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North Castle Daily News

North Castle Budget 2013
Town Board Plans Police Dept. Cuts Following Chief D'Angelo's Coming Retirement

Updated December 21, 2012
At a budget meeting of the Town Board on December 10, 2012, Michael Fareri surprised the public, if not the Board itself, by saying, "I understand the Police Chief will be retiring before the end of the year." 
Police Chief Bob D'Angelo said, "I am retiring on January 13, 2013 after 40 years with the North Castle Police Department and 21 years as Chief."  

At the session, Town Administrator Joan Goldberg had said that she met with Supervisor Howard Arden and Councilman John Cronin on the Friday before the final budget meeting, and that there was an "adjustment that the other three [town board members] don't know about."

At the budget session, Goldberg said after the preliminary budget was presented, "$34,000 was taken out of the police salary and benefits due to some adjustments and corrections in the salary scale." How that $34,000 grew to $190,000 in salary adjustments was discussed after the public meeting in a Town Board Executive Session. We can assume at that meeting that she, Supervisor Arden and Councilman Cronin, discussed a line item reduction of the 2013 preliminary budget that included a salary reduction of $190,000 that was mostly taken from the Police Department.

The contract with the North Castle Police Department is under negotiation and is close to being resolved. There may have been a recommendation that when and if the Police Chief retires, one of the three lieutenants of North Castle's Police Department, William Fisher, Peter Simonsen or Geoffrey Harisch, be promoted to Chief. The difference of $156,000 ($190,000 less the $34,000 already cut) may make up the difference if a lieutenant were promoted and not replaced. 

Councilman Steve D'Angelo (no relation to Chief Bob D'Angelo) said "we couldn't budget for something if we were not reasonably assured that it would happen."

Goldberg said the Police Chief's total expenses are about $217, 000 per year.  

"If the Chief is retiring, should the Town Board reduce that amount in this budget," asked Fareri?  Fareri also asked if we really need three detectives. He said maybe they should look into whether the detectives could fill the two patrolman positions that are said to be needed.  Does Fareri have privilege to information that others don't? We have seen this before when Fareri delivered the news about the signing of the CVS Pharmacy lease at the A&P Supermarket location.

After the final town budget session, Chief D'Angelo said he has worked for the North Castle Police Department for 40 years, and also said that when he plans to retire he will let us know.

With Supervisor Arden away until the New Year and Administrator Goldberg away as well, we'll have to wait until Chief D'Angelo is prepared to make a public statement to know what his retirement plans are.


North Castle Town Board Passes $28.9 Million Budget, with the Smallest Increase in Westchester County

December 13, 2012
Supervisor Howard Arden thanked Town Comptroller Faith Berland, Town Administrator Joan Goldberg and the North Castle Department supervisors and employees for their work on the 2013 budget. Arden said the budget was created for the next five years, not for the next election.  

"Some might say we could have done better," said Arden. "We all have an obligation to fix the town's problems and make tough decisions that were necessary on spending this past year, and we will continue to do that in 2013."

The 2013 budget is $250,400 less than the 2012 budget. "To my knowledge, we have the lowest increase of any town in Westchester County," said Arden. “There are no service cuts and there are new projects proposed for the 2013 budget.”  

Further reductions were made from the 2013 preliminary town budget of $29.33 million, which had been presented by Berland on November 28, 2012. The current expenses were further reduced by $418,000, bringing the budget to $28.9 million for 2013. The $418,000 in reductions was taken from the highway department and general funds. The reductions included staffing; the contingency fund; department reductions; contractual auditor’s expense; a transfer to flex-labor time and a transfer of capital funds.

The year-to-year increase in the tax levy is 1.75%. The reductions for the 2013 town budget are now $271,000 under the tax cap.

The tax-rate increase is 2.22%, or an increase of $63.86 for a median home valued at $909,000. The increase of 2.22% was reduced from 4.56% from the  the 2013 preliminary budget.  

