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Contractual Costs Alone May Put Pleasantville Over Tax Cap

The village board began discussions about addressing costs this week.

With approximately $120,000 more in contractual salary obligations going into next year, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said the village may already be looking at exceeding the state-mandated 2 percent tax rate increase.

"The bill from Albany consumes three-quarters of the levy under the tax cap," he said.

In addition to the estimated additional contract costs, Triborough Amendment mandates could add another $150,000 in pension payouts to the village's bill in 2012.

"Those two numbers added together suggest that we are at the moment already $200,000 over the cap without having changed a thing," said Scherer.

As a municipality, a simple majority board vote can override the cap, but the trustees focused discussion on other options during Monday's work session.

"We can cut programs, raid the fund balance," he suggested. "Another way is to increase fees because you can increase fees until the cows come home and it doesn't affect the tax levy."

Scherer said raising fees could be detrimental to businesses and the community at large and added, "As far as I'm concerned, raiding the fund balance is not on the table."

"Other towns have done things like stop leaf collection," pointed out Trustee Brian Skarstad. "Another option is increasing the cost of water. I'm not in favor of that, but I'm just saying, it's not like we have a host of options."

Trustee Mindy Berard agreed, "You have to talk about cutting essential services."

Scherer further stated each of the village buget's funds has an independent cap.

"Refuse would be separate because of the separate base," said Village Administrator Patti Dwyer. "Water has nothing to do with the 2 percent cap."

Said Scherer, "The point of this discussion is to make clear what we have on the table," adding, "With a people-driven budget, it starts to come down to the point of, where do you save $200,000?"

Deputy Mayor Jonathan Cunningham agreed the village should look at its employee contracts as a possible place for cost savings.

"This kind of discussion creates a very good template to gauge these discussions in a realistic manner because we've done the work," he suggested. "We need to have a realistic dialogue with them."

While there is much discussion to be had as the 2012 budget begins to take shape, Scherer said, "It's a useful starting point of the discussion. Perhaps the best aspect of the cap is it presents an opportunity for everyone to get the idea they need to reign in their expectations."

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