At its Dec. 1 meeting, the town board held a public hearing on the preliminary 2021 town budget. There were only two public speakers at the hearing, and neither one challenged the budget, which was then adopted.
The board also heard a presentation on the 2021 Capital Spending Plan and discussed a proposed gasoline powered leaf blower ban.
“This is my 13th budget and my seventh as supervisor, and actually my last, and every budget posed challenges — none more than this year’s,” said Supervisor Chris Burdick. “When the pandemic hit, our paramount concern, as it is now, was the health and safety of our community. The town board authorized $50,000 for emergency expenses associated with battling the virus and then authorized a further expenditure of up to $50,000.”
Mr. Burdick said that while federal disaster relief will reimburse a portion of those funds, the greatest fiscal impact to the town has been the precipitous decline in revenue streams, including parking, fines and forfeited bail. “Just look at the commuter lots any weekday morning,” he said, as evidence of the loss of revenue.
Conservative budgeting for several years has allowed the town to end each year with a slight surplus, said Mr. Burdick. “That certainly will not be the case this year,” he said, noting that Comptroller Abraham Zambrano estimates the town will be forced to appropriate from fund balances or reserves to meet its 2020 obligations.
“With that experience fully in mind and recognizing that 2021 also may be a challenging year fiscally,” Mr. Burdick went on, “our preliminary budget is quite conservative as it takes no funds from reserves.” He said the town was staying within the state property tax cap, while also maintaining a high level of services. “We are meeting all of our obligations under our agreements with our bargaining units and there are no layoffs,” said Mr. Burdick.
Total budget appropriations for all departments come to $40,693,598; projected non-tax revenues are $13,841,975, or 7.47% lower than in 2020, which Mr. Zambrano said was a direct effect of the pandemic. The tax levy of $26,851,623, an increase of $886,296, or 34%, is $19,407 below the state Tax Levy Cap.
Mr. Zambrano noted that anticipated expenditures will increase just $30,000 over 2020.
Among the highlighted budget changes from 2020 are an increase in water rates (offset in part by a decrease in the tax); a reduction to zero in state aid to municipalities; and a modest increase in rental income from the postal service for the Bedford Hills post office.
The budget also includes increases in premiums for health insurance; an increase in retiree health insurance due to retirements; an increase in contributions to the New York state retirement system; scheduled increases under collective bargaining agreements; and 5% increases for administrators and non-union employees.
There is a decrease in anticipated overtime for the police department, accompanied by an increase in the allocation for police training. Also anticipated is an increase for paramedic services, and an increase to the Building Department for a part-time assistant building inspector.
The budget contains $425,000 less in the paving budget, but that is partially offset with a $200,000 increase in the capital plan for paving.
Also scheduled is a one-quarter of one percent allocation to the Open Space fund, bringing the total levy to 1.75%. A final one-quarter of one percent increase in 2022 would bring the total Open Space levy to 2.0%.
Mr. Burdick thanked Mr. Zambrano and his staff, along with department heads and fellow board members, for “their patience and perseverance in working through budget scenario after budget scenario after budget scenario” during the budget development process.
Mr. Zambrano proposed adjustments to the 2021 portion of the town’s 10-year capital plan, which covers 2020 through 2029. He said the project list was circulated to department heads to update as necessary.
Chief of Police Melvin Padilla updated the cost to replace police vehicles from $130,000 to $140,000, in order to be in compliance with the updated procurement policy enacted to be consistent with the town’s Climate Action Plan. The CAP calls for vehicles replaced after Sept. 1, 2020, to be replaced with energy efficient or zero emission vehicles.
Other additions included $125,000 for the acquisition of land and related costs for the new parking lot in Bedford Village, and $15,000 in funding for preliminary planning for Sewer District Phase III. As noted, $425,000 initially proposed for road rehabilitation was increased to $625,000 in order to make up for reductions in the Highway Fund’s operating budget due to the pandemic. Mr. Zambrano said this additional funding is essential in the town’s efforts to continue its townwide road work.
Another addition was $950,000 for the renovations to the Bedford Hills Community House, based on the updated scope of that project. The town board approved and awarded a contract for the work in October.
In June 2019, the board had approved and awarded a contract for the construction of the Adams Street maintenance building, which included authorization to borrow $230,000 to finance the project. A bond resolution was not included at the time the board approved the issuance of bonds for other capital projects. That resolution has been added to the 2021 capital plan.