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Village Trustees Discuss Re-Opening, Installment Tax Payment Plan in the Works

memorialdayPhoto Credit Jon MarkThe Mayor was pleased to report that Phase 1 of the re-opening in Westchester County began on Tuesday May 26. Though Phase 1 still entails many limitations, it is hoped that Phase 2, which includes a broader opening of retail activity, professional services and real estate, will be announced in the coming weeks. The Mayor is really looking forward to getting a haircut (see the Mayor’s complete comments below.)

Samwick announced that Trustee Jane Veron will be working with Village staff and the Scarsdale Business Alliance to assist with the re-opening and to identify opportunities for collaboration between the business community and the Village to revive local business.

During his remarks, Village Manager Steve Pappalardo said he was also looking forward to his first visit with the barber. He anticipates that Phase 2 of the re-opening should follow in two weeks. He announced that the land use boards have resumed their meetings and that applications for the Building Department can be deposited in a lock box at Village Hall.

The new tax roll will be posted on or before June 1 and Grievance Day is June 16. Anyone wishing to grieve should schedule an appointment on the Village website. For the first time in history, grievances will be heard in an online meeting.

About recreation, Pappalardo discussed the Village’s decision to cancel camp this summer but he is hopeful that some week-long summer programs for kids will still be held. He expects that the Scarsdale Pool will be not able to open before July 18, and if it does open, pool permit prices will be pro-rated to reflect the shortened season.

Tennis courts are now open and reservations are required. Only singles can be played – no doubles – and players are required to check in with the attendant at the courts and wear a face mask when checking in. The bathrooms at the courts remain closed.

Pappalardo announced that the Village Manager has appointed a committee to come up with a safety plan for the re-opening of Village Hall. The committee will make recommendations on employee safety, social distancing, PPE, staggered work schedules, temperature screening, contact tracing, disinfectant, wall mounted hand sanitizers and more.

Extension of Parking Permits

After discussion and surveys of other municipalities the village decided to extend parking permit expirations from June 30 to September 30. People have not been parking or using their permits due to the crisis and this gives them compensation for their loss.

Tax Billing in InstallmentsBuckmeyerPaintingEric Buckmeyer, SHS Class of 2008, painted this 11 X 14 canvas while in quarantine. He developed an interest in art in middle school. The painting illustrates stimulus money relief for New Yorkers fighting the virus.

Prior to the Village Board meeting on May 26, the board held a working session to discuss installment tax payments for both school and village taxes. The Village Board had previously received a memo from the School Board stating their support for installment billing of school taxes to allow split payments in September and January.

Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure prepared a report on the plan, saying “The question has come up several times over the years. The School Board (previously) did not address it because of the potential loss of income.” She said, if Scarsdale does move to split payments, “this would put us on the same schedule as most of the communities in the county.”

She added that the “Village would lose penalty income and we would probably incur additional costs,” but recognized that this would be a good way to offer taxpayer relief during the pandemic. Village taxes would be due in July and September.

How much revenue would the Village lose? McClure reported that in 2018-19 penalties from school taxes alone were $198,000. There would be no additional cost for billing software as their provider can make this change without a fee. McClure suggested that the Village utilize a lock box to accept payments as it would cut down on the need for personnel. The box would cost $2,200 per month. The Village would also encourage online payments which cuts down on administrative costs.

All the trustees concurred that they would like to implement this change for both school and Village taxes, though Mayor Samwick cautioned that if the Village lost $100,000 in revenue these costs would need to be passed on to taxpayers with an increase in the budget.

The trustees also discussed asking the School Board to pass a referendum authorizing split tax payments but agreed they would move forward with implementing this change in the interim.

During Public Comments Bob Berg reminded the trustees that he had raised the idea to offer installment tax payments in the spring. He said, “Every single town in Westchester had adopted the split payment plan.” He said, “It’s deplorable the Village failed to offer this option for years,” and called tax penalties, “loan shark penalties.”

Mayor Samwick addressed Berg saying, “I am distressed that you refer to the penalties as “loan shark like.” All penalties are stipulated by the county and the state and they are uniform by region. It wouldn’t be fair to those who pay on time if late payers are not penalized.”

Randy Whitestone agreed with Justin Arest that if implemented, tax installment payments should be monitored on an ongoing basis. He agreed with Trustee Veron on the importance of educating and communicating so that residents understand the change and asked for research on how it would impact cash flows.

Bob Harrison spoke in favor of the installment payment plan. He questioned why the Village Board needed a resolution from the School Board, saying “they are clearly in favor of it. Don’t hold it up.” He thanked Village managers for taking a pay freeze and asked the school administration to do the same.
In other business, the trustees passed the following resolutions:

A resolution for a license agreement with Lola and Leonard Tanzer, the owners of 17 Grand Park Avenue, for a gated entrance that encroaches 12 feet into the Village right of way.

A license agreement to permit the owner of 862 Scarsdale Avenue to install a pedestrian ramp to the entrance.

A resolution to approve $22,490 in moving and storage fees for the library due to the later completion date for the library.

