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PropertyTaxTax assessments, the Freightway project and proposed renovations to Village Hall and the Girl Scout House were among the items discussed at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday June 11.

The meeting opened with comments from Mayor Samwick – here they are:

Filing of the Tentative Assessment Roll and Grievance Day:

The annual Tentative Assessment Roll for 2019 has been filed and letters have been mailed to all property owners whose year-to-year assessments have changed. Tuesday, June 18th is Grievance Day. Property owners have a window to grieve their tax assessments between the issuance of the tentative assessment roll and June 18th. This is the one opportunity each year that property owners may challenge their property assessments and have the opportunity to meet with the Board of Assessment Review to discuss their assessments.

We encourage all property owners to carefully review their 2019 tentative assessments and to file a grievance if they have a dispute with their assessed value. As you review your assessment, please note that the valuation date is July 1, 2018 and that the 2019 equalization rate is 94.75%. To convert the assessed value to the estimate of fair market value of your property, divide your assessed value by .9475. Property owners interested in filing a grievance and/or meeting with the Board of Assessment Review on Grievance Day, should contact the Assessment Office at 722-1133. All Grievance Day meetings with the BAR are by appointment only. Additionally, if you have any questions as you review your assessment information, please call the Assessment Office or view the Assessor’s tab on the Village website.

Freightway Update:

This afternoon, the Board met in executive session with AKRF to review an advanced draft of the Request for Proposal document for the redevelopment of the Freightway Site. The release of the RFP is expected to occur within the next week or two. The RFP will be posted shortly thereafter on the Village website.

At this point, we expect responses to the RFP to be received in mid-September with the next public meeting expected to occur in October.

There will be a number of opportunities for the public to comment on the redevelopment of Freightway as specific proposals from developers are presented and as the land use process takes place.

Joint Meeting with the School Board:

On June 19th, there will be a joint meeting of the Village and School Boards to discuss the proposed light installation at Butler Field. This will be the first meeting of the full Village Board covering the proposed lights at Butler Field. Prior to this meeting the Deputy Mayor, Village Manager, Village Attorney, Village Planner, Chief of Police and I met with the President of the School Board, the School Board’s counsel, the Superintendent of Schools, the Assistant Superintendent of Business and the Athletic Director.

At that meeting, we determined, at a minimum and as an appropriate starting place, that the Village’s ownership of the land under Butler Field warranted a joint meeting between the two Boards.

Before the prior meeting, Village Counsel had commenced a review of the operative lease documents as well as relevant Village and State codes in an effort to determine the requirements under the lease agreement governing Butler Field, the land use process and compliance with adopted guidelines. Review is ongoing and we look forward to learning more about this project at the joint meeting of the Boards.

We encourage residents to attend the joint meeting, which will be held at the Scarsdale Congregational Church diagonally across the street from Village Hall at 6:30pm on June 19th. We look forward to seeing you there. If you cannot attend the meeting, we will be videotaping the meeting and the recording will be available online.

Village Board Meeting

During public comments Bob Harrison gave a shout out to sign up for the Scarsdale Youth Tennis Program and also raised questions about the proposed lighting at Butler Field. He said the plan was to install four 80-foot towers around the field and said that was very high. He questioned the environmental impact of the installation and asked for input from the Trustees.

Mayor Samwick said that the Village Board will hold a meeting with the School Board on Tuesday June 19 to discuss the proposal.

Trustee Lena Crandall reported that she presented proclamations to Conservation Advisory Council members Michelle Sterling and Ron Schulhof, at the annual meetings of the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County and the Bronx River Sound Shore Audubon Society. She credited the two for networking with other communities and Westchester County to spread the word about food scrap recycling and help to improve our environment.

Trustee Jane Veron reported that the Scarsdale Business Alliance welcomed four new members and held a successful Meet and Greet at Zachys on June 6. She reported that the alliance is planning four annual events. She reminded everyone that The Farmers Market is open in the Village on Thursdays from 10 am to 2:30 pm.

