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Gatta: Cap Could Cause Scarsdale Service Cuts

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – If Scarsdale residents want to keep their current level of services, they will have to accept an override of New York's new two percent tax cap .

That was the underlying message Monday as Village Manager Alfred Gatta offered an early look at the 2012-2013 budget process to the Scarsdale League of Women Voters. Gatta said to keep things the way they are the budget will have to increase by $2,795,020, but, to stay under the two percent levy cap, the village can only add $638,162.

Gatta prefaced his presentation by saying the figures could, and likely will, change by the time the village must begin dealing in hard numbers next spring. His talk was meant only to explain what the village would be looking at thanks to the new cap.

"The two percent levy cap has caused a lot of anxiety for people all over, for employees, for the officials who have to put together the budget," he said. "The two percent figure is confusing; it does nothing but anger people."

Gatta proceeded to walk the group of about 20 people through preliminary numbers that included projected revenues, and projected and known expenditures, and suggested cuts that still leave the village looking at a figure more than $1.8 million above the cap. To keep the current level of services, with some belt tightening, he said, the increase would be 7.848 percent, well above the new state mandate.

"The Village of Trustees can override the cap with a 60 percent vote," he said. "We would still try to keep the increase as low as possible." He said it all depends on what level of services citizens demand.

Leaf pickup, he said, costs the village $750,000 a year. That could be cut in half by insisting leaves be bagged instead of raked to the curb for vacuuming. Trash is picked up twice a week. Cutting that in half would save well over $100,000, he said.

"We can get down to the two percent figure, but it would require layoffs and cuts in services," he said, pointing out that the village has cut services for six straight years. More, he said, would impair Scarsdale's ability to respond to emergencies, such as Saturday's snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene.

Trustee Stacey Brodsky, attending the presentation, said she thinks the 7.84 percent budget increase figure is "extremely reasonable. People are asking the village to perform at a high level, and they would be asking to do it with a number of people at an extraordinarily lower level" if the cuts were made," she said.

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