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White Plains Common Council members unanimously voted in support of the proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year at the special meeting/work session on May 23.
The $210.3 million budget, which carries a 1.86 percent tax increase, has no cuts to city programs or services. The budget also marks the 11th fiscal year White Plains has developed an annual budget in accordance with the state’s tax levy cap.
Since 1988, the city has maintained an Aa1 credit rating.
“In the three years I’ve been on the Council, I’ve supported our proposed budget, and this year is no exception,” Councilwoman Jennifer Puja said.
While bordering municipalities are strapped due to unforeseen circumstances, especially in light of COVID, Puja said White Plains is in a strong financial position.
“We’re extremely fortunate to maintain a high level of services that our residents have come to appreciate and love about our city,” Puja said. “With the [high] price of gas, groceries and everyday items, I’m pleased we’re staying within our tax cap and families are not hit with another tremendous burden.”
She added that she’s glad to see the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Youth Bureau be able to continue and expand their programming.
“These opportunities for families, seniors and youth truly set our city apart,” Puja said. “We’ll continue to position our city in a way that’s financially stable and that is meeting the needs of and the quality of life that the residents in White Plains deserve.”
White Plains is set to receive $5.5 million in New York State Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding in the 2022-23 proposed budget, the same amount the city has received over the past decade.
“Since 2008, the amount of aid we receive has been dismal,” Puja said. “With any increase, we would be able to bounce back even better post-COVID. I’ll remain committed to lobbying our state officials to push for additional funding for state aid for our city.”
Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson said that the city’s balanced, prudent budget that is in accordance with the state’s tax cap has helped keep White Plains residents in their homes.
“While I was pleased to read the statement of our stable economy and healthy, wealthy residents, we recognize that there are still residents struggling with the issue of affordable housing,” Hunt-Robinson said.
Hunt-Robinson vowed to continue lobbying for more of an active commitment from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the nation’s housing crisis, as well as White Plains’ affordable housing needs. She also noted the importance of continuing to focus on the high volume of calls the Department of Public Safety’s mental health crisis unit receives and continuing to prioritize de-escalation and just policing.
“That unit has to continue to improve and be more robust because I think the numbers of calls will only continue to increase,” Hunt-Robinson said. “Overall, I’m proud of this budget.”
Councilman Richard Payne commended the Budget Management Committee, as well as Finance Commissioner Sergio Sensi and Budget Director James Arnett for their hard work on the budget.
In the proposed budget, there are dollars earmarked for six new positions: three police officers, two firefighters and a code enforcement officer in the Department of Public Works.
Payne noted he was pleased that the Department of Public Safety is adding to its numbers.
“That’s commendable to the Commissioner and the Budget Director, who, along with the other commissioners in each department submitted budgets that fit the city’s needs,” Payne said. “They do a tremendous job each year, and I want to thank them.”
Council President Justin Brasch commended the fiscally responsible budget and the Aa1 credit rating, which enables the city to borrow money at an extremely low rate.
“We’re heading into a new era, making sure that our city is friendly for business so we can keep moving forward, funding the things that we need to do,” Brasch said. “Like everybody here, I’m proud to support this budget and proud of the work the city is doing.”
Councilwoman Victoria Presser highlighted that of the three city budgets she has been a part of, the first was in the early weeks of the pandemic lockdown, and the second was just as a glimmer of light was breaking through the darkness.
“Now this year, we gingerly step out of our shelters, hoping that another storm does not chase us back in,” Presser said. “Throughout these past three years, I have been greatly impressed by the dedication and diligence of the staff and administrators who have kept our city government moving forward under very difficult circumstances.”
“I wholeheartedly support this budget, and I’m pleased to vote in favor,” Presser added.
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach thanked his fellow Common Council members, Sensi, Arnett and all of the city’s employees for their hard work and dedication.
“It’s one of the reasons that we do have a strong city fiscally,” Roach said. “I’m very pleased to support this budget, and I look forward to great times ahead for our city.”
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