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Harrison Board Approves Budget, Walsh Opposed

HARRISON, N.Y. - Harrison's tax rate is expected to rise about 4.7 percent in 2012 as the town board approved a $54.8 million budget 3-1 Thursday night, despite Mayor/Supervisor Joan Walsh's opposition.

The approved budget includes a nearly 50% higher tax rate than the preliminary draft that Walsh submitted in October, which had a tax rate increase of approximately 4.2 percent. The budget complies with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2 percent tax levy cap.

Walsh was the only member present on the board to vote against the budget and said she was opposed to changes that Harrison GOP board members made to her preliminary budget .

"I worked very hard on that budget and I believe my vote stands," Walsh said.

Republican members of the board slashed $39,000 in raises for 11 department heads Walsh had included in her preliminary budget, citing difficult economic times.

"This is not a time where we feel that is appropriate to give raises we didn't know were going into the budget," Councilman Joe Cannella said. "The goal was to stay below the tax cap and we did. It wasn't an easy thing to do."

Councilwoman Marlane Amelio echoed Cannella's support of the cuts and said she was upset with Walsh's decision to give select town employees raises without uniformity across the payroll.

Walsh also said she was opposed to the addition of one police officer to the budget , a move she said was not initially approved.

"We're mindful that the department lost a great deal of manpower," Cannella said in defense of the additional officer. "Safety comes first."

During the last town board meeting , Harrison police officers asked the town board to reconsider the 2012 budget so that more funds could be allocated to the department without cutting any more officers.

Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said he was thankful for the town board's consideration in adding the officer to his crew.

"I know it was a difficult decision to make," Marraccini said. "I can't say how much the department appreciates it. It shows we are moving in the right direction."

Additional changes made to the budget included a salary increase for the town clerk to over $95,000 a year.

Councilman Patrick Vetere was not present at the meeting as Walsh said he was in the hospital with numbness in his hands. He is expected to return soon, Walsh said.

Budget discussions began last August and have since been a heated topic of discussion in Harrison politics.

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