EASTCHESTER, N.Y. --The Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners adopted a $14.9 million budget Tuesday night that would raise taxes by approximately 4 percent.
The spending plan is estimated to increase taxes by $135 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average homeowner in Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe whose home is assessed at $10,000 the increase could mean an additional $1,500 per year in taxes.
The board also agreed to increase the hours residents can vote in the Dec. 13 election. Polls will be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
After the first glimpse of the budget last week, the five member board opted to reduce spending on several items. A line item devoted to the Office of Fire prevention was cut in half from $20,000 to $10,000. An allocation of $4,000 for drills and inspections was completely eliminated. A line item dedicated to uniforms was also cut from $25,000 to $20,000.
The commissioners agreed to reduce the line item for tax refunds paid out to property owners who contested their tax payments one or more years into the past by $100,000. At last week's meeting, the board cut approximately $69,000 in various miscellaneous expenses from the original budget to come down to a 4.3 percent rate increase that would make the increase within the New York State-imposed 2 percent cap.
Before the budget adoption, Trustee Ray Albanese argued that money from the $650,000 fund balance should be used to lower the tax increase for residents.
But, although Commissioner Dennis Winters agreed with Albanese in spirit, he argued that using the fund balance with so many of the fire district buildings in urgent need of repair would be a bad idea.
Winters cited 30-year-old furnaces that are using too much fuel, buildings with floors in urgent need of replacement, and buildings in urgent need of new kitchens and new bathrooms among other things.
The five member Board of Fire Commissioners overseas five buildings and 73 firefighters.
Although Commissioner Raymond O'Hare supported Albanese's motion to add $100,000 from the fund balance to the budget, the motion failed to win the support of the two other commissioners.
The commissioners did agree that they were going to have to address urgently-needed repairs and come to an agreement with firefighters who have been working without a contract since 2009.
The board would also like to piggyback its election with the November town elections or the school board budget elections held in May as a means for getting more residents interested in how the commissioners work.
"We hold all of our meetings in public, and we would like more input from the public," Albanese has said.
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