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White Plains to Vote on Proposed Budget Monday

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The White Plains Common Council will vote on the proposed 2012-2013 budget at its meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The council has held a series of six budget work sessions over the last month, in which it met with all department heads to review their expenses. At the final work session May 14 , Michael Genito, city commissioner of finance, identified increased funds and savings that have reduced the proposed property tax-rate increase from 5 percent to 4.75 percent. For the median property, the tax bill will increase $112 instead of $118, Genito said.

"Anything we can do to reduce the tax rate is also important," Councilman Benjamin Boykin said May 14. "But we have to keep in mind that we have to not only look at the year we're going into but what will be happening in the subsequent year, especially with the tax cap. We set the base, and by setting the base moving forward, you then will be impacting the amount of tax increases that you can have to stay within the cap in future years. It is a new paradigm that we're living under and we need to be very careful."

Genito told the council that the city's estimated sales tax revenue increased by $100,000 from $1.15 million to approximately $1.25 million, based on updated information not available when the proposed budget was released April 2 .

The city also saved $26,000 through benefit changes due to employee turnover, and $50,000 in in electricity costs due to the installation of LED traffic lights and signals combined with Con Edison credits for the use of LED bulbs.

A state grant funding the Youth Bureau's after school Excel Program has run out, forcing the city to pick up $44,000 to cover the shortfall. Genito said fees for the program will also have to increase.

"The Excel grant expired, but that, in of itself, would not be a reason to cut off this valuable service," Councilman David Buchwald said at the May 14 meeting. "I think it's crucial that we continue it. Most of the additional service is paid for through user fees and charges for the families who participate in it."

Higher fees may also accompany expanded services, as originally proposed in the budget, such as those for summer camp, youth tennis programs, and the youth bureau’s after-school connection program.

All of the changes made to the proposed budget result in an approximately $283,000 increase in the the city's general fund revenues - other than the $50.8 million tax levy - from $101.4 million to $101.7 million, and an approximately $159,000 increase in appropriations from $152.4 million to $152.5 million.

"It is a stable budget, it is a conservative budget," Genito said. "It preserves the level of services and, at the same time, provides for very reasonable revenues and very reasonable expenditures.

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