Mayor Leo Wiegman’s remarks at Village’s 2011 Annual Organizational Meeting
04 April 2011
As we conclude organizing ourselves officially for the next Village year, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on some of the changes underway.
First, our official Village’s organizational year used to run from noon on the first Monday in April for 12 months to the next first Monday in April. But the Village year that began at noon today will run for 20 months from today until the first Monday in December 2012.
After that, the official organizational year will run for 12 months again from December through December. This change is precipitated by the referendum results of last month in which the residents of Croton voted overwhelmingly to move our elections from March to November.
This shift raises other potential opportunities for change. Should we move the start of the Village’s fiscal year from June 1st to January 1st? If we did so, future budget adoptions will more closely align with the future boards who will–henceforth–be elected in early November. For example, a Village fiscal year January to December would match the Town of Cortlandt’s fiscal year. Perhaps, it will be easier to share services with the Town if our fiscal years line up.
Beyond that, I see a clear benefit to eliminating the duplicate Village and Town assessment rolls. Every property in the Village has a property tax record card here in Village Hall and a different record in Town Hall. As we digitize those records, it makes a lot of sense to adopt one consolidated tax assessment roll serving Town, the School Districts, and Village. Other areas of possible consolidation or service sharing are possible and may have even bigger long term savings for Village taxpayers.
Coming out of the recent election, I do have a few thoughts about what I see as the priorities that so many residents expressed to me and my running mates.
First and foremost, sound fiscal policy and proactive financial management of the Village coffers is very important to Croton’s residents. As you know, we did keep a lid on spending and therefore on taxes in the past 2 years. Yet, this year the unfunded state mandates for retirement and health care contributions alone have skyrocketed over last year’s costs. Those increases means hundreds of thousands of extra dollars that we have to pay for in 2011-2012.
In short, the proposed Village budget for 2011-2012 will require very hard choices, if we are–once again–to keep a lid on our Village tax rate. In addition, we will need to begin examining some new potential efficiencies now in order that they might be available for the 2013 budget year.
No area of the Village budget will be spared from this scrutiny.
And, just for the record, speaking strictly for myself, I do favor the Governor’s proposal that public employees begin contributing something toward their own retirement plans. But those policies are not yet in place to help us this year.
And, for the record again, I strongly oppose the Governor’s proposal for a 2% cap on school district and local government tax levies–unless the Governor and legislature provide relief from the unfunded mandates, or exempt retirement contributions from the cap. In Croton’s case, the retirement contribution increase for 2011-12 alone is $323,000. This translates into a 3% tax levy increase all by itself, and more than exceeds the 2% cap passed by the State Senate last month.
Second, we heard over and over again that working together to help stimulate economic development that is well-suited to the scale of our Village was very important to Croton residents. Homeowners would like to see commercial property ratables expand to help shift some of the Village, Town, and School tax burden off the shoulders of residents. And business owners would like less red tape, and more green tape, in figuring out whether their plans would be well-received or able to be undertaken in a reasonable time frame. We hear you both loud and clear.
Third, we heard over and over again from Croton residents that they like being heard and are not shy about speaking up–both informally as well in more formal ways–at meetings as well as on the sidewalk. With that communication in mind, I hope we will be able to restore the mailing out of our Village newsletters. On a broader scale, the informed and engaged citizenry that we have in Croton is one big reason why we have so many active citizen volunteers serving on our 14 or 15 boards and advisory committees.
In fact, this list has grown such that we were only able to nominate and appoint a few of these citizen volunteers tonight. We will look forward to hearing some residents who would like to be considered for one of the openings, such as the Planning Board, the Visual Environment Board, and the Conservation Advisory Council. My goal is to complete the appointment process in the next 2 weeks and present them to the Board on 19 April, our next Regular Meeting after tonight.
In sum, we hope to deliver to you, the residents and business owners of Croton, sound financial policy, proactive economic development efforts, and ongoing communications to help keep us engaged with each other on the matters at hand.
Thank you, and now we’ll close this Annual Organizational Meeting, and shift to the Regular Meeting Agenda for April 4th, 2011.