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Gatta: Scarsdale Operating Budget Cut to the Bone

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Two members of the public and a reporter turned out for Thursday night's Village of Scarsdale budget update session at Village Hall.

Village Manager Alfred Gatta, joined by the Village Board of Trustees, told the small gathering that the operating budget has been cut to the bone.

"In August I gave the department heads a doomsday exercise. The instruction I gave them was no increase in department expenditures. I got no pushback," he said. "So what we have now is, in aggregate, 14 departments who are one half of 1 percent less spending than last year."

Gatta said that was achieved by adding no new positions, not filling some vacancies for the full year and keeping equipment and supply accounts at the bare minimum. That last item, he said, was particularly troublesome.

"Products can go up in price 12 percent, 14 percent," he said, "but we can only go up 2 percent."

Gatta and the board will give a similar update on the capital budget Thursday, March 1. The proposed operating budget is $48,939,129. The entire budget currently exceeds the 2 percent tax levy cap, which allowed for a tax increase over 2011-2012 of about 4.43 percent. The current budget proposal is 1.1 percent above that figure, representing an average dollar increase of about $250. The budget is still a work in progress, however, and those figures could change.

Gatta said the budget does maintain the quality of services, something he said would be a problem in coming years.

"The problem in the future will mainly come from labor contracts and salary increases," he said. "How often can you demand more employee contributions to health plans? How many times can you ask the unions for givebacks?"

Gatta said the state's smaller municipalities needs to lobby the state government in Albany to alleviate the pressure.

"We're pretty much in a bind," he said. Either the communities need relief from state mandates, he said, or they need the authority "to raise funds other than through property taxes."

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