YORKTOWN, N.Y. – After an external audit reported savings in expenditures, growth in the town’s general fund, and growth in some areas of revenue, most of the town board deemed it a successful fiscal year.
In the condensed version of the 141-page audit report, which can be accessed on the town’s website, Allan Kassay, a representative from O’Connor Davies, attributed the general fund’s growth primarily to a $2.4 million reduction in expenditures and growth in areas of revenue, such as real property tax, which accounted for 54 percent of total revenues in 2016. Most of that revenue was attributed to the license agreement with Algonquin Gas Transmission for the expansion of the natural gas pipeline that runs through Yorktown, according to the report.
“Even though the revenues had a positive variance for the most part, you have no control over the revenues,” Kassay told the board at its June 20 meeting. “The expenditure side of the budget is the area that you can control, and based on the results, you did a good job in 2016.”
Kassay said there was a $1 million surplus in funds budgeted toward general government support.
“That represents the savings that we achieved in the operations [of the town],” said Town Supervisor Michael Grace.
Kassay also pointed out that there was a significant hike—118 percent—in the general fund balance (surplus) over the last three years. From Dec. 31, 2013, to Dec. 31 2016, the fund grew from $8.1 million to $13.7 million. The biggest increase occurred in the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year, with a $3,791,304 increase in the general fund balance.
Grace attributed the savings and growth to the efficiency and productivity of the town’s employees, and the efforts of the board to promote “doing more with less,” adding that the town has been judicious with staffing and budgeting.
“You have a town board that really tries to incentive the hard work and productivity of your town employees and that shows in last year [with] $1 million worth of savings,” he said.
Grace took a moment to mention long-term capital projects that are coming closer to fruition, coining this year, “the year of infrastructure.” He cited prudent spending and applying for grant moneys as reasons many projects can move forward. Projects included the Granite Knolls Sports Complex, which he said will be paid for “in great part if not totally” by Spectra Energy; the $3.2 million culvert repairs, which he said will be paid for with grant money; and the highway garage relocation “Depot Square” project, which he said is only allowed to go ahead because of “significant” grant money.
Additionally, the town has allocated about $1.4 million more than usual in paving.
Not everyone in Yorktown was as pleased with the audit report, however. The mostly Republican town board has been under scrutiny from some of the town’s Democrats, including Councilman Vishnu Patel.
“Real spending went up,” Patel said.
While the town did come in millions of dollars under budget, actual expenses in the category of governmental activities for 2016 totaled $57,316,735, an increase of $610,932 from 2015. The report contributed the increase to general government support followed by public safety. Kassay said during his report, however, that the growth in the fund balance and the decrease in expenditures was reflective of “an overall budgetary basis.”
Still, Patel offered reasons for the growth of the general fund that contradicted the other councilmen.
“Where are you getting the money?” he asked. “By postponing some of the projects.”
Elliot Krowe, co-chair of the Yorktown Democratic Committee, issued a similar statement.
“The artificially inflated fund balance is a consequence of the fact that the Grace administration has socked away money by not doing its job and by running roughshod over the will of Yorktown residents,” he said. “Ironically, as an election approaches, they announce that, ‘This is the year for infrastructure improvement.’ Had they been doing their job over the past five plus years, it would not be necessary to go on a spending spree to catch up.”
At the June 20 meeting, however, Grace said the town has grown the fund balance while making many capital improvements and investments, such as re-equipping the highway department with seven new vehicles, the repair of three collapsed bridges, providing new cruisers for the police department at 2.5 new cars annually and the digitization of the town’s records, which he said, “is going to produce a lot of savings.”
He added that the town’s judicious spending has allowed for projects to be possible now, such as a standalone senior center, which, he said, seniors have requested for years. Currently, the senior center operates out of the Yorktown Cultural and Community Center. Now, he said it’s likely that it will go through within the next few years.
He said that much of the notable savings is a cumulative result of intangible things that occur “under the surface of the water,” such as keeping the tax rate “flat.”
“You don’t see how the sausages are made,” he said. “Essentially, you don’t see the things that we have done and the efficiencies that we’ve done over the last bunch of years.”