Barbara Shay McDonald was appointed as Village Historian, replacing Lucas Meyer.

Jack Miller was appointed to serve on the Planning Board to fill the unexpired term of Dan Steinberg.

Here are the Mayor’s comments:

Phase 1 Reopening – NY Forward
Today, we reached a milestone and have reopened in Phase 1 of the Governor’s NY Forward plan. This milestone, while significant after over two months of restrictions, remains somewhat limited. Permitted activities under Phase 1 include construction, wholesale trade, and manufacturing activities as well as curbside pickup of certain retail. Phase 1 is expected to lead to further openings in the coming weeks. Phase 2 includes a broader opening of retail along with professional services, administrative support and real estate. Personally, I am counting down the days until I can get a haircut in Phase 2. In the meantime, I will continue to rock my throwback to the 1970s. At least I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this extremely popular fashion trend.

Returning to the more serious impacts of COVID-19 and NY Forward, the reopening has commenced and planning for future phases has also started. Village has a role to play, particularly with respect to assisting our Village merchants to reopening and reviving their businesses. There are Village codes and other requirements that local businesses must adhere to. The Village is looking for ways to think out of the box to achieve flexible solutions to help local merchants succeed in the transition to post-COVID operations. To that end, I have asked Trustee Veron to be the point person to work with Village staff, the Scarsdale Business Alliance and local merchants to see where creative solutions may assist in reopening of businesses. I have to admit that, while eager to appoint Trustee Veron to this role, I really had very little to do with it – she had been rallying the various constituents for many weeks. Trustee Veron’s energy, enthusiasm, intelligence, creativity and knowledge of our Village make her the ideal person for this role. We look forward to this collaborative effort and the benefits that will come from this talented collective group.

Our progress reaching Phase 1 of NY Forward has been a direct result of our vigilance in following the Governor’s Executive Orders. Our future progress remains in our hands. Please continue to social distance, wear a face covering, wash your hands, and help your neighbors, especially those most at risk. Perhaps most importantly, stay home when you are not feeling well. We remain in this together and all of our actions matter – they determine the future path we will face.

EMS Week
Last week was Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week. Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SVAC), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has always delivered exemplary care but they have never been more critical to our community than they have since the onset of this pandemic. SVAC's volunteers are residents of Scarsdale and its neighboring communities. These men and women are models of selflessness and Scarsdale’s motto of non sibi.

Many in the community mistakenly believe that SVAC is funded by the real estate taxes we pay to the Village. This is false. SVAC is primarily run on the generous donations of Scarsdale’s residents through tax deductible donation. In a typical year, SVAC relies upon such donations to respond to approximately 1,500 emergency calls.

Thank you hardly seems enough for the life-saving work of our EMS workers, and I would like to offer a way we can demonstrate our gratitude to our treasured ambulance corps, now and every year during SVAC’s annual fund drive.

To learn more about SVAC or to make a much-needed contribution, please visit: Donations may also be made by mailing a check to SVAC, P.O. Box 92, Scarsdale, NY 10583. Thank you in advance for supporting our ambulance corps.

To all of our EMS workers and your families, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your sacrifice and dedication have helped our community immeasurably over the past 50 years and never more so than today. Scarsdale and each of its residents owe you an immeasurable debt of gratitude.

Pedestrian Safety
As we approach June and the weather continues to improve, please be cautious when driving, walking, running or bicycling. Our streets are busier than usual with more people at home. Also, as we are in Phase 1 of NY Forward, there will be increased vehicular traffic and more construction and landscaping vehicles parked on our roadways. Please slow down and remain aware of your surroundings as you travel around the Village.

Celebrations and Remembrances
This is a season of celebrations and remembrances, including Memorial Day as well as college and high school graduations. Each of these events has been muted this year. Yet we have seen creative community and family approaches to celebrate the achievements of our daughters, sons, students, friends and neighbors. Scarsdale High School teachers paraded past each senior’s house and posted Class of 2020 signs with car horns blaring and teachers cheering. I have seen many families have similarly creative celebrations for the Class of 2020. While this is no substitute for Senior Options, Prom and Graduation, it is heartening to see people celebrating the achievements of our Senior Class.

We have seen similar sacrifices and family creativity for graduating college seniors. To Scarsdale’s graduating classes of 2020 – this marking of your major achievement is not taking place as anyone would have expected, but please know that we remain so proud of your achievements and your future remains bright – even if may take a little longer to get started.

Lastly, Memorial Day was celebrated yesterday. While it wasn’t the celebration we are accustomed to, we still took time to recall the adversity this country has faced throughout its history and we remembered the strength and unity we have repeatedly displayed. We think of those who have lost loved ones and their sacrifice, and we thank them for their service to our nation. We remember the significant price paid by those who preserved our freedom – freedom that we can have greater appreciation for as a result of the current restrictions that we are using to fight COVID-19.

While we are still firmly in the grasp of this pandemic, we must continue to have hope – hope for health, safety, and freedom. We will come out of this together as a stronger community and country.

Please take care of one another, continue to do your part to stem the tide of this disease, and be well.

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