Orangetown Director of Finance Jeff Bencik spent much of Tuesday's town board meeting keeping up with approximately $600,000 in last-minute changes to the 2013 town budget.
The town council adopted the series of revisions the financial plan, then voted unanimously to approve an approximate $62.9 million Orangetown budget for 2013 which calls for a 4.9% tax increase over 2012.
Bencik stayed after the meeting ended to provide the assembled media with those numbers, which are only an approximation. He had not even had time to exactly calculate the final numbers with Tuesday's changes. Check back with Patch for more specifics on the 2013 Orangetown Budget.
The town council listened to nearly two hours of public comments on the budget as part of a public hearing Tuesday, many calling for the town board to stay within the state's two percent tax cap or not raise taxes at all.
Town board members pointed out that Orangetown actually cut spending by over $1 million from 2012 to 2013, with rising costs for medical and retirement benefits as the primary reason that residents' taxes will increase. Earlier this year, former Orangetown Director of Finance Charlie Richardson estimated that if the town made no cuts at all, taxes would have to go up 15%.
By way of comparison, Clarkstown approved a budget with a 6.2% tax increase last week.
"We went through this budget with a fine toothcomb, line by line, and spent hours upon hours," Councilman Paul Valentine said. "When you start at 15 percent and Andy got it to nine on his initial and we end dup under five, that's tremendous. This town, we're cutting well over $1 million. Calrkstown is at 6 percent, but they're spending $6 more than they did last year. While it's not the best, it's the best we could possibly do with the cards that we were dealt."
"I do believe it's been the most diligent, most intense and painstaking process since June," Supervisor Andy Stewart said. "We've gotten to a point where I don't think anybody could have expected us to get."
Stewart expressed concerns for the long term, such as a lack of capital spending and the use of fund balance, which the board voted to increase from $1.5 million to $1.75 over Stewart's objection Tuesday night.
"I don't believe it's a stable budget," Stewart said. "I believe it's more urgent."
One of the proposed changes that drew the most comments Tuesday was a 20% cut funding from the town for the libraries in Blauvelt, Tappan, Orangeburg and Palisades, with the idea that they would make up the money by spending from their fund balances. The board ended up approving a 10 percent cut in the library budgets.
Editor's Note: Check back with Patch for more details and reaction to the Orangetown 2013 budget.