VOL Budget Now Hikes Taxes 4.79%

Expands Treasurer's Job to Full-Time; Passes Anti-Idling Law

by Judy Silberstein

(April 10, 2008) Larchmont’s Village Board unveiled its preliminary budget on Monday, April 6 – up a tick from the tentative budget – and announced that its part-time treasurer, Denis Brucciani, will be full-time as of April 16. This followed the official swearing in of Mayor Liz Feld, Trustee Marlene Kolbert and Trustee Jim Millstein, who were re-elected without opposition on March 20. (See: VOL Election: Small Turnout, Long Wait for Results.)

Feld Kolbert
Millstein Brucciani

Village Justice Thea Beaver swore in Mayor Liz Feld (top left). Village Justice Jerry Bernstein administered the oath of office to Trustee Marlene Kolbert (top right), who was reappointed as Deputy Mayor, and Trustee Jim Millstein (bottom left). Denis Brucciani (bottom right) will become the full-time treasurer on April 16.

Full-Time Treasurer & More Administrative Support for Larchmont
Other Board News:

Anti-Idling Law Approved: WIth some exceptions, vehicles will no longer be allowed to keep their motors idling for more than 3 minutes when the ambient temperature is over 40 degrees. The Chatsworth PTA will be educating parents about the new law.

Cablevision Contract Gets State Approval: Cablevision had been offering services under an expired contract. The new one is comparable to one approved for Verizon in January.

Re-Appointments included Ralph Engel and Tira Harpaz to Planning; Liz Liscio to Zoning; Jan Feinman to Parks & Trees; Joan Macfarlane to Library; Jo Ann Cotter to Recreation; and John SIlverman, John McGarr and Michael Gottfried to Finance & Budget. New appointments were John Komar to Assessment Review and Harriet Williams to Parks and Trees.

The Larchmont Village Board has made no secret of its interest in securing more administrative support at Village Hall. All five board members championed the idea when they were running for office.

"During the elections there was a lot of talk about a village administrator and one of the options was simply expanding the responsibilities of the treasurer,” said Mayor Feld. “Over the last two years Denis has impressed the board with his knowledge, expertise and commitment.”

Mr. Brucciani will be continuing as Village treasurer (at a salary of 150K) but with “an expanded portfolio” that includes a greater administrative role. Because Larchmont, unlike Town of Mamaroneck, lacks a paid administrator, the Village treasurer position has always covered some administrative duties. These will now be increased. “You have a full-time authority figure, which should benefit all the employees in the Village,” said Mr. Brucciani. “I’ll be in charge of day-to-day operations."

‘I have tremendous confidence in him,” said Mayor Feld. “He’s already proved his competence.” Asked later to elaborate on the change, she said Mr. Brucciani was already serving as personnel officer and would begin representing Larchmont “in a lot of intermunicipal activities.” In time, “his work with the individual departments will improve the management and efficiency of Village government.”

Mr. Brucciani's new position in Larchmont has left a hole in the Town of Mamaroneck, which will need a new comptroller, either on a full or part-time basis. "Larchmont is lucky to have such an able financial professional. We will miss Denis," said Supervisor O'Keeffe.

The Budget Goes Up A Bit More

Mr. Brucciani presented the latest figures and blamed the increase largely on two tax certiorari settlements that together cut almost $178K from the value of Larchmont’s property assessments. Instead of an expected $240K increase in assessments over last year, there was a “negligible” bump of only $13K. That (along with a few other minor revisions), boosted the tax rate increase from 4.7% to 4.79%.

The new numbers include: a general fund budget of $14,996,209 and total appropriations of $18,455,983. Estimated revenues remain unchanged from the tentative budget ($3,548,065 for the general fund and $6,913,554 in total) as does the amount being taken from the surplus - $394,285 in all.

The rest will come from the tax levy – i.e. the taxpayers – who will be charged at a rate of 283.20 per thousand. For the theoretically “average” home assessed at $20,000, the Larchmont tax bill will be $5,664, or $259 more than last year.

Revaluation a Solution to Some Budget Woes?

Board members railed against the current method of assessing property, which relies on valuations last updated in 1965 and leads to an unfair distribution of taxes among the various properties in the community. Assessments are “quite skewed based on timing of renovations,” said Trustee Jim Millstein.

“It’s impossible to budget without knowing what is coming down the pike,” said Mayor Liz Feld.

Trustee Anne McAndrews concurred, “We cannot budget this way - $50K, $100K, $150K taken away in only three weeks.“

The solution? Board members voiced support for a property revaluation, but also agreed with the mayor that “it’s not effective to do this as a small municipality.” They also agreed that a reassessment would be both costly and time-consuming.

Nevertheless, said Mayor Feld, “We’re going to be making a very strong case [for revaluation] with our neighboring municipalities. Without it we’re getting socked.“

Trustee Marlene Kolbert noted, “Those jurisdictions that have done the revaluation have benefited with lower county taxes.”

Reached for comment, Town Supervisor Valerie O'Keeffe said, "I have no doubt in my mind that now is the time to do it." She pointed to "a whole new break in the attitude of people of Yonkers," who have come out in favor of revaluation since being hit this month with a 24% increase in their county taxes. "I think it's time for the Sound Shore leaders to push the county for a county-wide revaluation," she said.

The supervisor also said that her staff had recently received and was reviewing results of a study commissioned jointly last year by Mamaroneck and New Rochelle from Thomas Frey Appraisal and Consultation Services. The study aims “to give the boards a full background on how the revaluation process would work and what the possible results would be,” she said. She expected the study to be out by the end of the month.