AGENCY MISSION AND SERVICE AREA
The agency’s mission is described as follows:
The Department of Community Resources located at the Theodore D. Young Community Center seeks to improve the quality of life for “Greenburgh residents by providing a variety of educational, cultural, recreational and social programs and services. It is our multi-faceted approach by which we endeavor to lessen problems caused by poverty, racism and cultural deprivation.”
DCR/TDYCC services and facilities are available and open to all approximately 90,000 residents of Greenburgh, including both the villages and the unincorporated area.
CURRENT FUNDING (UNINCORPORATED AREA ONLY)
The budget for the Town of Greenburgh’s Department of Community Resources/Theodore D. Young Community Center (“DCR/TDYCC”) for 2019, payable solely from the unincorporated area (“B” budget), is $3,155,693, which includes $1,254,195 of salaries. Benefits are not allocated in the Town’s budget presentation, so we assume a benefits rate equal to 20% of salaries, or $250,839. That brings the total estimated DCR/TDYCC budget to $3,406,523.
DCR/TDYCC budgeted program revenue for 2019 is $240K. Therefore, the net DCR/TDYCC operating expense payable from the Town’s general fund is $3,166,532.
Some of the Town’s “B” budget debt service is attributable to DCR/TDYCC. The precise figure is not presented by the Town, as debt service is not broken out cleanly by department. We are assuming that $300K is a reasonable and conservative estimate.
Thus, the total net DCR/TDYCC budget is estimated at a rounded $3.5M for purposes of this discussion and analysis. At that spending level, the unincorporated area tax rate supporting DCR/TDYCC is approximately $0.35/$1,000 of assessment, or about $175 on a $500K single-family home.
PROPOSED FUNDING (TOWN-WIDE)
If DCR/TDYCC were to transition to the Town-wide “A” budget so its funding matches its service area, its net expense of $3.5M would be charged to the entire Town’s $19.7B tax base rather than the unincorporated area’s $10.1B. Assuming no use of “A” budget fund balance for transition purposes:
The impact to the Town-wide tax rate would be $3.5M / $19.7 = $0.178 per thousand of assessed valuation, or $89 on a $500K assessment. That would represent a 0.55% increase in the overall tax bill for a village resident.
For an unincorporated area resident, the net tax burden would decrease by $175 - $89 = $86 as the entire Town of Greenburgh (~90,000 residents) would bear the cost (vs. only the 43,000 who live in the unincorporated area, as is currently the case).
MINOR TOWN-WIDE TAX IMPACT COULD BE PHASED IN
The Town is has the means to manage the adjustment on account of its significantly over-funded "A" fund balance reserve, which stood at nearly $20M at 12/31/18, representing an entire year of recurring spending in the Town-wide fund and more than double the maximum dictated in the Town’s Comprehensive Financial Policy Document. Historically, the Town has utilized its fund balance to 1) smooth out the budgetary effects of capital projects, 2) mitigate volatility of non-property tax revenues sources, and/or 3) to reduce the Town-wide tax rate.
Town could use a portion of its fund balance to cushion the already-minor Town-wide tax effect of an “A”-to-“B” shift. The use of just $1MM would reduce the impact from $89 to $63, or 0.38% of the total tax bill.
SO WHY DOES THE TOWN CHARGE AN ESSENTIAL TOWN-WIDE SERVICE ONLY TO UNINCORPORATED?
When asked why DCR/TDYCC is only funded by the unincorporated area rather than the larger and more stable Town-wide tax base that includes the villages, Comptroller Romano stated “that’s the way it’s been done in the past.” (Click here for video.)
The Town Board also periodically suggests that it legally cannot fund DCR/TDYCC on a Town-wide basis because it’s a recreational facility. But the agency’s mission (see above) clearly reveals that any portion of DCR/TDYCC’s activities designated for recreation are intended “to lessen problems caused by poverty, racism and cultural deprivation” (hardly a “recreational activity”). That is why TDYCC was established in the first place 50 years ago and why the EIC supports it wholeheartedly.
In the 2009 court case relating to this matter, Justice Cacace found that DCR/TDYCC performed both social services and recreation services. For that reason, the Court found that it was not illegal or arbitrary for the Town Board to have classified DCR/TDYCC as a recreational department. But, under the Finneran Law (which applies only in Greenburgh), the Town’s classification automatically forces unincorporated Greenburgh residents (and not the villages) to fund it.
But, just as the Town Board has chosen to classify DCR/TDYCC as recreational in nature because it has a recreational component, it could also re-classify DCR/TDYCC more accurately as the Greenburgh agency responsible for Town-wide social services. Indeed, the Town has a completely separate Department of Parks and Recreation (also funded solely by unincorporated) which is: “responsive to the leisure needs of its residents. In our delivery system, the department will provide well-planned parks, facilities, open space, programs, and services that are economically and environmentally sound. It is also the purpose of this department to reach out and supply necessary channels for wholesome recreation that will benefit the individual, family, and community.
The Town has chosen to classify DCR/TDYCC’s as recreational despite programming that includes after-school activities, summer youth employment, college tours, parenting skills classes, financial management skills seminars, senior services, and leadership and conflict resolution classes for teenagers. All are social service in nature and available Town-wide. In doing so, the Town has the unfortunate distinction of being the rare (if not only) U.S. municipality to operate two separate recreation departments.