EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Tempers flared and voices were raised at the Eastchester Town Board meeting Tuesday, as several residents expressed displeasure over the 2013 town budget , which was unanimously adopted.
Residents took umbrage at a 15 percent reduction in the allotment for the Eastchester Public Library. The $180,000 cut will force several programs to be eliminated.
In a theatrical speech to the board, resident Fred Moses argued the importance of the library while saying the budget vote should be tabled because he didn’t believe it was ready.
“This budget shows no guts on your part. Zero guts, and it’s driven by politics,” he said. “We need to give the library more money, not take more away. The public library serves 20,000 people. It’s a vital community service that needs to grow in 1,000 different ways.”
But the town wanted to stay under the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap, Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita said, and several expenses have to be paid under the law.
“You need to look at the totality of our budget and see what is happening in our town. Many other municipalities are overriding the tax cap, and we’re not doing it,” he said. “Our job is to make decisions, and we stayed within the tax levy cap, which is very difficult to do.”
Trustee Glenn Bellitto, the liaison for the library, said he was so impressed with the library that he has fought to keep its budget steady. But tough decisions had to be made this year with large increases in pension payoffs, health insurance premiums and an MTA tax, Bellitto said.
“If we had decided to cut the budget last year, it may have been an easier cut,” he said. “Instead it may have been 8 percent last year and 7 [percent] this year instead of 15 percent this year.”
Departments across the town are taking hits, including the police department and highway department, which Colavita called essential services. When the board was crafting the budget, it decided it was most important to maintain those services.
“There has to be an expectation of cutting down staffing and an expectation of essential services. To expect anything else is unrealistic,” he said. “Our expenses are rising, but our revenue is flat-lined.”
With the budget passed, Bronxville residents will pay $1.89 more in taxes next year, Tuckahoe 67 cents and Eastchester residents $135.96.
“Hopefully we can work together and be put in a position to put money back into things that will be cut,” Trustee Frederick Salanitro said. “This community always steps up to the plate when they’re asked to.”