By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Apr.15, 2020: In the early hours of April 3, the state legislature completed the process of passing a $178 billion 2020-2021 state budget.
Given the current circumstances and the significant downturn in the economy, most local elected officials believe the budget could have been worse for our governments.
However, midyear adjustments to the State’s financial plan are a real possibility, so caution is warranted. There is an unprecedented provision that permits the state budget director to make uniform reductions to appropriations in the budget if it becomes unbalanced because revenues fall below projections or expenditures rise above projections during three different time intervals.
The following are some of the highlights of the budget as passed.
Clearly, the most controversial legislation in the last state budget cycle was the bail reform, discovery, and speedy trial reforms. Responding to a great deal of criticism, especially from law enforcement, the current budget repeals the requirement that the prosecutor provide initial discovery within 15 calendar days of the defendant being arraigned. The amendment also puts in place additional protections against disclosure of witness and victim information, including 911 caller information. Prosecutors may now withhold such information without having to obtain a court order for the safety of those involved.
Of great importance, the amendments bring back some level of discretion for judges. They expand the number of qualifying criminal offenses that grant judges the authority to consider a monetary bail amount when analyzing a defendant’s likelihood of returning for future court appearance or taking into account that they are a repeat offender.
Despite these changes, the Village will have to add one full-time police officer and possibly a second just to do the administrative requirements of last year‘s revision as the paperwork is voluminous and not allowed to be done by non-police personnel. This law resulted in possibly the largest unfunded mandate to local governments in decades.
Another potential local cost escalator is the expansion of the prevailing wage law, effective January 1, 2022, which imposes a prevailing wage requirement on certain public-private partnership construction projects.
Of great concern to our Village, given our density and narrow, winding streets, is the new law that legalizes the operation of E-bikes and E-scooters for individuals 16 years of age and older. These devices would be permitted on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less and in bike lanes. The E-bikes would be limited to a maximum speed of 20 mph, and E-scooters would be limited to 15 miles per hour. Cities, villages, and towns would have the further ability to regulate time, place, and manner. In addition, the legislation actually grants municipalities unilateral authority to prohibit the use of these vehicles in specified areas or entirely.
For the first time ever, the state budget includes language that establishes a $3 billion Mother Nature Bond Act, which requires approval via a statewide referendum in November 2020 before it can be enacted. The $3 billion in bond proceeds would be used to preserve and restore the State’s natural resources and reduce the impact of climate change by funding projects to restore natural habitats, protect open spaces, reduce flood risk and improve water quality. Our Village would have the opportunity to request grant money for projects that meet the criteria.
Effective January 1, 2022, the state budget also imposes a ban on the sale, use, and distribution of food containers and loose filling packaging that contain Styrofoam and packing peanuts.
Finally, the state budget amends the election law, now requiring county board of elections to conduct manual recounts of ballots in any general, primary or special election where the margin of victory is 20 votes or less or 0.5% or less. The result of the manual election will supersede the returns filed by the election inspectors, where the original vote was conducted.
Possibly, the only state government deadline that was not extended was the May 1 deadline for villages to file their annual budgets. To that end, the trustees and I are in the final phase of crafting a local budget. Thanks to some very prudent budgeting by recent boards, the impact will be mitigated.
All documents in full are on the village website. Given the inability to have a public meeting, we have left open any comments received in writing on our budgeting documents until the close of business on Monday, April 20.
In most probably the most uncertain and speculative process the current trustees have encountered vis-a-vis a budget, we are most open to your thoughts and ideas.
Photo by A. Warner
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