YORKTOWN, N.Y. –The Yorktown Town Board strongly responded to critics Tuesday night after unanimously approving a 2013 budget that ultimately lowers residents' tax bills.
Supervisor Michael Grace especially defended the board’s decision to give raises to elected officials, department heads and other town employees. Grace said Yorktown employees are among the lowest paid in Westchester and should be fairly compensated.
Most department heads will get a 3-percent raise from an agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association. Other employees saw a larger increase, including 13-percent for Town Clerk Alice Roker, who had not received a raise since 2008.
“I don’t care what kind of political heat I take,” Grace said. “You’ve got plenty of ammunition for next year’s election if you want to make hay out of it, but I stand by my decision.”
Council member Nick Bianco also defended a 3-percent increase to town board members, who currently make $18,085 per year as full-time 30-hour employees. Bianco said it is a demanding position and will be hard to attract qualified candidates at $11.35 per hour.
“You will get the bottom of the bottom,” Bianco said. “Those who criticize elected officials I think are criticizing because they have nothing else to do.”
Vishnu Patel was the only council member to vocally oppose the raises and said he will return his raise to the town.
“This is my contribution to the community,” Patel said.
A settlement with the Police Benevolent Association also contributed to a 4.17 increase to the town’s general fund. Grace said the settlement has been in negotiations since 2008 and the town will be paying four years of back-logged salary increases in the 2013 budget. Grace, however, said the benefits of a large police department far outweigh the cost.
“If the last couple of months have proven anything to us, I think it’s how valuable our Police Department is,” Grace said.
To off-set the rising general fund, the board dipped into its fund balance and reduced the budget of its water, sewer and refuse districts, which are included in the state-mandated 2 percent cap on the property tax levy.
Yorktown has 28 different taxing districts or funds, and each has its own budget and tax rate. A resident’s total town tax bill depends on how many districts he or she lives in.
Residents in the water and sewer districts will see an average decrease of $62.94, or 3.26 percent, the board said. Residents without sewer or water will see an average decrease of $1.05, or 0.21 percent.
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