fuel costs amount to more than a $1.2 million increase in operating costs from the 2011 budget to the 2012 budget." For the proposed 2012 budget, a $398,500 change in either revenues or expenses equals a 1% decrease or increase, respectively, in property taxes. In addition, the continued economic downturn means that several Town/Village non-property tax revenue line items such as mortgage tax aid, building department fees and interest earnings are expected to remain flat, in line with their 2011 levels.

Mark Heinbockel, the Assessor for the Town/Village, stated that on September 15, 2011, the final Assessment Roll for taxable town values stood at $137,054,166. 2011 saw a modest decline in Real Property protests, with 650 applications/requests for review. Small Claims petitions also had a modest improvement from the prior year with only 387 applications under protest. New rules in Small Claims Review Procedures will force accelerated trial scheduling, which could alter the current final assessment figures. As of November 1, 2011, the assessment figure still stands at $137,054,166.

Offsetting these stagnant non-property tax revenues, increased operating costs and lower assessed valuations is the reduction in the number of government employees and a rigid fiscal management and control policy. "Reducing the size of government has been a cornerstone of my administration" stated Supervisor Walsh. Since Supervisor Walsh took office in January 2008, the number of Harrison Town/Village employees has been reduced by 52 from 318 to 266, or by 20%. This has been accomplished with no layoffs and municipal services have been maintained.

"Public safety is on everyone's mind and it is important for Harrison to maintain and improve its already excellent Police Department" commented Supervisor Walsh. She also stated "Police Chief Anthony Marraccini has requested, and I support, one additional police officer to raise our complement to 60 police officers, two promotions within the police department that will enhance our command structure and strengthen our detective division and three civilian dispatchers in order to release police officers for patrol and community policing."

"Every line item in the budget has been scrutinized" said Town/Village Comptroller Maureen MacKenzie. Comptroller MacKenzie continued, "Our goal for 2012 has been to develop the most efficient and most cost effective budget that can be accomplished. This budget does not rely on any 'one-time' revenue items such as the sale of real property or use of fund balance in order to be balanced. Instead it has focused on examining operating costs and revenues and works towards creating a balance between the two. There is still a lot of work to be done in that regard."

The Town/Village began 2011 with a $650,000 deficit in its fund balance. In 2010, both Moody's and Standard & Poor's lowered the bond rating for the Town/Village" due primarily to the negative fund balance" stated Comptroller Maureen MacKenzie. She added that as a result of the management changes and cost cutting efforts, the Town/Village expects to end 2011 with a positive fund balance deficit.

In addition, in the 2011 Budget, the Town/Village had contemplated and budgeted for $700,000 of its State Pension contribution to be amortized or bonded. As a result of cost cutting measures during 2011, the Town/Village now has the ability to pay this bill in full without amortizing or bonding it.

In discussing her continuing efforts to reduce the 2012 projected tax rate increase, Supervisor Walsh stated that the Town/Village is still in negotiations with all of its bargaining units to incorporate changes in the Town/Village's Healthcare Plan. The Town/Village is self-insured for workman's compensation, major medical and prescription drug costs. Rapidly escalating costs for current employees and retirees have strained the Town/Village budget for the last several years. The changes to the Healthcare Plan proposed by the Town/Village, if agreed to by its unions, would result in significant savings for 2012 and additional savings in the future.

The proposed 2012 budget will be available in the Town Clerk's office after being accepted by the full Town/Village Board on November 3, 2011 and will be posted on the Town/Village web site (www. harrison.ny.gov). At the next Town/Village Board Meeting on November 3, 2011, the Board is also expected to set the schedule for upcoming public budget hearings.

For additional information regarding the proposed 2012 Town/Village of Harrison budget, contact the Comptroller, Mrs. Maureen MacKenzie, via email at mmackenzie@harrison-ny.gov.

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