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Ossining Village Overrides Tax Cap, Adopts Budget

OSSINING, N.Y. – A $30.15 million village budget that overrides the state-mandated tax cap was unanimously passed by the village Board of Trustees Tuesday night.

"This year's budget was incredibly difficult because we would have had to lay off quite a number of people and therefore stop providing services if we had adhered to the tax cap," said Ossining Village Mayor William Hanauer. "There were no layoffs this year, and that's the best part of it."

The tax rate for the 2012 village budget is $174.81 per thousand of assessed value, which is a 4.23 percent increase from this year. The average residential assessment is $18,883.

The 2012 tax levy is $19.68 million, which is a 3.62 percent increase over this year.

The state allowed tax levy increase for the Village of Ossining for 2012 was 1.41 percent – lower than the standard two percent tax cap because the village no longer has a court after consolidation with the town court.

"I'm disappointed that the village I live in cannot live within the cap that most of the other northern Westchester communities were able to fit within," state Assemblywoman Sandy Galef said in a phone interview. "But they have to make the decision themselves and I assume the tax cap put much more pressure on them to look at each line item."

Village Trustee Marlene Cheatham said she felt the village should have made some more difficult cuts, but in the end she decided to vote in favor of the budget because "it is what it is" in these tough economic times.

Hanauer said one major source of the budget increase for 2012 was the increased pension costs.

To help lower costs, each municipal department took a 15 percent cut, mostly by cutting back on overtime expenses, Hanauer said.

"Heavy overtime bills are in many cases justifiable, like when we have a snowstorm or any other kind of storm," the mayor said. "This past year has been horrific. So if we have a similar year this coming year, it's going to be very difficult. The savings will have to come from somewhere else."

The village also cut back on the number of vehicles to be bought, Hanauer said. While the village usually buys three new police vehicles to replace used ones, next year it is only buying one police vehicle, in addition to purchasing a mason's dump truck for the village Department of Public Works.

"Every year we try to keep expenses as low as possible," Hanauer said. "This year the tax cap gave us yet another opportunity to look at all our expenses which we went through with a fine-tooth comb to confirm that we are being as frugal as possible while continuing to provide the best services possible."

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