YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Tempers flared Tuesday night between Yorktown Town Board members before they agreed on a 2013 budget that raises the town tax rate by 4.17 percent but stays within the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap and ultimately lowers residents' bills.
To off-set the rising “Town Tax” line on residents’ bills, the board dipped into its fund balance and reduced the budget of its water, sewer and refuse districts, which are included in the tax cap.
Yorktown has 28 different taxing districts or funds, and each has its own budget and tax rate. A resident’s total town tax bill depends on how many districts he or she lives in.
Residents living in the water and sewer districts will see an average decrease of $62.94, or 3.26 percent, according to council member Terrence Murphy.
Residents without sewer or water will see an average decrease of $1.05, or 0.21 percent.
The water budget will decrease because of $750,000 in fund balance that is being used, and the refuse district dropped because of a new garbage pickup contract that was nearly $700,000 less than in 2012.
The argument between board members about how the town reached its final numbers. Council member Nick Bianco said it wasn’t fair to take away from the special districts because the town was unable to keep its general fund down.
“What you’re committing here is grand larceny in the first degree,” Bianco said. “You’re stealing money from the special districts.”
Supervisor Michael Grace said the budget was fair because the special districts pay a fair share of the town’s administrative services – such as department head and police department salaries.
“You’ve been charging the districts too little for too long,” Grace said.
The board compromised by using an additional $185,000 from the fund balance and will raise the special districts’ contributions by 6 percent.
Grace said the general fund increased 4.17 percent because of town settlements with the Police Benevolent Association and the Civil Service Employees Association.
“Everybody says it’s historically high, but I don’t know the last time the town settled four years of PBA contracts,” said Grace, who said he believes the town will be in good shape heading into 2014 because the settlements are no longer back-logged.
The CSEA agreement resulted in a 3-percent salary increase for most department heads. Other employees, however, saw a larger increase.
The salaries of elected officials will stay flat despite a consensus from the board that they are too low. Currently, Grace is paid $112,095 and each council member makes $18,085.
“I think we could go to WalMart and probably make more,” said Bianco, who estimated that council members make $11.30 per hour.
The tentative 2013 budget opens for a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Yorktown Town Hall.