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Comptroller Raises Concerns About Bedford's Finances

Due to rising pension and health care costs, the Bedford Town Board faces  a bleak financial picture.
Due to rising pension and health care costs, the Bedford Town Board faces a bleak financial picture. Photo Credit: File Photo

BEDFORD, N.Y.-- Town Comptroller Edward Ritter presented a bleak financial outlook for the Town of Bedford at a recent work session.

At the Aug. 20 meeting, Ritter presented a financial outlook for the town for the next five years that showed Bedford facing rising pension and benefit costs that will be hard to keep up with.

Like most municipalities, Bedford has seen pension and health care costs skyrocket over the past few years while they try to keep budgets within the 2-percent cap on the tax levy. 

The board is already working on its 2014 budget, where, according to Ritter, the town faces a $692,082 budget  gap for 2014. The gap could reach $2.6 million by 2018. 

Municipalities are required to pass balance budgets. Ritter said the town's fund balance is also running low. Municipalities often use fund balance to help mitigate two percent. 

Ritter said employee benefits will rise from $5.7 million this year to more than $8 million in 2018.

At the work session, the town board discussed possibly overriding the tax cap in future years. The Bedford Town Board can override the tax cap with a 3-2 vote.

Supervisor Lee Roberts said, while she is concerned, she believes Bedford is in better shape than most.

"We have a AAA bond rating and a healthy fund balance," Roberts said. "We have our concerns. It's not going to be business as usual."

Roberts said the town board has to be creative with the town's future financial direction.

"This exercise is going to give us a longer range view of our finances so we can plan and not just have a knee-jerk reaction," Roberts said. "It was a call for all of the town board to come up with thoughts and ideas on how we're going to move forward."

Bedford's situation is not unique in New York, Roberts said.

"Every town will be required to have a long range review," Roberts said. "It's good to have a sense of direction you're taking and not just be reactionary when things go wrong."

The town has tried to keep costs down, having cut for the last five years. But along with pension and health insurance costs increasing, replacing vehicles, paving roads and fuel costs have all gone up. Last year, the town laid off employees for the first time in history.

"Everything goes up," Roberts lamented. "It's a very difficult economic picture for municipalities. Mandate relief would go a long way to helping us. The entire financial picture is challenging."

Roberts noted the town has no control over pension costs, simply getting a bill from the state comptroller's office.

The town will have a work session on the budget on Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. at 425 Cherry St. in Bedford Hills. 





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