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Port Chester Leaders Talk Taxes, Unfunded Mandates at Forum

Port Chester Trustee Joseph Kenner discusses taxes and budgets at a forum of government leaders Wednesday night.
Port Chester Trustee Joseph Kenner discusses taxes and budgets at a forum of government leaders Wednesday night. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Several of Port Chester’s state, county and local government leaders said they feel that the village has made a lot of progress, but still faces a lot of pressure from taxes and unfunded mandates.

The Port Chester-Rye Book-Rye Town Chamber of Commerce brought together officials in an annual forum Wednesday night at the Port Chester Senior Community Center. Among the Port Chester leaders in attendance were Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, County Legislator David Gelfarb, State Sen. George Latimer, Assemblyman Steve Otis, Port Chester Trustee Joseph Kenner and Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin. They each took turns addressing issues such as budgets, taxes, the rising costs of health care and pensions, and capital improvement projects.

Kenner highlighted the fact the village was able to cut the tax levy by 5 percent in 2011 and has kept it level ever since by cutting spending and more effectively managing its money.

“We made investments in building and code, we made investments in technology, we made enormous investments in our village infrastructure, and we did all of that without laying off one person,” he said. “But the challenges are huge. The pension costs are killing us.” Gelfarb said that the recent settlement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development has hurt villages like Port Chester.

“Port Chester has been stiffed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by HUD,” he said. “HUD in my view is holding Port Chester and other villages hostage with this money. What’s unbelievable is that there’s never even been a contention that Port Chester has anything to do with the housing settlement at all.”

Latimer said that the state was able to pass a budget on time that kept state spending relatively flat. However, he said that the state could do more for villages like Port Chester, particularly with school aid and unfunded mandates such as health care and pension costs. “The state creates a climate where local governments have to deal with property tax, and the state did not, in my judgment, include significant mandate relief.”

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