At its final meeting of the year, the City Council unanimously approved a budget of $35,661,014 for 2015, which necessitates a 3.14% tax rate increase.
At its final meeting of the year, the City Council unanimously approved a budget of $35,661,014 for 2015, which necessitates a 3.14% tax rate increase. City Comptroller Joe Fazzino did a valiant job of explaining the complicated formula that allows the increase to remain under the 2% tax levy cap. The approved budget depends on $2,527,452 from the General Fund balance, and translates to an average $131 annual tax increase.
Included in the budget is $27,231,770 in employee salaries and benefits and authorized debt of $12,536,259. The biggest piece of the budget pie is Public Safety (37%), followed by Culture and Recreation (24%), General Government (16%), Home and Community (12%), and Transportation (11%).
The Rye Free Reading Room requested City funding of $1,250,000 and received $1,195,000. The library will be open 43.5 hours a week per the agreement. Board President Mary Sykes said they appreciated the $25,000 increase over 2014. She was also happy to report that the board had a “fruitful negotiating session” with union representatives and had a tentative contract agreement.
Before voting on the final budget, Councilwoman Julie Killian added a note of caution about overestimating mortgage tax revenue and counseled against raising the number as the Council did at its last meeting in 2014.
Mayor Joe Sack reminded the public that two-thirds of revenue comes from property taxes, the remaining one-third from elastic revenues, mortgage tax recorded fees among them. “We make estimates based on past experience. We came in $900,000 more on building fees this year,” he said.
City Manager Frank Culross assured the Council that the City could make course corrections if needed during the year.
After approving the budget 5-0 (Councilmembers Richard Mecca and Richard Slack were absent), Mayor Sack congratulated the City Manager and everyone who participated in the process.
The Council then moved to other important agenda items, including the selection of a consulting firm to oversee the hiring of a new City Manager. (Mr. Culross stepped back into the role he performed so well a number of times on a temporary basis.) The Council, which has consensus on a firm to engage, set aside $50,000 for the search process, and set a public hearing for January 14.
— Robin Jovanovich