Hearings and Resolutions

The Board held a hearing on a proposed code change to eliminate a provision which permitted the Police Chief to appoint private citizens to serve in the case of “riot, pestilence or invasion, on election day, on a day of public celebration, on occasions of emergency or disaster or on such occasions and at such times as the Chief of Police of the Scarsdale Police Department may deem necessary or advisable for the training and drilling of special policemen.” The Board passed the change unanimously.

The Village Board passed a resolution to levy taxes of $41,207,438 in accordance with the 2019-20 budget. This represents a tax levy increase of 2.91%. The average homeowner will see a Village tax increase of $256 a year.

The Board passed three resolutions read by Trustee Jonathan Lewis:

-To renew a contract to clean, televise and cure in place pipe linings for storm and sanitary sewers.

-To hold a public hearing on an application by the village to secure a community block grant for an elevator upgrade at Village Hall.

-To sign an agreement with the NYS Department of Transportation to increase the funding for snow and ice removal on state roads, due to the severity of the winter of 2018/19.

Trustee Ross read a resolution to schedule a public hearing on an application to secure community block grant funding for improvements to the Girl Scout House including installation of a new roof, new windows, new radiators and new cabinets and appliances in the kitchen. The resolution was approved.

Watch the meeting here:

BOT 1Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting began with a special proclamation from Mayor Marc Samwick, who declared Friday, June 7 as “Gun Violence Awareness Day” in Scarsdale. On that day, and at events nationwide during the weekend of June 8 and 9, thousands of Americans will honor both the victims and survivors of gun violence.

It’s no secret that safety and security are top-of-mind issues for village residents. This concern has given rise to local groups such as Scarsdale Coalition for Safer Schools, Scarsdale 4 Gun Safety, Safety in Scarsdale Schools, and the village’s Safe Coalition, which have raised awareness about increased brutality and conflict in our society, and the pressing need for preventative action. Gun Violence Awareness Day is yet another opportunity to support these efforts, draw attention to the real impact of gun violence, and demand definitive change to stem a devastating tide.

“We would like to encourage our residents and others to reflect upon gun violence, and do what we can to address this issue,” said Samwick. “With that said… on behalf of all village residents, I am pleased and proud to join all associated with National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and encourage all residents to support their local community efforts to prevent gun violence, and to honor and value human life.”

The village proclamation was given to Patricia Colella (Bradley Road), membership lead of the New York State Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The organization now has more than 5 million supporters through chapters in every state, and works with the public, government officials, religious leaders, medical professionals, and others to advocate for stronger laws and policies to save lives, and promote responsible gun ownership.

After thanking the mayor for the proclamation, Colella provided some staggering statistics. “In 2017, for the first time in modern history, substantially more Americans were killed with firearms than in motor vehicle accidents. Data from the CDC shows that 39,773 people were killed by gun violence in 2017… That is an average of 108 people per day.” She continued, “Sadly, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed with guns than people in other high-income countries.”

BOT 2Colella urged her fellow residents to raise awareness by discussing the issue and wearing orange on June 7. “Anyone can join this campaign… to help raise awareness… and honor the lives of gun violence victims and survivors.” Why orange? Traditionally, hunters wear orange to announce themselves to other hunters, and the color also is worn at most, if not all work sites, as well as at night, to ensure safety. It was worn by the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago just days after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inaugural. After Pendleton’s death, her friends began the Wear Orange movement to remember victims and express hope for a future free of gun brutality.

In addition to issuing the proclamation, Scarsdale will illustrate its support with orange ribbons tied to trees in the village center, now through June 9.

* * *

After the proclamation, the Mayor and Board focused on practical government matters, most notably the tentative assessment roll and grievance process, changes to the public comment process at BOT meetings, and upcoming infrastructure projects.

Samwick announced that Scarsdale’s tentative assessment roll will filed by this Monday, June 3 at the latest, as the statutory filing date of June 1 falls on a Saturday. Letters will be mailed to property owners whose year-to-year assessments have changed, and the tentative roll will be posted to scarsdale.com next week, allowing all residents to review their assessment information.

moneyhouseTuesday, June 18 is grievance day. Residents have a window to grieve their tax assessments between the issuance of the tentative assessment roll and June 18. Grievance day is the only opportunity each year for property owners to challenge their assessments and meet with the Scarsdale Board of Assessment Review. This process is governed by New York State law, and cannot be modified or adjusted by the village.

