This story was updated on Monday night after the Cedarhurst Board of Trustee's monthly meeting.
The has approved a $6,082,539 budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year that raises taxes by 5.9 percent, an increase necessitated by government mandated expenses, members of the board of trustees said on Monday.
Expenses such as benefits for full-time village employees are primarily what continues to drive up the budget, trustees said. At $1,568,200, employee benefits are the single largest expense in the 2011-12 budget. The revenue that comes in from this latest increase totals about $82,000 and will pay for about half of the mandated expenses.
“Our pension and health insurance [costs] are going up over $150,000, and we’ve got contractual raises," Cedarhurst Treasurer Sal Evola said. "About 10 years ago, the village’s annual contribution for the pension system was $103,000, but this year it will be $219,000. Health insurance is another uncontrolled increase in our general budget. The increase is $85,000.”
Some of these benefits cover not only active employees, but retired employees as well.
“If we could do the budget without raising taxes, we would,” Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise said.
The general tenor at a budget session last Wednesday was a feeling of a job well done by the board in their effort to keep village standards high, while keeping tax burdens for residents fairly low.
“We’ve probably got the best services of any village around, and we’ve got one of the lowest tax rates in the county,” Trustee Ari Brown said.
Fire protection service, which is contracted with the , accounts for about 10 percent of the budget, at a cost of more than a half a million dollars this year. Another huge village expense is sewer plant maintenance, which is just under a million dollars.
Board members claimed that they are able to keep taxes from skyrocketing because a sizeable part of village revenue comes from other sources, such as court fines, parking meters, licenses, permits and rental income.
“Only one quarter of our revenue comes from tax dollars, which you probably don’t see in most places," Deputy Mayor Benjamin Weinstock said. "Most municipalities raise an overwhelming portion of their budget from tax revenue.”
“Some of our money comes from government grants," he said. "There are different programs available that cover some of the cost of road improvements, sidewalk improvements and municipal beautification. The mayor is very good at finding all these programs and getting money into the village, so we don’t have to tax our residents.”
Brown added, “Our maintenance is far superior to other areas.”
Even the popular concert series in the park is funded by private donations, which cover the entertainment, equipment and cleanup, village officials said.
Another challenge to keeping taxes down is Cedarhurst’s population increase over the years, board members said, which is now at 6,592 residents, up from the 2000 total of 6,164, according to the .
“There are more people in the village that require service," Weinstock said. "There are more people that need ambulances, park services, recreation and sewage usage.”
All in all, board members said they feel that residents are pleased with their fiscal responsibility.
“We had our tax grievance night in February," Brown said, "and we had a crowd of zero, which we have every year.”