Village Trustees Consider Laws to Regulate Gun Dealerships and Gun Storage
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 27 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Could a gun dealer open a retail store in Scarsdale? Under our current Village code, nothing would bar a licensed gun seller from setting up shop in a commercial location in Scarsdale. And with so many of those vacant, it's not impossible that this could happen. The Town of Harrison recently found themselves with a gun shop in town and they are now considering passing town ordinances to regulate the presence of gun dealers in town.
With that in mind, Trustee Carl Finger, who now heads the Law Committee of the Scarsdale Village of Trustees invited Allison Anderman, Staff Attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to meet with the trustees to review potential measures that could be taken to control the sale of guns in Scarsdale.
Though there are currently no licensed gun dealers in Scarsdale and the Village's zoning code prevents the sale of guns in residential areas, Scarsdale does not currently have code to prevent the operation of a gun dealership. Anderman shared provisions that are under consideration in other municipalities to regulate gun dealers.
Specifically she suggested Scarsdale consider enacting the following:
Prevent gun dealerships in "sensitive" areas near schools, nursery schools and religious institutions.
Require background checks for the employees of gun dealers.
Require dealers to meet security standards to prevent theft -- such as an alarm system and videotaping capability which could help to solve straw purchasing crimes. Anderman noted that Walmart voluntarily started videotaping gun transactions several years ago.
Restrict gun sales to facilities that are not visible to the public so that purchases cannot be witnessed through a store window.
Allow law enforcement to inspect gun dealerships during normal business hours. Anderman explained that routine inspections provide law enforcement to deter illegal activity and trafficking. She added that the data shows that states do not permit inspections are the source of 50% of illegal guns found in other states.
Require gun dealers to report their inventory to law enforcement officials on a regular basis.
Restricted admittance for minors to gun dealerships.
Prohibit those who can't own a gun from access to the gun dealership.
Require gun dealers to post notices and warnings of firearm laws and suicide prevention resources.
Require gun dealers to get a land use permit to ensure that their site conforms to local law and is a safe location.
Anderman also suggested that Scarsdale consider it's own safe gun storage laws requiring guns to be locked when stored.
The Village Attorney advised that Westchester County already passed a safe gun storage law. The county law requires that guns are stored securely and locked to prevent access to children and unauthorized users. The Village Attorney is going to investigate whether Scarsdale is already covered under the County law or stronger local measures are needed.
In addition, the Village will investigate if any county or state laws already regulate gun dealers and see what is needed to further safeguard the Village.
Scarsdale Little League Opening Day Saturday April 22nd
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 20 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Players, their families and friends are invited to join the fun as the Scarsdale Little League kicks off the 2017 season Saturday April 22 from 8:30-9:15am at Crossway 3 Field (320 Mamaroneck Road across from the Scarsdale Swimming Pool).
The League is excited to have special guest, Bobby Valentine, throwing out the first pitch to open the Little League season. Bobby was a high school football and baseball star in nearby Stamford, CT, and went on to play ten seasons in MLB and manage for 16 MLB seasons including seven with the Mets leading them to the World Series in 2000. He is an ambassador for baseball in the USA, Japan and around the world.
Pete Ruf, Sports Anchor for News 12 Westchester, will emcee the ceremony, which will include remarks from Bobby Valentine, new Scarsdale Mayor, Dan Hochvert, new Scarsdale Varsity Baseball Coach, Jeff Weigel, and our SLL Co-President, Michael Asen.
There will be lots of food and fun at the ceremony with fashionable Scarsdale Baseball hoodies and shirts available for purchase. Brother Jimmy's BBQ will be giving out $20 gift certificates to the first 100 purchasers.
Those who purchased Yankee or Met tickets can pick them up at the field from 7:45-9:00am.
The ceremony will start promptly at 8:30am and last approximately 30 minutes, and everyone is encouraged to arrive early since parking is limited. Parking is also available in the Scarsdale Swimming Pool lot across the street.
Please note that games this Saturday in Atlantic, Junior and 1st grade leagues will start as soon as possible after the ceremony (approximately 9:15-9:30am).
Kids Recycle Sneakers for a Good Cause
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 05 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
For the past three years, Scarsdale's Leah Glucksman has been collecting gently used sneakers for the Max Cure Foundation and the Dunk Your Kicks campaign. DYK's initiative is intended to raise awareness of the fight against pediatric cancer while also helping the environment by keeping old "kicks" out of landfills. The money raised through the resale of this affordable footwear helps low-income and military families living in the U.S. with a child battling this disease.