Anyone who is interested in grieving his or her property assessment must contact the assessment office at 722-1133. All meetings with the board of assessment review are by appointment only.

As you review your assessment notice, note that the valuation date is July 1, 2018, and the 2019 equalization rate is 94.75 percent. To convert assessed value to estimated fair market value for your property, divide the assessed value by the equalization rate.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Justin Arest noted that former assessor, Nanette Albanese, no longer works for the village. During the short term, and throughout the grievance process, Jane Lawrence will serve as acting assessor. Lawrence currently works in Scarsdale’s assessor’s office, and is a New-York-State-certified residential appraiser and practicing affiliate of the Appraisal Institute. Arest added that the board and village staff continue to search for a permanent replacement for Albanese.

* * *

In his comments, Samwick also announced the addition of a second public comment period to village board meetings. This is in response to recently voiced concerns about limited opportunities for residents’ input. “We will commence a second public comment period at the end of this and future regularly scheduled board meetings,” said Samwick. “(It) has been added to enhance the opportunity for residents to express their views to their elected officials and is consistent with this board’s encouragement of communication.” The second public comment period will follow the same parameters set for the first public comment period (e.g., time limit), and won’t extend past 11:00 pm. Further, should the regular business meeting extend beyond 11:00 pm, there will be no second public comment session. Residents may speak once during each period.

* * *

Scarsdale Village Manager Steve Pappalardo then reviewed a number of upcoming capital improvement projects of interest.

Popham Road Fire Station #1 is “substantially complete” and fire department staff will reoccupy the facility next month. During the $4.7 million renovation, the village corrected a variety of structural deficiencies in the building, including modifications to accommodate “the newer, larger fire apparatus that is being built today.” The project also included the addition of a female dorm room and bathroom, an exercise room, new kitchen, new mechanical systems, a 60-kilowatt generator, and wheelchair lift.

The library renovation and construction of a 9,000-square-foot addition continues, and expected to be completed in the spring 2020. About 90 percent of demolition is finished and structural steel framing has begun.

The Arthur Boniface Water Tower on Garden Road, a designated landmark that has been in use since 1929, is in need of rehabilitation, and will be scraped and painted on the inside and outside. The tower holds 1.7 million gallons of water and provides excess water to residents as needed, as well as adequate water pressure for properties in higher altitudes. The village plans to start work in September, with a break during the winter months.

The Heathcote Road Bridge replacement project, to be funded by a New York State grant of $1.6 million, is expected to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2020, and will entail the replacement of supporting abutment structures. The bridge, which runs over the Heathcote Road Bypass, currently is safe, with temporary abutments in place.

The Girl Scout House will be refreshed in fall 2019, via new paint and new carpeting; Westchester-Putnam Girls Scouts will share related costs equally with Scarsdale, pursuant to a long-standing agreement.

Scarsdale Village Hall also will get a mini facelift this summer. The front canopy will be replaced, and wood panels in Rutherford Hall will be refinished and/or replaced as needed. More mundane projects include replacement of a roof drain and underground fuel storage tank, which, while functional, are past their life expectancies.

Last, the village will continue improvements to Wynmor Park, which include tennis court resurfacing, and the installation of new fencing, preschool playground equipment, and landscaping. The project, a collaboration between the village and East Heathcote Neighbors Association, has been delayed due to a number of factors, but will be finished this summer.

Here are comments from Mayor Marc Samwick:

There are three items I would like to discuss this evening.

