Mt. Pleasant Adds Five Officers in $46.1M Budget, Exceeds Tax Cap

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Mount Pleasant’s $46.1 million 2017 budget was approved last week with the addition of five new police officers that pushes the spending plan over the property tax cap.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the budget on Dec. 13. Councilman Denis McCarthy, who expressed concerns about the spending plan, was the dissenting vote. McCarthy also opposed overriding the cap.

Town officials added $251,000 over Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi’s preliminary budget.

Next year’s budget includes a tax rate increase of 3.5 percent. The town’s allowable tax levy increase to stay within the cap was 1.02 percent.

Property taxes will increase $93.82 for residents whose homes are assessed at the town average of $9,000. That figure does not include special district taxes.

After several years of keeping spending in check, Fulgenzi said the final budget meets the town’s needs. The town will hire five new police officers, two more than what Fulgenzi proposed in the preliminary budget. In 2017, there will be 41 officers with two others on injury leave.

Police Chief Paul Oliva had asked the board to approve the hiring of six officers, in part due to increased development in town.

Fulgenzi, who said Oliva was “comfortable” with five additional officers, said public safety is at top priority.

“Our town is growing, the demand on our police force and ambulance services is ever increasing,” Fulgenzi said. “Public safety is one of our priorities, police presence is imperative to maintain the safety of our communities and something I will not cut short.”

Next year’s budget will also include the purchase of three police cars to add to the current fleet of 10. Oliva had originally sought two new cars. Eight of the department’s cars have more than 100,000 miles, Fulgenzi said.

The 2017 budget also includes the hiring of a new part-time employee for the engineering department and another part-timer to assist in the planning and zoning department, Fulgenzi said.

Other projects for next year include the purchase of new signs to improve pedestrian safety; contract renewal with Westchester Emergency Services to provide advanced life support for the three volunteer ambulance corps; replacement of town computers that can no longer be upgraded; new computer software to accept credit payments for some town departments; the purchase of tablets for town board members to reduce paper; solar panel installation on the town hall and highway department roofs to cut energy costs; changing all street lights to LED lighting; and adding card access to all doors to control entry to town buildings and offices.

There will also be town hall roof replacement; new driveway, curbing and handicapped access and adding an emergency exit on the north side of town hall; a series of infrastructure improvements related to water service; sidewalk, road and drainage repairs; and sidewalk repairs at the town pool complex.

Last week, resident Ken Noonan questioned why officials were increasing spending and exceeding the tax cap. Fulgenzi responded that the board has been holding down spending over the past decade and the services and projects for 2017 are needed.

By increasing spending next year, it would provide a larger base for 2018 when bonding payments kick in, the supervisor said. Raising the tax base will put the town in a better position to absorb those additional costs while controlling taxes.

Noonan also inquired about the need to give all town employees an across-the-board 2 percent raise. Councilman Mark Rubeo said officials wanted to raise wages because town employees were among the lowest paid in Westchester.

“All our employees are doing their jobs,” Fulgenzi added.

Parking fee increases

The town board voted unanimously to increase fees at the town’s Hawthorne and Valhalla Metro-North parking lots.

In 2017, the cost of the annual parking pass will rise from the current $295 to $350; the weekly fee will jump from $30 to $40; the daily senior rate for residents 55 and older will rise from $5 to $10 and from $10 to $15 for those under 55 years old; and the annual student pass will increase from $100 to $125.

Replacing a lost annual parking pass will increase from $25 to $30 and the cost of an annual merchant parking pass will rise from $50 to $55.

The new fees will go into effect March 1.

Fulgenzi said about 15 percent of the parking lot revenues will be used to pay for maintenance of the train station parking lots.

 

 

 

 

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