Taxes for Rye Town residents should actually go down slightly based on the preliminary budget for 2014.
The Town's $2.9 million budget is a 7% decrease from last year's spending plan and requires slightly less money to be raised by taxes than in 2013.
"Ultimately I think there's a real need for good government and I think we [his administration] fulfill that need," said Town Supervisor Joe Carvin. "It's a far better level of service six years on, really, at close to half the cost."
All budgetary decisions were made in conjunction with the department heads, rather than solely by the town board. For example, residential inspections, at the recommendation of Town Assessor Denise Knauer, have been eliminated from the proposed budget, a savings of $67,500.
"It's a fairly hefty expense for us, and you have to look at what we were getting," Carvin said.
The town decided to start doing home inspections in 2012 to enhance the quality of their assessment roll. Homeowners are not required to allow the staff inside and only about half agreed to the inspections. In order for it to be effective, the town needed access to 80 or 90%. Another reason to discontinue the practice is that initially the town had hoped the local municipalities would agree to chip in as they would also be benefiting. As that did not happen, the town had to foot the entire
bill. Finally, the quality of aerial photography has greatly increased over the years.
Using the aerial photography, as well as street-level photos and inspections when homes are sold, the Town of Rye will be able to maintain its assessment roll the same as most other towns that have undergone revaluation do.
Other budgetary savings come from the decision to sell the town office building at 10 Pearl St. and rent space at 222 Grace Church St. from the Village of Port Chester instead.
"The proposed move is going to affect the budget: the day to day costs, the maintenance," said Deputy Supervisor William Villanova. "Everything we have to provide for year after year for 10 Pearl St. is going to be minimized."
Since the move will likely not be completed until April, the savings are not fully realized in the proposed budget. The total operation of the buildings' line item only drops by about $3,000, but that difference will be greater in
the 2015 budget. If all savings are taken into account, Carvin expects the town to
eventually save about $50,000 a year. Furthermore, there would have been a huge increase in expenditures if the town had stayed at 10 Pearl St. in order to fix up the building. Even if operational costs
stay the same, there are no new costs that taxpayers will have to foot like there would have been if the town had not moved.
"If we were to stay here, the taxpayers would have been picking up another bill," Villanova said.
In addition to selling Town Hall, another increase in revenue comes from the expected uptick in houses sold in town which means an increase of about $125,000 in mortgage taxes.
"We can estimate what we think the mortgage tax is, estimate what we think revenue will be based on prior years' growth," Villanova said. "The information that we've reviewed shows that there's going to be an increase."
The money allotted for the parks continued to drop further after last's year's dip following the elimination of the three parks employees last December. Decisions made then are still impacting the budget now as the "benefit to taxpayers works its way down," Villanova said.
Part of that impact is shown in the funds set aside for unemployment insurance. With the seven total positions cut last year, $95,000 was put into that line item. This year the amount has been decreased to only $10,000.
In the spending plan, only about $80,000 has been drawn from the fund balance, a pittance compared to the $800,000 in 2011. The town board had considered drawing about the same as the $365,000 used for the 2013 budget, which would have brought the amount raised by taxes to zero, but decided continuing to deplete the fund balance was not a fiscally sound move to make.
When Carvin got elected, he promised not to take a salary until the tax rate was zero. Although the preliminary budget passed out at the budget hearing on Nov. 12 included $17,400 for the supervisor, Carvin said it was there from when they were considering drawing more from the fund balance. Since they opted not to do so, he said he will once again forgo that money and it will be removed before the budget is adopted at the town board meeting on Dec. 17.
"We're really trying our best to make solid and sound decisions year after year and month after month," Villanova said. "We're still striving to get to zero. We've been reducing taxes year after year."