Filing of the Tentative Assessment Roll and Grievance Day:
The annual Tentative Assessment Roll for 2019 will be filed this week or Monday June 3rd at the latest, as the statutory June 1 filing date falls on a Saturday this year. Letters will simultaneously be mailed to all property owners whose year-to-year assessments have changed. The Tentative Roll will also be posted on the Village website the week of June 3rd so all residents can review their assessment information. Tuesday, June 18th is Grievance Day. Property owners have a window to grieve their tax assessments between the issuance of the tentative assessment roll and June 18th. This is the one opportunity each year that property owners may challenge their property assessments and have the opportunity to meet with the Board of Assessment Review to discuss their assessments. This process is governed by New York State law and is not subject to modification or adjustment by the Town or Village.

We encourage all property owners to carefully review their 2019 tentative assessments and to file a grievance if they have a dispute with their assessed value. As you review your assessment notice, please note that the valuation date is July 1, 2018 and that the 2019 equalization rate is 94.75%. To convert the assessed value to the estimate of fair market value of your property, divide your assessed value by .9475. Property owners interested in filing a grievance and/or meeting with the Board of Assessment Review on Grievance Day, should contact the Assessment Office at 722-1133. All Grievance Day meetings with the BAR are by appointment only. Additionally, if you have any questions as you review your assessment information, please call the Assessment Office or view the Assessor’s tab on the Village website – www.scarsdale.com.

Freightway Update:
Earlier today, the Board met in executive session with AKRF to review a draft of the Request for Proposal document for the redevelopment of the Freightway Site and to incorporate public comments into the document prior to its release – which is expected in mid-June. We would like to remind people that the Board goes into executive session to discuss Freightway to protect the value of this important Village asset.

The Village Board started the public engagement of the Freightway redevelopment process with the formation of the Freightway Steering Committee and a community outreach process that resulted in a Visioning Study. The Board is committed to actively engaging the public as it proceeds through an open process that includes public meetings, such as the Community Engagement Forum that took place on May 15th.

We encourage residents to view the Freightway Community Engagement Forum on Scarsdale Public TV and to continue to share your comments with the Board. There will continue to be opportunities for the public to comment on the redevelopment of Freightway as specific proposals from developers are presented and as the land use process takes place.

Addition of Second Public Comment Period:
As you will notice on this evening’s agenda, we will commence a second Public Comment period at the end of this and future regularly scheduled Board meetings. The second Public Comment period is being added to enhance the opportunity for residents to express their views to their elected officials and is consistent with this Board’s encouragement of communication.

The guidelines for the second Public Comment period will be consistent with the guidelines that are in place for the existing Public Comment period, with the inclusion of one additional parameter – there will be an 11:00pm conclusion to the second Public Comment period and the second period will not take place in the event the regular business meeting is not concluded by 11:00 pm. Also, note one modification – speakers may speak once at each Public Comment period.

We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.



retaxesWith many in Scarsdale impacted by the loss of our deduction for state and local taxes, and a vote coming this month on the proposed 2019-20 school budget, real estate taxes are top of mind. If you do not frequent Board of Education meetings, you might wonder why Scarsdale’s school taxes, which represent about 62% of your real estate taxes, seem so high – and how Scarsdale stacks up to other communities in Westchester.

Greenacres resident Michael Levine recently performed an analysis in order to answer some of these questions and has drawn some interesting conclusions.

His analysis shows that although our school taxes are the highest in Westchester, our spending per pupil ($31,118) ranks only 12th out of the 40 school districts in the country. Byram Hills, Irvington and Briarcliff Manor are among the districts that spend more per pupil. Scarsdale’s spending per pupil “is higher than the middle, but not extremely high” and is consistent with the goal of “fund[ing] an excellent public school district, and one of the best in the country, the state and the county.”

Instead, Mr. Levine identifies two “unsurprising” factors that primarily explain our high taxes and that are not “management issues.” The first key contributing factor is that Scarsdale is an affluent community and “therefore receives less state and federal support than other districts and must pay a higher percentage of expenses using School Taxes.” In fact, Scarsdale ranks 1st out of 40 in the percentage of expenditures funded by school taxes (91.8%) and 40th out of 40 in the percentage funded by state and federal support.

schooltaxesThe second key contributing factor is that Scarsdale is desirable. The district’s fine reputation leads young families to move here and enroll children in the school system. As a result, Scarsdale also ranks 1st out of 40 when measuring pupil population as a percentage of the total district population (26.0%). “If two districts have the same total population but one has more children enrolled in the schools, the one with the more pupils will have more expenses.”