Leah is now a senior at Scarsdale High School and is passing the torch of responsibility to her younger brother Dean, a ninth grader as SHS. He enlisted the help of his two friends, Marc Ifrah and Jack McEvoy, to expand the outreach. This year alone, the boys collected 283 pairs of footwear. To accomplish this, they set up drop boxes at local institutions - Barry's Bootcamp, FlyWheel Sports, Ripped Fitness, Westchester Reform Temple, The Jewish Community Center of Harrison and Congregation Kol Ami.
In addition to the sneaker-collection effort, Dean added his own twist to the awareness campaign - the first annual Max Cure Foundation March Madness NCAA basketball bracket. Through this inaugural event, Dean raised $1,200 for the foundation.
Statement on the Proposed 2017-18 Village Budget from the LWVS
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 14 April 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
This statement was read at the April 12, 2017 Scarsdale Village Board meeting by Janice Starr and Joan Frankle for the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale:
The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale (the "League" or "LWVS") held a membership meeting on Monday, April 3, 2017 to evaluate the 2017-2018 Tentative Village Budget (the "Budget"). We thank Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, Deputy Village Manager Rob Cole, Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure and Trustee and Liaison to the LWVS Deb Pekarek for attending the meeting and addressing our questions relating to the budget, as well as potential issues going forward.
The League supports the 2017-2018 Budget. We commend the Village staff, former Mayor Jonathan Mark, the Board of Trustees (the "Board") and its Finance Committee for conducting a well-managed, thoughtful process and proposing a budget that evidences careful planning, taking into consideration both the current and anticipated needs of the Village.
The League supports the budget of $56,432,806, representing a year-to-year increase of 1.75% or $968,267.
We will now address the details of our consensus opinion.
PROPERTY TAX LEVY
The proposed property tax levy increase is 2.19%, or $861,543, which corresponds to a tax rate increase of 4.10% or approximately $223 for a Village homeowner with an average assessed property value of $1,505,000. This homeowner would pay roughly $6,770 in Village taxes in 2017-2018, representing approximately 18.29% of the homeowner's total property tax bill.
The League understands it was necessary for the Board to vote to exceed the state-mandated cap on the tax levy increase (or "tax cap") of 1.37%, or $516,436. We recognize that strict and consistent adherence to the state-imposed tax cap levy would make maintaining current services and facilities unsustainable. In addition, we appreciate the restrictive nature of the state's tax cap calculation for the Village. In particular: (1) the tax cap legislation does not provide municipalities with the same advantages afforded to school districts, specifically exemption of capital improvement projects and debt service payments; (2) the cap does not include state-mandated cost increases such as Health Care cost increases, which increased by over 12% this year; and (3) the cap is not a fixed 2% cap, but actually the lesser of 2% or the Consumer Price Index, which makes it unpredictable and therefore difficult for municipalities to budget effectively and responsibly, year-to-year, under the state Tax Levy law.
We understand that reforms to the current state property tax levy law are a "tough sell" in Albany. However, the League encourages the Village to continue to advocate for changes to the law that would benefit municipalities. Reasonable reforms to the current law would include: calculating the tax levy limit based on a fixed 2% cap, as opposed to a fluctuating measure of inflation, so that municipalities can budget and plan from year-to-year and into the future; allowing the same exemptions for debt service and capital expenditures as currently allowed for school districts; and including an exemption for any increases in employee health care and other mandated costs in excess of 2%.
The League also recommends that the Village engage the community in Village advocacy by giving residents relevant information and specific action items to directly lobby the State government on these issues.
GENERAL FUND BALANCE
The League supports the rationale provided for the proposed budget's $190,000 increase in the use of fund balance. Specifically, the following factors were considered in determining next year's fund balance: adequate reserves to deal with unplanned emergencies; maintenance of fund balance within 10-15% of prior year's budget; and mitigation of tax increases, especially considering this year's health insurance cost increases of 12%. We recognize and appreciate that rating agencies consider a fund balance within 10-15% of the prior budget a healthy range given the Village's active capital improvement policy, and that this is a critical factor in maintaining the Village's Aaa rating.
WATER RATE INCREASES
The proposed water rate increase adds $105 to the proposed tax increase of $233 for a total increase of $348 for an average household assessed at $1,505,000. There are additional water rate increases already planned for the next several years. Despite this year's increase, our water rates will still be among the lowest in Westchester county.
The League understands and supports the current need for the proposed water increase which reflects actual increases in the cost of water in addition to the need to replenish the Village's self-sustaining Water Enterprise Fund, which was used to finance the renovation of Scarsdale's two pumping stations (Ardsley Road and Reeves Newsom). We commend the Village on the effective use of the Water Enterprise Fund, without overburdening taxpayers, as evidenced by Scarsdale's favorable water rate in comparison to other Westchester communities.