North Castle's overall real-estate taxes are comprised of school, county and town taxes. The town budget figure is 17% of North Castle's real estate taxes. Eighty-five percent of the town budget, or $24.4 million, encompasses the general, highway and library funds. The remaining fifteen percent of the town budget consists of the special-use districts, such as fire, ambulance, water and sewer and street lights, which are taxed separately, based on the district’s usage.

In the 2012 budget, there was $800,000 in cost savings, according to Berland. The savings will be directed toward 2013-infrastructure projects, such as road maintenance; Town Hall’s and the Hergenhan Recreation Center’s roof replacements; a generator for the North White Plains Community Center; a garage lift for the Highway Department and a replacement van for senior transportation. Money will also be allocated toward the fund balance. The goal is to re-establish a triple-A-credit rating that will enable the town to fund long-term projects at lower-bond rates, said Berland. Future developers' recreation fees, as well as subdivision fees, will be used for improvement of the town's parks.

The 2013 budget was approved by Supervisor Howard Arden, Councilman John Cronin, Councilman Michael Schiliro and Councilman Steve D'Angelo. Councilwoman Diane Roth cast the only no vote, since she wanted to have no increases in the year-to-year budget. 

Fine Tuning North Castle’s Budget Numbers

December 10, 2012
The North Castle Town Board worked with the town administrator and town comptroller to finalize the budget, in preparation of the Town Board’s vote on the 2013 town budget at their  meeting on December 12. During the final budget work session on December 10, the Board trimmed several budget lines even more. The adjusted 2013 tax-rate increase was proposed at 3.26 percent, at the end of the public session.

The 2013 proposed tax-levy increase of 1.86 percent is below the allowed two-percent cap.

Town Administrator Joan Goldberg presented the line-by-line adjustments, which were based on the original preliminary budget that had been presented on November 28, 2012. Department heads were asked to cut their budgets by an additional-five percent, and the following adjustments include some of the department cuts:

    • $140,000 was removed from the contingency fund.

    • $50,000 was removed from the capital fund, assuming that 2013 capital projects would be funded from the fund balance.

    • $30,000 was removed from the auditor's line.

    • $34,000 was removed from the Police Department’s salary and benefit adjustments.

    • $25,000 was removed from the Highway Department's snow materials, sand and salt.

    • $13,000 was cut from the Park's Department’s seasonal labor fund that was earmarked for beautification.

    • $6,000 was cut for weekend Main Street garbage collection by changing town employee flextime.

    • $21,000 worth of appraisal fees was cut from the Town Assessor's budget.

    • $3,000 was cut from the Planning Department.

    • $2,000 was cut from the Tax Receiver Department.  

    • $7,000 was cut from the Recreation Department's camp bus.  

    • $2,000 was cut from the Parks Department.

    • $44,000 was added back for the code enforcer, as a full-time position.

Goldberg added, "We have more work to do. It has to be zero." “Westchester County did it and the residents can't afford any more taxes,” stressed Councilman Diane Roth. She said further salary and stipend adjustments can be made. Goldberg said an additional $500,000 to $600,000 had to be cut to keep the budget at a year-to-year zero increase.

Some past budgets during Supervisor Jack Lombardi’s terms were at zero increases, during election time. These were not always the best practices: if money from the general fund has to compensate for any budget shortfalls, it will lower the general fund’s balance, which, in turn, will affect the town's bond rating and borrowing rates.  

Roth said she wanted to see library salaries cut another five percent; currently, the proposed reduction of $19,200 in library material items is unacceptable, according to Goldberg. The job of balancing the town budget becomes a delicate issue when it must be determined which services residents are willing to give up, and at what cost.  

Supervisor Howard Arden said the newly instituted practice of job bids for the request for proposal (RFP) by both town departments and outsourcing services, going forward, should make the town's labor cost leaner, by being more competitive.

Roth suggested using the method that the Town of Greenwich utilizes: it picks up its residential brush from the roadside and grinds it at the highway department yard, rather than on the roadside. Goldberg estimates that in the future, this should be more cost efficient for North Castle, even if new  machinery must be purchased. Goldberg said this change should significantly save man-hour labor costs.