Mr. Levine’s analysis provides tables that show, for each district in Westchester, the school tax per capita, the school tax as a percent of expenditures, the spending per pupil and the pupil population as a percentage of total population. It also includes an appendix that explains why he used the school tax per capita as the metric for comparing the relative levels of school taxes and discusses some possible alternative metrics.

He concludes by saying, “So, yes, the perception that Scarsdale’s School Taxes are notably high is a valid perception. Since School Taxes are a dominant percentage of total taxes, it follows that total taxes are also notably high…. [T]he predominant reasons for the high taxes are not surprising and not under the control of the school leadership – we have chosen to live in an affluent community, and to raise families and send our children to school here…. It does not make sense to fault anyone for causing this situation. But I suppose if I did want to view this as some sort of problem and I was looking for someone to blame, I would have to paraphrase Pogo: ‘We have met the enemy and they are us.’”

See the full report here:

FieldLightsThe debate about lights at Butler Field continued at the May 13 meeting of the Board of Education when Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi provided an update on his efforts to come to an agreement regulating field usage with neighbors.

He said there was general consensus among all stakeholders that “everyone wants to support our student athletes,” and that the “lights should benefit all the children of Scarsdale,” including those who participate on high school teams and younger children who play with the Independent Sports Organization. He said there was agreement that the lights would be in use from September through November and March through May and everyone could agree on the times would the lights would be turned on.

However he said, “We have not come to an agreement on when and how frequently practices can take place on the turf field,” and “We have not begun to tackle rules of enforcement and penalties.”

Seeking further clarification on the points of disagreement Dr. Hagerman asked Pappalardi to outline the difference between current practice times and what would be possible with the lights. Pappalardi said, “There are disagreements around how late the lights should be on.” He said, “Current practice is that the field is reserved until 7:30 pm five days a week. On Saturday we typically don’t have to go late. (With the lights) there is the potential is to extend practice up until 9 pm Monday through Friday nights. The draft now has 8:30, but 8:00 would be a more reasonable time for kids to get home.”

Board member Nina Cannon said, “We should leave some flexibility in this policy… To lock ourselves in – there may be circumstances why we need the lights later.”

Board member Chris Morin agreed. He said, “There is no reason that practice can’t take place. 9 pm is not unreasonable. Students stay up later as the days get longer. I am all for keeping flexibility in and making no limitations on practices.” Later in the discussion he added, “It is not abnormal for kids to have activities going on at the high school until 9 or 10 at night. We have discussed events other than sports – what about graduation? Concerts? We should add that to this agreement. Also music – what about that?”

Discussing an enforcement and penalty policy, Dr. Hagerman said that administrators and faculty were compelled to follow district policies and that no enforcement or penalties need to be delineated. He said, “We will follow the agreements we have laid out.”

Community members had lots to say about the proposal:

Nina Zoota of Cohawney Road questioned budget priorities, telling the Board that her son is on the Varsity swim team and must travel to practice. She said there are “no resources here.” She continued, “Do I think a 9 pm practice is reasonable? 9 pm does not work for us. Having practice ending at 9 is too late.”

Claudine Gecel of Kent Road also had concerns about budget priorities. She said she had just returned from the NYS Science Olympiad and that staffing limitations at the middle school prevented some students from competing. She said, “with current staffing we cannot go to nationals.”

Janet Korins of Ogden Road said, “I am not sure we have agreement on the issues. From the neighbors’ point of view this is a serious issue that should not be minimized. Practices and games can be heard from the field. At 7:30 at night the streets are quiet. We really value the quiet in the neighborhood and it is a significant issue. This affects everyone in the community. The neighbors have no idea that there will be games and practices late on weeknights. Now people are suggesting events and concerts – this is a legitimate concern for the neighbors. The fact that this is generous gift should not affect the process.”

