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You are here: Home Section Table Village Voices Village Board Discusses Installment Tax Payments, Re-Opening, Day Camp and Pool
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Village Board Discusses Installment Tax Payments, Re-Opening, Day Camp and Pool

rainbowA rainbow on Fox Meadow Road: Photo credit: Susan GronerMayor Marc Samwick opened the May 12 Village Board Meet with the following update on the COVID outbreak, the re-opening process and an update on the possibility of paying school taxes in two installments: Here are his comments:

I would like to start with an update on the pandemic. Westchester County has had 31,384 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19, or about 9.3% of the statewide total. Devastatingly, the County has seen 1,227 fatalities. That is 1,227 people that were here two months ago and have been lost to this disease. We all know people who are included in this staggering number and we are worse off for their departure. One small modicum of positive news in this statistic is that the County’s fatalities total 5.7% of the statewide total, well below our percentage of positive cases.

Now, moving onto Scarsdale: The Village has had 345 positive Corona cases. The County Executive has been tracking “active cases” by subtracting the number of cases that we had two weeks ago. The assumption behind this methodology is that cases usually resolve within two weeks. Based on the County Executive’s methodology, Scarsdale is down to 6 positive COVID cases. Please keep in mind that all of the statistics I just shared are based on reported positive test results. There are a few reasons to believe that the reported statistics underrepresent the actual number of cases. First, not all positive cases are tested. Second, not all test results may make the State Department of Health list, including tests that occurred out of state or out of the County. From the start of the pandemic, it was clear that the statistics were not fully capturing the number of positive cases. While that remains frustrating, important information remains in the data we do have, namely, the trend – and that is unambiguously positive.

Based on the positive trends, the Governor has started the process of opening segments of the economy in portions of the state. The Governor has announced seven metrics that will dictate when the economy may start to reopen, including hospital and infection data and trends as well as testing and tracing capacity. Westchester County has satisfied five of the seven metrics and expects to meet the remaining two criteria within the coming weeks. Once a region is cleared to start opening its economy, there will be a four-phased reopening of business, starting with lower infection and higher economic impact industries, including manufacturing, construction and retail for curbside pick-up.

New York State, Westchester County and Scarsdale have fared better than original projections of COVID impacts. The single most important reason for the relatively positive performance is that we have collectively listened to the Governor and restricted our movement and social interaction. As we enter the next phase of addressing the pandemic, it is just as important that we follow the Governor’s direction. I found the Governor’s NY Forward – A Guide to Reopening New York and Building Back Better to be a useful document to understand the reopening process. You will be able to find the document on the Village website on the COVID-19 page should you wish to review it.

Please continue to wear face masks, wash your hands, social distance, and comply with the Governor’s guidelines. We will continue to have better outcomes if we comply with these guidelines. Our continued progress and ability to open more segments of our economy is directly linked to our cooperation.

School Taxes
The Town of Scarsdale is the billing and collection agent for real estate taxes paid to the School District. Historically, the School taxes have been collected once a year with a September 30th due date. Today, the Village received a letter from the School Board President in support of a transition to a 2-installment collection of School taxes, with collections in September and January.

This topic has been discussed periodically in Scarsdale. At this time of strong economic impacts resulting from COVID-19, we are all seeking ways to make it easier for residents to meet their tax obligations – through austerity spending measures, establishment of reserve funds, reduced tax increases, spreading out payments, and other measures. The Village Board has not yet had an opportunity to discuss any proposed change to the collection of School taxes, though the Village Board has steadfastly expressed its desire to provide relief to residents during this very difficult economic time.

I propose that staff prepare an analysis of the impacts of the proposed change in the collection of School taxes and that the Board conduct a work session on this topic prior to the regularly scheduled Village Board meeting on May 26th. There will be fiscal and operational impacts associated with the proposed change and it is important for the Village Board to have sufficient information to make an educated decision on this matter. To provide staff with a sense of the Village Board’s initial thoughts on the proposed change in collection of School taxes, I invite any Board member who wishes to do so to share a summary of their initial comments on this matter.

Commenting on tax payments in installments trustees said the following:

Justin Arest said, “We are united as Scarsdale Trustees to help provide relief to taxpayers during this incredibly challenging time. We should certainly proceed to installments. It will have impacts on our budget as well and we must be prepared. Anything we can for our most impacted residents and merchants must be discussed”

Lena Crandall said, “I am certainly in favor of a second school tax payment in January. I need to learn more about what our extra administrative costs might be. What do our neighboring villages do? If there is some way for us to recoup our extra administrative costs I would like to learn more about that.”

Jonathan Lewis said, “I think this is an important initiative. We are suffering through the greatest economic crisis since the depression – and it’s not just economic. It’s a threat to their families and their loved ones. It is incumbent upon to find out how we can help them. We need more information on how this would affect us. How would this impact our reserves? We need to model out these potential changes on reserve levels and find the point up to which we will not go and then be as innovative as we can to provide relief…. This is an opportunity for us to be evolutionary and revolutionary to help our neighbors with the relief that they need.”

Jane Veron said, “I want to lend my voice to my colleagues. These are extraordinarily difficult times and I want to do what we can to help our fellow taxpayers. We need to assess the impact – and I want to do what we can to help those experiencing hardship.”

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo announced the following:

Tax Roll

Village Assessor Victoria Sirota and her staff have been working on the Village assessment roll which will be filed on June 1, 2020. If you have questions about your assessment, you can schedule an online meeting with Sirota between June 1-12.

This year, the Board of Assessment Review will also be meeting online to review grievances. You can schedule an appointment by calling (914) 722-1133.

