RYE BROOK, N.Y. – Rye Brook government leaders gathered at a forum Wednesday night praised recent measures designed to save taxpayers money, but said they feel that some unfunded state mandates are still hurting residents.
The Port-Chester-Rye Brook-Rye Town Chamber of Commerce gathered state, county and local officials at the Port Chester Senior Community Center to give residents an update on recent developments in government. Among the Rye Brook leaders in attendance were Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, County Legislator David Gelfarb, State Sen. George Latimer, Assemblyman Steve Otis, Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg and Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin. Topics of conversation included budgets, taxes, rising costs of employee health care and pensions, and capital improvements.
“Everybody here is suffering from the dramatic increases in employee health costs and pension costs. Those have increased tenfold. That’s right, a thousand percent,” said Carvin. He said that the Town of Rye was facing a $1.7 million deficit, and “had to make some horrifically difficult decisions” including laying off seven of the town’s 17 employees.
The town was also able to find savings by selling Rye Town Hall. The building was costing $100,000 per year to operate, and required another $2 million in capital expenditures. The town also decreased deficits by selling its highway garage to Rye Brook.
Rosenberg said that the highway garage deal was a good one for Rye Brook.
“The highway garage isn’t something sexy, it’s something most village residents don’t really know about it. But without it, the streets don’t get plowed, the streets don’t get maintained, the leaves don’t get picked up, it’s as simple as that.”
Rosenberg also said that the village has been working to simplify its zoning codes so residents don’t have to go through such costly and time-consuming processes if they want to renovate their house or install a generator.
Otis said that he and Latimer worked hard on making sure that Rye Brook got its hotel occupancy tax renewed, an important source of revenue for the village.
“The village of Rye Brook is the only village or town in New York state that has a hotel occupancy tax. Traditionally it’s just the cities and counties,” he said. It was first establish three years ago, and needed to be renewed this year. “That’s worth $670,000 to the village of Rye Brook. That’s $670,000 that doesn’t have to be on the property tax. That’s an important thing, and we’re going to be there three years from now to keep that going.”