Councilman John Cronin said further staff adjustments were to be discussed upstairs at a closed executive session, immediately following the budget work session. Berland added, “They have done more work since the budget session  to further reduce the budget, and to keep the increase as low as possible.”


More Budget Reductions Under Discussion
December 6, 2012
Additional proposals were discussed at the December 2 work session of the North Castle Town Board, in an effort to lower the 2013 budget year-to-year increase. In order to achieve this goal, the Town Board must fine-tune the preliminary budget and cut an additional $184,000 in expenses.  
The “clean the street” commitment from business owners could save $8,500 in labor costs, in addition to taxes and retirement fees; this savings would necessitate Main Street business owners’ agreeing to empty the garbage cans from Main Street to the bins located in the back-parking lot, during the weekends only.
The sum of $140,000 has been reserved for town employees’ salary increases in 2012. If these raises can be deferred through union negotiations, this expense-line item could be eliminated.  
The responsibilities of the code enforcer are under consideration, with the goal of transferring them to the two assistant building inspectors at hand. The code enforcer's position may be eliminated, and the employee could be transferred to the Parks Department as a groundsman, saving a salary of $44,000.
The accounting and auditing firm of O'Connor Davies currently provides the town with yearly professional auditing services at $80,000. Goldberg says the auditor's fee should be bid out in the attempt to save $30,000. The Town Board voted in favor of this recommendation, with the intention to get bids for the town’s audit, in an effort to save $30,000.
If the above cuts are implemented, Town Administrator Joan Goldberg said the proposed cuts would not hurt the level of town services. In addition, if $50,000 is not transferred from the General Fund, as initially proposed in the preliminary budget, and if there is also a reduction of the projected assessment role of $500,000, it would accomplish the following: "a 2.5% increase in the tax levy and a 3.5% increase in the tax rate or $100 year-to-year increase for the median home," said Town Comptroller Faith Berland.
Councilwoman Diane Roth said she is concerned about staffing and would like to see a zero-percent increase.  Our biggest expense is our labor costs and further cuts may likely affect services, said  Goldberg. They would have to cut about eight positions to achieve a zero-percent increase. "Is it worth loosing these services for about the $100 per household median," asked Goldberg? The Town Board has asked the department managers to consider a further 5% cut in their budgets.
In the future, the Town Board will focus on studying the most efficient way to run the town with the right size government.
Councilman Roth asked the only two councilmen who take pension-plan benefits, Steve D'Angelo and Michael Schiliro, to forfeit their town-paid pension contributions; she feels part-time employees are not entitled to full-time benefits. The pension costs for two town board members are $9,000. D'Angelo and Schiliro agreed to consider giving up their pension benefits and will discuss it privately among members of the Town Board. Supervisor Howard Arden also asked for a 5% reduction in the Town Board salary, or about $3,600. This figure is the same percentage cut that the Town Board is asking of department managers to cut their budget.  
After Goldberg and Berland revise the proposed cuts, they will meet with the Town Board again on Monday, December 9, to continue the task of balancing the budget.

Preliminary 2013 Town Budget

December 3, 2012
For the 2013, the North Castle's Supervisor's preliminary budget is $29,318,876.  The budget was presented by Town Comptroller Faith Berland at the Town Board meeting on November 28. Berland said the proposed tax increase is currently 3.79%, or $775,515, which is $146, 274 over the allowed tax cap.

Ms. Berland says the main reason for the increase is the 18.3% of the total expenses due to state-mandated health and pension funds. There is also an 8% increase in the fixed cost expenses of the Advanced Life Support System of Emergency Management System (EMS) and in workers compensation. These four items account for 93% of the total tax increase. "We need a serious effort to control some of the health and pension costs, as was done in the Health and Benefits Manual," says Councilman John Cronin.