Several student athletes spoke in favor of the lights. Emmeline Berridge from Garden Road who plays varsity basketball and lacrosse, is a CivEd advisor, and participates in Model UN said that the student body lacks spirit. She said, “Lights would turn games into events.”

Varsity Lacrosse team captain Andrew Bernstein seconded Berridge’s feelings on school spirit. He also noted that “many opponents have lights,” and that with lights, “bigger crowds would come.”

Mia and Sophie Carroll of Sunset Drive spoke in favor of the lights, saying “most of the teams we play have lights and are at an advantage.”

Rippy Phillips, who heads the youth football program said, “Night games are phenomenal. Without a turf field and no lights, we missed 15 practices for youth football – or half the season. I had to cancel practices because the fields were under water. We want a little piece of that field if our practices are cancelled.”

Phillips continued, “It would be nice if the ISO’s could use the lit field after the high school kids go home at 8 pm. Twenty years ago we had these same arguments about the turf field. We had all these arguments – but once it was in, everyone realized this was the best thing!”

Jeremy Gans of Harvest Drive said he was President of the Scarsdale Youth Soccer Club and favored installing lights at Butler Field. He said, “We had a wet fall. There was nowhere for the teams to practice …. I believe the long term solution is more turf fields in Scarsdale.” He added, “I have a second grader who plays until 8 pm. It’s not unreasonable for kids to stay out until 9 under the lights.”

Brice Kirkendall Rodriguez who heads the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association said, “We must find balance. Minority populations should have a voice and basic rights. The immediate neighbors are entitled to peace and quiet in their homes. Unreasonable hours of use will affect sleep and homework for aspiring students. I am confident that a satisfactory solution can be conceived.”

Mark Michael of Carstensen Road said, ”the (use) creep will impact my quality of life. For those of us that are working on a compromise it sounds like the decision has already been made. It sounds like we’re expanding it every which way. We can come to a reasonable consensus – but allow the participants to come up with solutions that work for all the parties.”

Dan Ornstein, also of Carstensen Road thanked Ray for bringing both sides of the issue together. He said, “I am unique in that I live across from the field, but grew up here, I was a varsity athlete here and have three kids who all play sports. I have worked hard to work with the concerned neighbors. It’s really important not to brush over the details here. I can promise you as someone who will support that there are real issues. Sound travels when there are no leaves on the trees. Please don’t rush this decision – the devil is in the details. Don’t rubberstamp the lights – it has to be done the right way.”

Julie Zhu of Harcourt Road drew a parallel between this decision and the one to hire an outside candidate to be Principal of Edgewood School. She said, “Many parents were surprised. Both decisions will have a long-term effect. Night lights will be irreversible and permanent. Both decisions shape priorities of our school and the character of our community. I heard references to neighboring schools having night lights. New Rochelle – has lights – part of $108 million bond and Edgemont also does, and they were paid for with a $12 million bond. They both have lights with public funding and community buy-in.”

Though Pappalardi said that extensive outreach had been done to the community, there was no representation from the Fox Meadow Neighborhood Association, representing many residents who surround the school.

michelleandronMichelle Sterling and Ron Schulhof: Founders of the Food Scrap Recycling Program in ScarsdaleThe Village held it's annual Compost GIveback Day this past Saturday where residents were able to pickup compost made from our food scraps. Residents brought buckets, pails, boxes, and bags all day to the recycling center to pick up the compost to use on their plants and trees. The Village Food Scrap Recycling program has recycled over 600,000 lbs. of food scraps since launching in 2017. These food scraps are brought to a compost facility where they are mixed with wood chips and in just 90 days turn into useful compost. Compost is a soil amendment that provides food and nutrients to plants, shrubs, trees and lawns. Compost is mixed into the soil around these plantings.

Since Scarsdale launched the food scrap recycling program, 15 other towns around Westchester followed our lead and have launched similar programs. Scarsdale residents and students are now recycling food scraps in all Scarsdale schools, at home and at a number of houses of worship. To learn more or sign up for the food scrap recycling program, email composting@scarsdale.com.

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