As the Harrison Town Council mulls a $56 million budget for 2013, a bill for roughly $61 million in debt waits to be paid at a later date.
With interest rates at a record low, the Town Council has been of the view it is a good time to borrow. As $5.3 million in bonds came off the books this year, new bonding replaced it, according to Town Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican.
“Whatever is coming off, we’re putting right back on,” Belmont told The Harrison Report in June.
Originally appeared in the Dec. 14, 2012 edition of The Harrison Report (Now, Harrison Review).
The town issued $9.9 million in long-term bonds over the past two years, according to Town Comptroller Maureen Mackenzie, and Harrison anticipates reducing the debt to $59 million by next year.
The increasing long-term debt of the town became an often polarizing and sometimes political debate last decade. After the 1970s, the decade in which the Town Hall building and other municipal structures were built or updated, Harrison undertook very few municipal construction projects until the 2000s.
A large amount of long-term debt was accrued through large-scale municipal projects, such as park renovations and streetscape work. During the economic recession, many capital projects were halted while new projects were few and far between. But, as the town emerges from the worst of its economic difficulties, the current Town Council has sought to add ‘smart spending’ in order to keep facilities and equipment up to date. But not everyone has been embracing of the new stance.
During a public hearing on Dec. 3, resident Rob Porto approached the council and said it was “crazy” that 10 percent of the council’s proposed $56 million budget proposal was attributed to bonds.
“All I ask is watch your spending…let the regular people live in Harrison, too.” Porto said.
Additionally, he said, the $61 million figure does not include interest figures.
Other municipalities in Westchester are also dealing with balancing year-to-year budgeting with long-term debt management, but few on the scale of the town.
City of Rye Deputy Comptroller Joe Fazzino explained that the city, which is mulling a $44.9 budget for 2013, currently had about $19.4 million of long-term debt still on the books at the end of 2012.
The Town of Mamaroneck is whittling down what is currently a $32 million budget for 2013, Comptroller Anthony Siligato explained the township has accrued $13.4 million in long-term debt–not including $4.5 million in short-term bond notices.
Although the Town of Eastchester, which approved a $34 million budget for 2013, was not able to give an exact figure, Comptroller Dawn Donovan gave a ballpark estimate that the town had $11 million in long-term debt.
With the deadline approaching, the town anticipates approving its preliminary budget on Dec. 20. If it fails to do so, the tentative budget for 2013 will take effect.