"Every tax increase devalues our home property values," says Supervisor Howard Arden. We are sensitive to this and there is more work to be done on the budget to keep the rate increase as low as possible." The Town Board has scheduled two more budget work sessions on December 3 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Hergenhan Recreation Center, and on December 10 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Town Hall Meeting Room. "When the final numbers are all in," Arden anticipates that "North Castle to be among the lowest percentiles of tax increases in Westchester County."  

North Castle real estate taxes are divided into three sections: 67% for school taxes, 16% for mandated county taxes and the remaining 17% are for town taxes.

$24,863,493, or 85% of the overall town budget taxes, go to three funds for the General Government, the Highway Department and the Library. The General Government fund consists of the 62% of the budget, for the Town Board, Police  Department, Parks and Recreation Department, Building Department, Town Clerk, Justice Department, Finance Department, Town Administrator, Supervisor, Planning Board and Tax Receiver, and Assessor for a total $18,138,658. The Highway Fund is 17% of the budget at $5,034,751. The Library is 6% of the overall budget at $1,690,084.

The taxes for special districts make up the other 15% of the budget. The special tax districts are separate and independent of the town taxes and the payments for the special districts come from the residents who live in each of the districts. The taxes from these districts include $888, 417 for fire departments and ambulances,  $1,733,730 for the water districts, and $1,833, 236 for sewer districts.  

The property tax cap calculation is regulated by the state. In 2012, North Castle increased the tax levy by only 1.23%, or $249,000 said Ms. Berland. The adjustment for the calculation of property tax cap takes into account the prior year, so for 2013 there is an allowance for North Castle for a $629,241 increase, or 3.07% growth in levied taxes. The supervisor's preliminary budget calls for a $775,515, or 3.79%, tax increase, which exceeds the allowed tax cap by  $146,274. Berland says this increase is primarily due to the mandated increases in pension and health care costs, which total $660,000, or 85% of the total growth in the budget. These mandated expenses alone exceed the tax cap.  

In 2013 North Castle's real estate property taxes will increase 6.26%, to $24,863,493. A Fund Balance contribution can be used to balance the budget. This contribution from our reserves will decrease 75% from the 2012 contribution of $200,000, to a proposed $50,000 in 2013. Berland says the reason to keep the Fund Balance contribution low is to maintain a higher fund balance so the town can receive the highest Triple A bond rating, which in turn will give us the best rates for borrowing funds. This is done by keeping the Fund Balance at 10 to 20% of the budget. The latest balance of the combined funds was listed for 2011 at $3,226,019, or 13.60% of expenditures.

The real estate property tax rates are determined by the assessed evaluations of North Castle properties. The real estate property taxes will increase 4.31% even though the total assessed values declined slightly, by .24%. This leaves us with a real estate property tax increase of 4.56%.

The general town tax rate is based on a (2012) $909,000 median market value home. The new proposed increase in general tax rates would impact homes as follows:  

$2,876 for the  2012 General Taxes
$3,008 for the 2013 General Taxes
(The home assessment value in 2012 was $18,900)

The total average tax increase per house from 2012 to 2013 will be $131.28.

Additional non-property tax revenues are available to North Castle. Pilot Program revenues are payments in lieu of taxes from North Castle's corporations that have special tax agreements that make up 11% of the tax revenue. These corporations are IBM and Swiss Re. 27% of the levies are from Westchester County sales taxes and fees, and 8% of the levies are from mortgage taxes. The largest percentage is 28%, from town clerk fees, recreation fees, re-billables for police side jobs and cable franchise fees. Licenses and permits from the Building Department, Town Clerk's office and Parks and Recreation Department make up 6%.  Lastly, revenues from fines and forfeitures from the courts, and interest income on fund investments and state aid, is 19%.

North Castle staffing personnel costs a total of $11,499,709, or 61% of the expense side of the budget. In 2007, the total number of North Castle employees was 165. By 2013 we will have had a reduction of 19% (134 employees) a total of 31 fewer  employees. 118 of those employees are full-time, while 16 are part-time.