Town of Rye looks to keep 2024 spending hikes minor
Proposed budget still up in the air, but expected to see small increases compared to current year
November 16, 2023 at 2:08 a.m.
The Town of Rye made its preliminary 2024 budget proposal public as the clerk, Hope Vespia, presented it to the council at their meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Following last year’s tax levy increase of 2.3%, the town is aiming to keep with the trend of staying below the state-mandated tax levy cap, which Town Comptroller David Byrnes confirmed has been set at 2%.
Though the tax rate hasn’t been calculated yet, both Rye Town Supervisor Gary Zuckerman and Byrnes made it clear that tax cap-compliance is a priority.
The tentative budget projects revenue in 2024 to be $6.9 million, an increase of only $15,000 compared to the adopted 2023 budget. However, Byrnes stated that this probably won’t be the case in the final iteration.
“It’s only a tentative budget, a lot can change,” he said. As the spending proposal currently stands, the Town of Rye lists the tax levy for next year to be the same as it was this year, a total of $3.7 million. Byrnes said it’s likely the number will increase, though not by much.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 14, Byrnes was predicting that property owners could expect a $115,000 levy increase by the time the final budget is adopted.
Per the proposal, the town is anticipating a substantial revenue spike coming from sources outside of property taxes. While the 2023 spending plan predicted to see $25,000 made in its earnings from investments, in 2024 the town projects to make $325,000 due to low tax receivables this year.
The only other budget-to-budget change in revenue the preliminary spending plan indicates is a decrease of $285,000 in interest and penalties, which Byrnes says is part of a national trend. Apart from that, the revenue lines seem stable. Crawford Park is again budgeted to accrue $250,000 next year, and the town expects to receive the same amount of state aid, approximately $320,000.
The proposed increase in spending for 2024 only adds $17,000 to the total, adding up to $7.25 million. Though expenditures are also expected to see adjustments by the time the budget is finalized, town officials are looking to keep that increase as low as possible.
“We’re looking at minimizing expenses,” Zuckerman said. “What guides us for that is keeping in mind the needs of the town and providing services as efficiently as possible.” And it would seem the projected budget is keeping in line with that tactic.
The expenses budgeted thus far for 2024 see minor changes across the board. The legislative office sees no change, slated to operate at a cost of almost $28,000. In that same vein, the law department is budgeted to need $500,000 and the special recreational facilities funding Rye Town Park expenditures will continue to cost $100,000.
Employment costs, however, will likely swell in the final budget. Staff benefits are expected to be greater than the $930,000 the document currently plans for, as will the pay for some workers.
Final salary increases had yet to be finalized as of Wednesday, Nov. 15, but Byrnes expects to see raises for several town employees across different departments. However, as of this week, Zuckerman’s compensation of nearly $32,000 was not one of them. Neither were the salaries of the town council members, each of which is almost $6,400. Salaries were a hotly debated issue during the Rye Town election campaign the past few months, as the elected officials had been giving themselves a series of raises in the last few years.
Since 2020, their pay has increased steadily, with the largest jump occurring that year.
Byrnes said it’s safe to assume that pay increases for some employees are coming, but he added the town will try to compensate for those additional costs by cutting expenses where they can.
“Where there are increases in department salaries and other line items, we’re looking to offset them as necessary,” he said.
To make up for the $355,000 difference between its projected revenues and expenditures, the Town of Rye will be dipping into its fund balance. Thus far, officials predict to set aside $162,000 to help with the town’s $977,000 bond payments for next year, while the remaining $193,000 will be used for other expenses.
Byrnes said the town will be using some of the just over $4 million in reserve funds to keep the tax increase for the year low.
The current tentative spending plan for 2024 is one that sees very little change from this year, though it’s likely many alterations will come in the coming weeks as the council meets for budget workshops.
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the Crawford Mansion Community Center, a public hearing will be opened, giving the community the opportunity to provide input. Residents of the town are encouraged to attend the meeting to present the board with their concerns and questions about the budget.
The hearing will stay open until the Dec. 14 meeting, where the council will vote to adopt the budget for next year, at the same time and place.