Parking Permits

Due to the closure of Village Hall, parking permits for Village-owned lots for the coming year we will be sold by mail, not in person. This will avoid long lines and social distancing issues at Village Hall.

Election

The election for Scarsdale Village Trustees has been rescheduled for September 15, per the Governor’s Executive Order.

Day Camp and Pool

Pappalardo said there has been no clear decisions from the government on whether or not the summer camp and pool can open this summer. The deadline for the Village is the next five days. They have already spent $30,000 on the pool in case it can open, but $25,000 of that is for supplies that can be kept for next year in the event the facility remains closed.

Time is ticking on the ability of the Village to open the day camp. Pappalardo said the Village needs a relaxation of the six-foot social distancing requirement to open the day camp.

However, he does anticipate that the Governor will relax orders on tennis and that the Village tennis courts can open soon. The staff is reviewing tennis protocols from the USTA to determine what rules might apply.

Paving

Manager Pappalardo announced that $498,0000 of repaving will be done on Fox Meadow Road, Ridgecrest East and West and Grand Park Road. This work is being financed by Con Edison who ripped up the roads when replacing utility lines and are now required to do curb to curb road replacement if they disrupt the roadway. The work will begin soon.

Village

Some Village restaurants have requested permits to open sidewalk cafés. Representatives from the Village will meet with selected members of the Scarsdale Business Alliance to discuss the current state of the Village and what would be needed to re-open.

Memorial Day

American Legion Post 52 is planning a short service to commemorate veterans at their memorial in front of Kid’s Base on Mamaroneck Road. Members of the public who want to attend should wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Other Business:

Food Scrap Pilot Program

The Village Board passed a resolution to enter a pilot program for food scrap recycling with Westchester County. Food scraps from Scarsdale will be sent to the county’s Yonkers Transfer Station beginning in June 2020 for a period of six weeks. The Village currently pays tipping fees to send our food scraps to Ulster County. This pilot program will save the Village about $2,000 in tipping fees.

Personnel Changes:

Longtime Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan is retiring and will be replaced by Greg Cutler. He is currently the Director of Planning for the Town of Mamaroneck.

John Clapp was appointed Chair of the Scarsdale Planning Board, replacing Dan Steinberg who resigned.

Larry Medvinsky was appointed Chair of the Advisory Council on Parks and Recreation.

Trustee Jane Veron thanked Liz Marrinan for 20 years as the Village Planner. She called her “an incredible font of knowledge.” She said, “I want to welcome Greg Cutler who has big shoes to fill but is up to the challenge.” She thanked Dan Steinberg and called him a “steady, intelligent force on the Planning Board, saying, “We are immeasurably grateful.”

Veron also thanked for Diane Greenwald who completed two terms as Chair of the Library Board, and later transitioned to an “architectural design wonder,” overseeing the construction of the library. Veron said, “Her term is up on the Library Board but her work continues.”

In public comments, Bob Berg claimed credit for suggesting installment payment for school taxes saying, “I suggested it to the school board at the time.” He called the Village’s late tax payment penalties “extortionary,” and said “Every single town in Westchester except Scarsdale has adopted the two-part tax payment plan for school and village taxes. There is no reason why we should not be doing it.” He suggested that in order to avoid additional processing costs, the Village mail one envelope with two payment coupons to be remitted in September and January.

Randy Whitestone thanked first responders and Village staff and made three points:

“First, what have we learned from this extraordinary period that will be instructive in running the business of the village going forward. We have learned to expect the unexpected in ways we could not have imagined three or four months ago. What this means in practical terms is that we should think of the budget in new ways, making it more modular and able to hinge spending based on circumstance – in essence, to ‘toggle’ spending. We will sorely need that flexibility in months to come, but if we rethink the budget process going forward, we can better incorporate this idea of “if-then” planning. …. And I do support analysis of allowing tax payments to be spread out into two installments.

Second, a rethought budget process should have as one of its pillars an openness to ideas and creative thinking. Should we think about different ways to bring thoughtful participants into the process? We have already seen how technology has spread a wide net for people to offer comments and ideas…. By the same token, I hope, continue to see going forward, is a continuing dialogue with residents about how to deal with this damaging shortfall we have encountered.

Finally, in future I’d like to see the village set strategic goals to guide its budgeting process, enunciating our priorities and what we stand for BEFORE we start talking about any numbers. Tactics flow from strategy and numbers should not be ends unto themselves, they should flow from what we are trying to accomplish as a village, both in the short and long term. Like the state slogan, let’s build our budget back better.”

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez said she was happy to hear about the road repairs. As the secretary of the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association she asked to know more so that she could inform residents as soon as possible. She agreed with Randy’s comments about the need for a strategy and spoke in favor of installment tax billing, saying “Liquidity is paramount to the stability of residents.” She continued, “Thanks for stating that you want to do everything you can to help residents. The first option would have been to not pass the budget.”

Nicholas Thompson of Forest Lane said, “I am concerned that we are raising taxes on residents going through a crisis. I am curious about why our camp and pool might be open. I would like our village to go to a flat or zero tax increase. If we are the farm team for how the village is going to survive, we need a change.”

Sean Cohen thanked the board “for considering the dual tax payments.” He said, “Transparency is great. It’s nice to be able to give input but I would like to have dynamic discussion on that input…. Last week we didn’t get to the second public comments section.”
BK Munguia encouraged residents to reuse, recycle and repurpose. She said that local girl scouts would like to be involved in the safe re-opening of the Girl Scout House which has been closed since March. She thanked the Mayor and the other five trustees who voted yes on the budget and said, “I am grateful for this board’s dedicated service to this community and I applaud the village staff.”

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