The following letter was submitted by Bob Cohen, a former Scarsdale resident and candidate for the NYS Senate in the 37th District: Dear Scarsdalians: Two years ago, a large plurality of you voted to elect me to the New York State Senate. That race continued until mid-December 2010, when I conceded to incumbent state senator Suzi Oppenheimer, who is retiring after her current term. The race was a wonderful experience, and I was grateful for all the support I received throughout it, including from Mayor Mike Bloomberg and The New York Times.
Running for political office was the last thing I ever expected to do. I had been semi-active in Scarsdale civic life for years -- I am still a Scarsdale volunteer firefighter -- but running for elected office was, in my estimation, something only politicians do. I am a lifelong businessman.
Property taxes and Albany dysfunction changed all that for me.
Like you, I began to see close friends moving out of Westchester, one by one, because of totally unreasonable property taxes. At the same time, I saw the children of friends moving to other states to settle down because Westchester had become unaffordable. Seniors -- people I had known for 20 years -- began packing up and leaving because their property taxes had become like second mortgages, doubling and in some cases tripling in a little more than a decade.
I saw the same politicians running for office year after year, virtually unchallenged. They had become more concerned, it seemed, with the special interests and union bosses in Albany than with their own constituents -- to wit, the insane property tax hikes and years of irresponsible pension giveaways.
Something needed to be done.
Working with like-minded fiscal reformers, I became one of Westchester’s chief advocates for a property tax cap, which in 2011 Governor Cuomo signed into law. It was a strong step forward, and it saved Westchester taxpayers more than $102 million in the first year that it’s been in effect.
Coupled with mandate relief, the Cuomo Tax Cap will bring fiscal sanity back to an area rapidly losing its middle class, which was once the backbone of this county. Governor Cuomo then bravely passed pension reform -- the Tier 6 Pension Bill -- to lower pension costs on counties like Westchester and municipalities like Scarsdale. The Cuomo bill will save taxpayers upwards of $80 billion over the next three decades!
I decided to run for state senate this year to help Governor Cuomo and other bipartisan fiscal reformers continue the tax relief agenda. I am now living across the street in New Rochelle -- Scarsdale is sadly in another district -- and running against a 20-year politician who voted against Governor Cuomo’s property tax cap, and he voted absent on the Governor’s crucial pension reform bill.
This elected official -- I’ll be polite and not name him -- has walked in lockstep with the state unions for many years, which is fine, but unaffordable. The state teacher’s union, which is going to court to try to block the Cuomo Tax Cap, is his biggest contributor, reportedly handing him hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash according to the Journal News.
Barbara and I moved to Scarsdale because of its schools. We loved Scarsdale’s teachers and are grateful for the superb education our three children received. We were willing to pay higher taxes rates for those schools, but not the type of taxes that have pillaged the budgets of Scarsdale families in recent years -- and which have made so many move away.
These crazy-high property taxes exist not from necessity but from unfunded mandates, mismanagement, and profligacy in Albany. On top of that, Scarsdale students are badly shortchanged by the state school aid formula every year. Indeed, we receive less school aid per student than any district in America. We pay these usurious tax rates to compensate for that funding shortfall.
I am sorry I will miss you at the voting booth this year, but I trust I will see you in town or by the firehouse. Barbara and I miss you all.
In the meantime, if you have friends in my senate district (SD37) that agree with me on these tax and reform issues, please feel free to send them my way! My campaign website is www.bobcohen2012.com .
All my best wishes,