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White Plains Council Passes $152.5 Million Budget

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The White Plains Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to adopt the $152.5 million proposed general fund operating budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 at a special meeting.

The budget represents a 4.75 percent hike in taxes, which translates to a $112 increase for the average property. Owners will be taxed $184.92 per $1,000 of their assessed property value under the proposed budget.

A $2.6 million drop in the assessed value of White Plains properties to $275.7 million accounts for approximately 1 percent of the tax rate hike.

While health care costs remained at around the same level at $20 million, the city's employee pension contributions increased $2.9 million, adding another 2.5 percent to the tax bill.

"In a year when we're handed a bill from New York State for $2.9 million extra, that's a 25 percent increase in pension costs, along with a similar increase in our insurance costs, coupled with a significant loss in assessables, we find ourselves with the equivalent of an approximately 10 percent property tax increase before we even get into the city's operating budget," Council member John Martin said.

Still, the city's largest expense remains wages at $69.8 million. In the budget, the council eliminated 16 unfilled positions, and would have the smallest work force in 30 years, Mayor Thomas Roach said.

To counteract these significant increases in the city's mandated expenses, the council appropriated $5 million from its contingency and tax stabilization fund to use on the budget. Without that $5 million, Council member Milagros Lecuona said the tax rate would have been approximately 15 percent.

"Certainly the creation of the tax stabilization fund has alleviated this increase somewhat and will certainly assist in the future," Martin said.

The city's sales tax revenue increased $1.25 million and it did not use debt services as a financing source to pay for tax certioraris nor pension costs.

Through a consent agenda, the council also adopted the Operating Budgets for the Library Fund, Self-Insurance Fund, Water Fund and Sewer Rent Fund and approved the budget for the Debt Service Fund and the City’s Business Improvement District (WP BID).

The city offered the following highlights from the budget in a press release:

Highlights of the 2012-13 Adopted Budget:

  • Fiscally Responsible. This budget includes realistic estimates of revenue, does not fund tax certioraris with debt; does not incur debt to fund the City’s pension costs; and does not rely on an artificial “spin up” of state aid. This not only means that the City’s fiscal house is in order, but that the City is not taking actions today that would only serve to weaken it financially in the future.
  • Stable Bond Rating. White Plains’ fiscally conservative approach to budgeting has resulted in the reaffirmation of its very favorable bond rating of Aa1 by Moody’s. This occurs at a time when many municipalities have seen their bond rating downgraded.

Programmatic Highlights – Doing More with Less:

  • This past winter, the Department of Recreation & Parks took over the skate rental concession at Ebersole Ice Rink. Not only has this change resulted in operating efficiencies and budget savings, but the quality of the service received by the public at this popular facility has improved.
  • The Department of Recreation & Parks continuously evaluates its program offerings to ensure that they are most responsive to residents’ needs. This year, the Department will offer expanded youth sports introductory programming to pre-school children, it will continue to offer programming options to children with special needs and for the first time, the Department will sponsor a “Community Camp Out,” an overnight camping opportunity for families at Delfino Park in September.
  • The White Plains Public Library will expand its hours starting on July 1, 2012.  As a result of efficiencies gained through a partnership with the Westchester Library System and through the utilization of new technology, as well as an internal reorganization, the Library will be able to expand its current open hours by 20 percent.
  • The Youth Bureau will continue to offer, at the same level, all of its services including the popular after school centers and youth employment services.
  • The Department of Public Safety has utilized technology to create efficiencies by expanding the public’s access to reports and information online. It will also continue to offer two important and successful community outreach events: National Night Out and the Citizen’s Police Academy. Both of these focus on Public Safety’s interaction with the community with the aim of  maintaining and strengthening that relationship.
  • The Department of Public Works will expand its pilot program utilizing automated side loader garbage trucks. The City of White Plains is the only municipality in Westchester County that is using these single operator trucks for collection of garbage and recyclables. This program started last year as a pilot in certain neighborhoods and has been well received. It will be expanded later this year to additional neighborhoods.
  • The pilot program begun in 2011-2012 to combine the maintenance crews from the Departments of Parking and Traffic will continue, as it has resulted in more efficient provision of street and parking lot striping, sign fabrication and installation, and general maintenance activities.
  • Cost savings resulting from the replacement of the City’s traffic lights with LED bulbs is now being realized. This change over is expected to save the City $50,000/year starting with the 2012-13 budget. Additional savings will be realized with the replacement of the City’s street lights with LED’s, which will commence this year.
  • Cost savings are also being realized through the implementation by the City’s Information Services Department of Voice Over Internet Provider (VOIP) technology which reduces telephone costs.

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