Town of Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi and Town Comptroller Glen Cestaro, proudly announced the Supervisor’s proposed 2012 budget Tuesday afternoon, which would raise taxes about $36 next year for the average property owner. Village of Buchanan property owners will pay about $6 more in town taxes and Croton residents will pay about $10 more under the proposal.
The proposed $36,457,752 budget represents a 1.5 percent tax ($350,000) increase on the tax levy, keeping Cortlandt below the New York State 2 percent property tax cap mandate.
"We are our own tax cappers," Puglisi boasted of her twenty-year record of low taxes.
Over the last twenty years during which Puglisi has been Supervisor the town tax has increased less than one percent, keeping the budget at about $36 million each year. For ten years, there was a 0 percent town tax increase, in 1999 there was a four percent reduction and over the last few years the town tax has not increased by more than a 2.8 percent rate.
Puglisi attributes low taxes to the Town’s efforts to utilize shared services. By eliminating the town’s small police department in the mid-1990s, the Town has saved about $1.5 million a year, if not more, Puglisi said.
The Town has also consolidated departments to create the Department of Environmental Services, Department of Technical Services, the Northern Westchester Tier Coalition and Northern Westchester Joint Water Works.
“We have saved about $20 million (by having shared services),” Puglisi said. “Early on – before it became fashionable.”
Puglisi also emphasized the Town’s Fund Balance (reserve fund), which has tripled over the last 20 years, from $5 million in 1992 to $15 million today.
“We want to make sure we have enough money available for emergencies like Hurricane Irene,” Puglisi said, adding that Irene cost the town about $120,000. The town expects FEMA to reimburse it for much of Irene’s expense.
Pensions costs about $450,000 and make up about 33 percent of the budget, and health care costs make up about $320,000.
Several positions that have been left vacant through retirement and attrition will remain empty for 2012. This includes: three highway positions, one sanitation position, two water positions, two administration positions. Puglisi said seasonal employees have been hired to fill some of these positions temporarily.
The town has purchased about seven new vehicles and heavy equipment per year for the last twenty years, and plans to purchase a new garbage truck next year, which is predicted to cost about $250,000.
The Supervisor mentioned the 2008 economic crisis and recession and how it has led her, Cestaro and Town Board members to be “as fiscally prudent as possible.”
In addition, the Supervisor and Comptroller noted:
-The town has completed over $110 million in capital projects since 1992, including the Town Hall renovation, which is now paid in full.
-The town’s bond rating was rated Aa2 by Moody’s at the end of 2010, which gives Cortlandt one of the County’s best bond ratings.
-The town’s Open Space Land acquisitions and donations have increased 100 percent (from 2,729 acres to 5,749 acres), since 1992 without bonding for the space, but paying cash.
-Employee salaries (including elected officials) increased 1.5 percent in 2011, and 0 percent in 2010. In 2009, elected officials did not take salary increases.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cortlandt Town Board meeting. The Town Board will hold budget work sessions throughout November, which the public is able to attend. The budget must be adopted by Dec. 20.
Copies of the proposed budget are available at the Comptroller's office at Town Hall.