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White Plains Budget Adopted, Reduces Tax Rate With Reserves

The White Plains Common Council adopted the 2013-2014 budget Thursday night.
The White Plains Common Council adopted the 2013-2014 budget Thursday night. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The average city homeowner will pay $97 more in property taxes, or 3.9 percent, in the coming year after the city adopted its $157.8 million budget Thursday night.

The budget originally called for a 4.2 percent tax rate increase, or $104. But the common council appropriated $5.1 million from the city’s contingency and tax stabilization reserve fund to lower the tax rate increase of $7.27 over last year to $191.74 per $1,000 in assessed valuation.

“This budget continues the city’s conservative fiscal practices,” Beth Smayda, council president, said in a statement. “The City will need to continue to look for operating efficiencies as it has over the last few years to ensure moderation in the property tax and provision of quality services.”

The adopted budget complies with the state-mandated property tax cap and will collect a total of $53.9 million in property taxes, which accounts for one-third of the funds needed to run the city.

Before adopting the budget, each council member highlighted the city’s recent upgrade in outlook by Moody’s Investors Services from negative to stable. Moody’s also reaffirmed the city’s Aa1 credit rating.

“This is the second budget in a row we have not bonded for tax certioraris or pension payments as many are forced to do,” John Martin, councilman, said. “This was highlighted by Moody’s when they moved our outlook from negative to stable.”

Other highlights of the 2013-2014 budget include:

  • Service levels maintained and library hours restored on Thursday nights;
  • Assessed value is up by $2.1 million to $277.7 million for the second time in 10 years. This creates about $417,000 in revenue.
  • Pension payments increased by $2 million, or 13 percent, which is responsible for 99.7 percent of the property tax increase.

“This budget contains no gimmicks or one-shots," Mayor Thomas Roach said in a statement. "We were able to trim expenses by identifying operating efficiencies and creative ways to provide services, and by carefully monitoring our expenses.”

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 went to arbitration in April with its police and fire unions, which had been working without a contract since 2010. The state-appointed arbitration panel sided with the city, requiring retirees hired before 1995, as well as current and retired elected and appointed officials, to start paying 15 percent of their health care premiums in retirement effective when a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated.

If the arbitrators sided with the police and fire unions, it may have granted retro-active salary increases. In that scenario, the city may have been forced to explore savings through personnel cuts.

The adopted budget has no cuts to city staff.

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