We further commend the Village for communicating to the public via email and mailing a list of
"tips" for how residents might conserve water and avoid higher water bills. We encourage the Village to continue to make this a part of ongoing communication with the community, and ask that this information be prominently highlighted on the Village website.
We also support the Village's continued efforts to investigate the most effective way to price water in our community to encourage conservation and cost management.
The League supports the funding of capital projects in the amount of $7,051,500 in the proposed budget.
The League also recognizes that the Village is always looking for government grants as sources of funding for the capital plan and we support and commend the Village's ongoing efforts and effectiveness in obtaining grants. However we appreciate that grants are by no means a reliable source of funding, and that available grants frequently are not responsive to our Village's capital project priorities.
We also support the Village's approach to prioritizing projects according to a "triage system," with those projects that must be addressed for safety reasons at the top of the list, followed by less pressing, but nonetheless needed projects, and then "wanted" projects at the bottom, including those that improve community aesthetics.
We recognize that each year for the last decade the Village Board and Administration have made difficult decisions to strike a balance between responsibly addressing capital needs and keeping tax increases at manageable levels for Scarsdale taxpayers. We further recognize that in each budget year, the choice of projects is the result of many considerations, including state mandates, operational necessity to maintain core services, and operational efficiency (spending now in order to save in the future).
As we have in the past, the League again recommends that the Board and Village Management make a greater effort at the outset of the budget process to educate the community about the list and associated costs of various proposed capital projects, and which projects would have to be deferred or downgraded in the upcoming fiscal year if the Board were to propose a budget that is at or under the tax cap.
While we acknowledge that community involvement in the selection of capital projects spending is neither feasible nor productive, the League appreciates the Village's use of ad hoc committees to engage broad community input, and thus help ensure broad community support, in the process of project planning and execution. The League recommends that the Village develop a more visible and accessible way to publicize the names of ad hoc capital project committees to the community, to gain even broader input.
The allocation for road repair in the proposed budget is approximately $580,000 which, along with a $95,000 grant from the "Pave New York" program, plus an anticipated $500,000 in current year surplus, amounts to $1.75 million for road repair this year. This would represent an increase of over 30% relative to the 2016-2017 fiscal year's budget allocation for road repair of $1.337 million.
We are pleased that the Village has applied for grants and that they are making use of budget surplus to address the condition of the roads. We also commend the Village for effectively negotiating with Con Edison to perform and pay for "curb-to-curb" road repairs following Con Edison's gas line work on village roads, and for successfully lobbying for state legislation to improve standards for Con Edison's responsibility in making such road repairs.
The League understands that 1 mile of road repair costs the Village approximately $350,000, and that the current level of appropriation allows for the repair of only 3 - 4 miles of the 72 miles of Village roads per year. Although, it is the League's opinion that the rate at which the Village currently plans to address road repair is not sufficient, we do not support bonding or other borrowing as a way of paying for additional road repair. We agree with the Village Board and Administration that incurring debt for ongoing road repair would significantly add to the debt service costs in the operating budget and, considering that the useful "life" of the repaired roads would be no longer than the bond term, bonding road repair would be fiscally imprudent and irresponsible.
Given the recent attention voiced by members of the community regarding the pace of Village road repairs, we recommend that the Village consider using any additional surplus that might arise in order to increase the allocation for road repair in the proposed budget, keeping in mind the other less visible infrastructure needs that also must be addressed. The League further recommends that the Board and Village Management make a greater effort at the outset of the budget process to educate the community about the issues and trade-offs associated with maintaining our roads in the current fiscal environment.
The League acknowledges that some of the roads that are in the worst condition are state or county roads for which the Village has neither the responsibility nor the authority to repair. Further, we acknowledge that the Village Administration has repeatedly asked the state and the county to repair the sections of their roads that run through Scarsdale, to no avail. We recommend that the Village continue to press the state and county on their respective responsibility to maintain their roads, and to explore possible agreements with the state and county that would allow the Village to address repairs on those roads and be reimbursed by the state and county on reasonable terms. We further recommend that the Village inform the community about what individual residents might do to achieve improved county and state road conditions.
Finally, the League recommends that the Village publish and regularly update the list of Village roads for which planned surface repair is being delayed due to Con Edison or other repair schedules.
The proposed level of Village staffing is flat relative to the 2016-2017 fiscal year at 252 full-time equivalents, including Library personnel. This total level of personnel is approximately 10 FTEs lower than the level 30 years ago.
