2020 Village Budget
Village of Airmont
2020 Budget – Adopted
As a reminder, the budget process begins with the Mayor, the Village Clerk and the Village’s accountant getting together to create the “Mayor’s Budget”. Once completed, the Mayor presents his budget to the Village Clerk, who, in turn, presents the Mayor’s Budget to the Board of Trustees (the Board).
The Board then can add or subtract funding as they see fit and, when completed, presents the “Tentative” budget to the public. After a public hearing and any adjustments are made, the Board then votes on whether, or not, to adopt the budget.
The agenda for the November 4th, 2019 Village Board of Trustees meeting included the following: Item #4 – Tentative 2020 Budget, and Item #5 – Override Tax Levy Limit (Please note: the NYS Comptroller’s Office established the 2020 Tax Cap for the Village of Airmont at 3.0%). It is at this meeting the Mayor’s budget, which included a 2.98% tax increase (which is under the 3.0% tax cap), was presented to the Board and the public for the first time.
Sound good? Well, not really!
Yes, the 2.98% tax increase in the Mayor’s budget was under the 3.00% tax cap but the revenue and expenditure assumptions the Mayor used to create his budget were flawed.
Revenue assumptions such as a $33,720 increase over 2019, or 41.25% more, taken out of the Village’s surplus to balance the budget, or the under estimate of Safety Inspection Fees by 25% or $8,000 from the 2019 projected actuals.
The larger issues were the assumptions used within the expenditures such as $8,000 not included in Street Maintenance due to increases included in the new 2020 contract, or the 9.36% in salary increases over the 2019 projected actuals.
At a time where, over the last three years, the average increase was actually a decrease of -0.25%, the Mayor is asking to increase your taxes by 2.98%.
Stop for a moment and think about this for a second: What if the Village did not have the surplus balances it currently enjoys and could NOT afford taking that additional $33,720 from the surplus… the tax increase would be closer to a Tax Cap busting 4.46%.
Trustees Warbrick Blunnie and Trustee Pesante, do not believe that the 2.98% tax increase is acceptable and on November 14th, 2019 made that position known. The Trustees held a Budget Workshop, which was attended by only 4 residents, and began to go through the Mayor’s budget line by line. Some adjustments to the Mayor’s Budget were addressed, proposed, changed and made over the course of the 3+ hour workshop session.
Most areas were covered but not all completed and leaving the need to tackle the remaining budget issues at the November 18th, 2019 Village Board Meeting.
Due to upcoming service contract renewals (i.e. garbage, street maintenance), recent salary increases, and the possibility of missing over estimated revenue targets, meant a tax increase would be necessary, so the need to lessen the impact of a tax increase on our residents would be our focus.
This was achieved by decreasing the 2020 salary budgets first, in the Executive, Legislative and Village Clerk sections of the budget. Second, by decreasing the Village Attorney’s salary by the budgeted amount paid to the attorney covering traffic court and lastly, by eliminating additional increases for positions that had recently received increases.
3.5% salary increases were given to the Planning & Zoning Boards Clerk, the Building Clerk and the Justice Court Clerk. Although increases were inappropriately included in the Mayor’s Budget, increases for these positions, although warranted, were not included. No other increases or decreases were made. Overall, salaries and wages were decreased by -.19%.
With all the adjustments made, the tax increase was still coming in higher we believed it should be.
Given the uncertainty of the assumptions and the possibility of unfavorable corrections coming from the Town of Ramapo (as has happened in the past) and not wanting to dip further into the surplus than necessary.
There are very few levers in the budget that can be directly influenced by the Board, but most are small numbers that wouldn’t move the needle, except for one area…the Street Paving program.
The decision was either reduce the Street Paving program or increase the amount taken from the Village’s surplus, neither a popular choice, but Reducing the Street Paving program becomes the right choice.
Why? First, because the maintenance of a strong surplus affords the Village financing flexibility, a strong bond rating and not having to spend funds on audited financials. Continued decreases in the surplus puts future bond financing, at good rates, in jeopardy. Especially, if bond financing becomes necessary for street paving down the road.
Second, it gives the Board time.
Street paving decisions aren’t made until mid-year allowing the Board the opportunity to re-evaluate the financial position of the Village and the possibility of reinstating those funds to pave all the roads as intended.
The final result being the Mayor’s proposed budget tax increase of 2.98% being cut down 57.27% to 1.27%.
The Preserve Airmont team is vigilant in its stewardship of the Village of Airmont.
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