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Port Chester Trustees Decrease Property Tax Levy

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – While some village governments fight to stay within the new 2 percent property tax levy cap, the Port Chester Village Board of Trustees adopted a budget that decreases the property tax levy for the second year in a row on Monday with a vote of 5-1, with Trustee Bart Didden as the dissenting vote. Trustee John Branca, who has been suffering from an illness for months, was absent.

The board's adopted budget decreases the levy by 0.28 percent, bringing the total levy number down to $21,896,467. The village's total operating budget for 2012-13 stands at $36,219,672.

The original tentative budget filed by Village Manager Chris Russo in March called for a 2.4 percent increase in the property tax levy, the maximum allowable levy increase under the 2 percent tax cap. Going into a budget workshop last Thursday, the board, through weeks of work sessions, trimmed expenditures and decreased the levy by half to 1.20 percent.

Included in both the tentative budget and the adopted budget is a new sewer rental system that is estimated to save the average homeowner $105 in its first year.

The board ultimately passed 28 amendments to Russo's original tentative budget, including a $134,750 reduction in the amount budgeted for November's elections.

Also among the expenditure cuts was the elimination of a $23,000 increase for the Port Chester-Rye Brook Library's operating budget. Many members of the library board and staff attended and asked the board to reconsider.

"What we asked the village for is not what we want but we need," library Board member Lisa Simon said. "If we don't get an increase from Port Chester, we will have to make big cuts."

In response, the board passed an amendment appropriating an additional $60,000 into the contingency budget, which is used at the board's discretion and would consider giving some of that to the library.

Overall, the board passed 21 expenditure decreases, six expenditure increases, one revenue decrease and several revenue increases totaling $62,200. The total decrease in expenditures from the tentative budget totaled $527,228.

Trustee Sam Terenzi, an experienced municipal tax accountant, said he was proud of the board's ability to come up with, what he called, a tight budget.

"I've done a lot of this over a long period of time," Terenzi said. "I would put this board up with any board in the county as it relates to the financial acumen we have. I'm proud of the guys here and I think we've done a good job."

Terenzi also said the board has been able to reduce the village's long term debt from $36 million to $31 million.

Mayor Dennis Pilla said he was proud of the board's ability to put aside partisanship and construct the best budget for the village.

"This is an example of a board that's putting the village ahead of politics," Pilla said.

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