The League recognizes and commends the Village for maintaining the current level and quality of village services, even as staff numbers have decreased over time. However, we are concerned about the long-term viability of current levels of staffing, given the increasing need for individual staff members to perform multiple tasks and the increasing complexity of many of the Village staff responsibilities. Scarsdale, unlike many other municipalities, has a dedicated Capital Projects Manager, without whom the Village would be unable to efficiently and effectively address the annual list of capital projects. However, there are other areas for which the Village should but does not have designated managers, such as communications and environmental sustainability. The League recommends that the Village consider and plan for additional managerial staff for these and other critical areas in the near future.
We reiterate our previously expressed concern about the Village's ability to continue to attract and retain quality staff and departmental leadership in a competitive environment. We are particularly concerned given the fact that many current department heads are approaching retirement age and that younger hires are subject to higher state-mandated pension contribution rates that, together with rising health care contributions, negatively affect their overall compensation.
The League commends the Village Manager's expressed intent to reintroduce the subject of a review of the revaluation process with the new Mayor and Board of Trustees and to address property owners' concerns that arose over the last two revaluation cycles. We support an independent expert review of each of Scarsdale's 2014 and 2016 property revaluations to move the community forward in developing a transparent process of regularly scheduled Village-wide property appraisal. The League recommends a process by which the Village conducts a village-wide property appraisal at least once every five years (as per the state-recommended guideline). Further, the League supports the Village Board's and Administration's goals of effectively balancing the issues of revaluation costs with those of quality and scope, while maintaining assessments at 100% market value and achieving equity and fairness in property taxation.
DOWNTOWN COMMERCIAL VITALITY AND DEVELOPMENT
The proposed budget does not address this issue, except as it pertains to parking revenue and enforcement. The League is concerned about the apparent decrease in downtown vitality and development and commends the Village for creating a working group to begin to engage the merchant community in discussions on how best to address topics collaboratively such as parking, empty storefronts, and the lack of diversity in commercial establishments. In addition, at the last Village Board meeting, the Trustees agreed to hire a planning and consulting firm to consider the development of the Freightway Garage and adjacent open lot in conjunction with a steering committee of local residents to further promote commercial development and revenue generation. This is a positive example of engaging community residents from the outset of a major community undertaking.
BUDGET DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
As in years past, the League commends the Village for engaging in a transparent budget development process. This year we applaud the following initiatives: videotaping and broadcasting more budget meetings on Scarsdale Public TV, both live and on-demand; improved communication and accessibility of budget-related information on the village website; and improved timing and release of the first and second drafts of the Village budget. We recommend taping and televising more budget-related Board meetings in the future, including the all budget-related Finance Committee meetings.
The League commends the Village on the shared services and cooperation between the Village and the School District, an excellent example of which is the newly-developed Food Recycling program. We encourage the Village to continue to explore more ways to work together with the School District.
We recognize the need to cut support for the Scarsdale Teen Center, given the withdrawal of support from the School District and the evolution of the needs of young people in our community. The League supports the Village's efforts to develop additional programming for teens within the Recreation Department.
In conclusion, we thank you for the invaluable assistance and cooperation that was extended to us in our study of the proposed budget. We commend the Board and Village Management on the timeliness and quality of the data and analysis provided during the budget process and applaud the professionalism and dedication with which the Village Manager, Deputy Village Manager, Village Treasurer, Mayor and Trustees developed the 2017-2018 Tentative Budget. Thank you for considering our comments.
LWVS Village Budget Chair
The Servant of Two Masters: On Stage at SHS this Weekend
- Category: On Our Minds
- Published on 30 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The Servant of Two Masters is on stage at Scarsdale High School this Friday and Saturday nights, March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 pm. The play is a timeless 17th century Italian comic masterpiece by Carlo Goldoni about a servant so hungry he takes on two jobs to survive. In this updated and modernized text, the performance is different every night. The actors improvise along with the written text in the style of commedia dell'arte.
The show, under the direction of Drama Club advisor Barbara Malecki is a physical comedy that depicts a play within a play. With many twists and surprises, it portrays multiple romances, a woman masquerading as a man, and of course, a servant struggling to serve two masters at once
Playful costumes, dancing, audience participation, and improv create a bold, fun, and hilarious show that will be sure to leave you in stitches!
The performances will be in the Scarsdale High School auditorium on March 31st and April 1st at 7:30.
Tickets are available at shsdcsotm.eventbrite.com or at the door.
Fun for all ages!
Photos by Hannah Glickenhaus, Text by Stephen Orlofsky