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ECC FINDS TOWN’S UNPRECEDENTED DRAWDOWN OF 40% OF RESERVES FOR JUDGMENTS AND CLAIMS TO KEEP TAXES ARTIFICIALLY LOW IN 2015 NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRUDENT FISCAL MANAGEMENT

Directors of the Edgemont Community Council said last night that Town Supervisor Paul Feiner’s unprecedented use of 40% of the Town’s reserves for judgments and claims to replenish the dwindling town entire fund balance, which Mr. Feiner now wants to use to subsidize town-wide taxes to meet the state tax cap, is not prudent fiscal management.Several directors said that rather than continuing to look for one-time only gimmicks to fund town government, as he has done in the past, Mr. Feiner should instead have first focused his efforts on reducing town spending while minimizing cuts to town services by restructuring government, eliminating redundancies in services and creating more efficiencies through joint purchasing with other municipalities – and that he should demonstrate financially how much savings had been achieved before draining any fund balance to balance the budget.

Directors said unrestricted fund balance should instead be used to replenish funds for capital projects whose funds were previously drained by Mr. Feiner, including funds for a new police headquarters and a courthouse.

Other directors warned that by drawing down fund balances in order to subsidize taxes, Mr .Feiner was putting himself first politically and putting the town taxpayers at risk when fund balances run dry and town taxpayers have to pay the true cost of town government or face draconian cuts in services.

In particular, directors warned that in October 2007, after defeating an opponent in the Democratic primary, thus assuring his re-election, Mr. Feiner revealed that fund balances were then no longer available to subsidize taxes – and unincorporated Greenburgh was facing a 23% tax hike in 2008.

Accordingly, the ECC unanimously adopted a resolution warning town officials to stop using one-time only budget gimmicks to keep taxes artificially low without first demonstrating that they have first made progress in reducing overall town spending and by quantifying that savings so that, should these one-time gimmicks no longer be available, town taxpayers are not faced, as they were in 2008, with sticker shock.

ECC directors who work in the finance industry or as financial managers also shook their heads in disbelief that town officials would allow a 40% reduction in the Town’s Risk Retention Fund – with no public explanation showing how the amount was determined to be “excessive.” Directors warned, for example, that tax cert settlements are likely to be increasing – not decreasing — as commercial property owners filed their tax cert cases before town-wide revaluation takes effect in order to maximize the amount they can collect for prior years under the applicable statute of limitations.
One director pointed out that if the amount in Risk Retention was “excessive” as of October 2014 by $2 million, then why was the Town in January 2014 only able to fund up to $1 million of the Town’s $6.5 million Fortress Bible settlement, requiring the balance to be bonded.

Another director brought with him to last night’s meeting a copy of Friday’s edition of the Scarsdale Inquirer where Mr. Feiner was quoted as saying his budget for 2015 would “not rely on surplus.” In fact, town taxes are being subsidized by $1 million from the town entire fund balance and by another $3 million from the fund balance for the town outside villages. “Fund balance” is the accumulated excess of revenues over spending, which makes it “surplus.”

On other issues, the ECC expressed approval for Police Chief Chris McNerney’s recommendation for the construction of sidewalks on Seely Place, Ardsley Road and Fort Hill Roads, as necessary for public safety. ECC directors also said that because these sidewalks are needed for public safety, the Town should undertake to keep them free of ice and snow, just as the Town now does (or says it will do) for existing sidewalks along Ardsley Road.

Directors expressed concern that those opposed to constructing new sidewalks in Edgemont, as Mr. Feiner has been in the past, will seek to scare homeowners whose properties would be directly affected by warning them of the burdens associated with having to remove ice and snow.

Directors also rejected doing these sidewalks on a “piecemeal’ basis over time because the public safety risk is present on all three areas recommended by the police chief.

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