With George Hoehmann
Town of Clarkstown
As I look back of the last 21 months of my Administration, I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that has been made. For the first time in over thirty years we have cut property taxes – alleviating some of the pressure on our already overburdened residents and businesses.
We worked with our state representatives and Governor Cuomo to pass legislation for Clarkstown that limits the State calculated shifts between residential and commercial property tax classes to allow certainty for our residents.
Spending has gone down through the elimination of appointed positions and reducing the stipends to our boards and commissions. Working with the Clarkstown Police Administration and the PBA, together we were able to implement some of the recommendations of the Bonadio Report. In total, we were able to reduce total spending by roughly $4 million.
We have reduced borrowing by deploying a simple strategy of retiring more of our debt than what we issue in each year. As a result, according to our most recent audit our debt has been reduced by $4.3 million. Our audit further shows that our total town surplus is on the rise.
We have utilized new technology to convert our town owned street lights to LEDs. Through the purchase and retrofitting of the lighting system, we were able to achieve another $1 million in savings.
It’s a good start, but as I have said to many citizen groups, it takes some time to turn a battleship around. And challenges remain.
While this Tentative 2018 Budget builds on our fundamental commitment to the residents of Clarkstown to reduce their property taxes and cut spending the yearly contractual increases imposed by the 2015 CSEA contracts makes holding the line on spending very challenging.
The CSEA contract calls for a 2.5 percent increase in salaries across the board. When steps and longevities are added to that equation, that percentage increases in excess of 5 percent. Not including police salaries, that’s over $1 million.
Revenues for 2018 are kept consistent with 2017 and, with very few exceptions, remain flat. Additionally, we are being cautious with revenue as there are multiple opportunities for other revenues in FY 2018 that are intentionally left out of the budget.
The net result of the Tentative Budget for 2018 is a 0 percent increase over 2017. In two short years– taxes have gone down, spending has gone down and debt has gone down. We are righting our fiscal house.
We are achieving this through the following:
Ø We will be presenting CSEA employees with a Retirement Incentive Program that will reduce overall spending by $1.5 million
Ø We are implementing a partial hiring freeze only filling limited and critical vacancies.
Ø We are reducing the Town Council salaries by 10 percent
Ø We are reducing other elected officials salaries by 2 percent
Ø A Land Lease agreement is underway for $500,000 in revenue
Ø We are working with departments to hold the line on overtime
Ø We have made additional and significant cuts to operational spending
on travel, non contractual meals, furniture etc.
Clarkstown’s fiscal house is getting better and we are moving in the right direction. I’m proud that with the help and consultation of everyone at Town Hall, my colleagues on the Board, and our residents we have begun to turn the tide. Together, we are making the future of our town more secure for future generations.