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Government & Politics
Sleepy Hollow News

Sleepy Hollow Mayor Keeps Tight Leash on Spending in Budget

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April 1, 2024

By Rick Pezzullo—

Sleepy Hollow Mayor Martin Rutyna delivered his tentative budget March 20 with a proposed Homestead Tax Rate of 5.5% and a virtual freeze on discretionary spending.

Rutyna, who will celebrate his first anniversary in office on April 3, explained some of the financial challenges the village is facing in a recent message to residents.

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“For this first draft, I chose to prioritize keeping taxes lower over adding increased services or improvements to how we operate. This year, every dollar in increased services spending will almost certainly mean higher taxes. I don’t like being in a financial position like this and I did not lead us here,” Rutyna stated.

“The question is why are we here? We have effectively run up a credit card bill and now must start paying it back,” Rutyna stated. “Since 2019, the village has borrowed money based on an expectation of new revenue and one-time payments from development. That revenue to support debt payments is not sufficient yet, some one-time payments are not here yet, and as a result, we are unable to keep taxes low despite over $750,000 dollars of spending cuts last year when I took office.”

Rutyna also stated the village was unaware of the balance of its General Fund and it’s recently hired village treasurer and other employees in the Finance Department were working tirelessly to figure out the financial situation.

“The current estimate to complete a full update of our financial recordkeeping, which has lapsed over the previous several years, is a few months and I will update all of you with progress. This lack of current state knowledge is worse than I could reasonably expect,” Rutyna stated.

“What happens when we determine the General Fund Balance? If we have the money in our General Fund to meet this year’s need, I will be relieved, but we will continue to be conservative to ensure we are not spending money more quickly than our tax base growth can match in order to keep taxes low,” he continued. “If we don’t have enough money to balance our estimated budget needs, then we will need to make more drastic changes. We will freeze non-emergency spending and review all contractual spending. As my father always says, when you find yourself at the bottom of a deep hole, stop digging.”

In the meantime, Rutyna stated village officials are making a short financial plan and a five-year capital and services plan. Besides reviewing the books, the steps being taken include halting discretionary spending and capital borrowing, putting new revenue toward the village’s spending gap and rebuilding the General Fund Balance.

“Once those steps are complete, we will be able to deploy future one-time payments from developers toward larger improvements, not debt payments, and build needed projects like the DPW garage. We will be able to prioritize expanding services like additional police officers, parks maintenance, and more,” Rutyna stated. “Transparency is paramount, and I will continue to provide updates and appreciate your feedback and understanding as we work our way forward.”

A budget work session and a public hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall.

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