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Board of Trustees Explores Possible Real Estate Tax Phase-In For Hardest Hit Residents

oaktreeShould people who received more than a 25% increase in their real estate taxes after the 2016 revaluation be granted some relief? That's what the Scarsdale Board of Trustees discussed at a special meeting on Thursday night October 13. Under consideration was the possibility of asking the state legislator to consider special legislation to allow residents who received greater than a 25% increase, are STAR eligible and meet certain other criteria to be allowed to phase in their tax increase over a period of three years. During that three-year period, the balance of taxpayers would pay more in taxes to make up for the shortfall from their neighbor's savings.

Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole reviewed a study done by Village Managers to examine how many residents might be eligible and what the effect of the phase in program would be on the balance of taxpayers.

The study estimated that only 128 homeowners would potentially be eligible – and that assumes that these people did not grieve their over the summer, bringing their tax increase below 25%. To qualify, they also need to be up to date on their taxes and to not have done a renovation that is responsible for their tax increase. Last, they would need to file their paperwork on time.

Cole presented data to show the estimated tax increase that the balance of taxpayers would have to pay to subsidize the loss in revenue from the phase in if 128 residents qualified. He estimated these increases for homeowners with homes at varying values.

  • If you own a house that is assessed at $629,000, you would pay $38 more in year one and $19 more in year two.
  • If you own a home valued at $1,500,000, the increase would be $92 in year one and $46.40 in year two.
  • For a home valued at $3.5 million, taxes would increase $214 for the first year and $107 for the second year.

If the Board did decide to move forward, it would need to pass both houses of the NYS legislature, be signed into law by the Governor and there would be ample time for public hearings. It would be put into effect in March before the following year's tax roll was filed with the state.

Commenting on the proposal, several people at the meeting asked why the Village would go to all this work to benefit fewer than 128 people. Others asked the Village to use their energy to invalidate the 2016 revaluation, rather than attempt to ameliorate its effects.

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez said, "Given that this will take an enormous amount of village resources and time for people on the Board of Trustees, why would you spend political capital in this manner and not ask the legislature to invalidate the entire revaluation?"

Mayor Mark explained, "This was done to help those who were most seriously impacted by the revaluation. We know that this has past muster with the Governor. It is unprecedented to invalidate the revaluation. In fact, the Governor vetoed legislation to invalidate a reval due to objections from the county."

He added, "The Tyler reval was criticized as well. If we went back to the 2014 revaluation, there would be an equal number of people who were unhappy with that result. That is not a practical way to address this issue."

Mark said that the Scarsdale Forum was studying the revaluation and that perhaps the League of Women Voters and an ad hoc committee would also be assigned to look into the best way to do the next revaluation. He said, "That's where we should focus our energy."

Robert Berg said, "I believe the phase in is a bad idea. I object to any legislation favoring any one group of taxpayers. It is inappropriate and unprincipled. I think the number of eligible parcels is less than 128. What about those who filed grievances? Some may have filed SCARS? There might only be 20 eligible properties. It is ridiculous for legislation to be passed by the state for a very small number of residents. It does not make sense to use our pull with Albany to do this. Let's get approval from the state to allow Scarsdale to void this revaluation. I am serving on the Forum committee on the revaluation and I think our committee will ultimately say we need to do a new revaluation using the Tyler methodology."

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo responded to Berg, indicating that the Village needed more time before implementing yet another revaluation. He said, "We have found that revaluations that went well had a tremendous amount of community outreach before and during the process. It is also good to give the residents their assessments early and let them have the chance to meet with the vendor. We have learned a lot – and we don't want to make those same mistakes again. The community is going to need be informed. It probably will not be done for 2017... and will take until 2018."

Sherry Berkowitz of Ross Road said, "My assessment went up 40% Why will this work only for people who are STAR eligible?"

You can watch the meeting on Scarsdale Public TV here: 

After the meeting, the Board of Trustees held their regular meeting and Mayor Jon Mark offered comments on the phase-in and the equalization rate, which the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) has determined to be 89.14. The Village considered challenging this rate, but a consultant analyzed the data and determined that his calculation would be the same as ORPTS and did not recommend a challenge.

Read the full text of the Mayor's remarks below:

Comments by Jon Mark
Meeting of Board of Trustees
October 13, 2016

2016 Revaluation Related Matters Update

I provided an update on 2016 revaluation related matters as part of my State of the Village address at the Scarsdale Forum meeting last Thursday. What follows is an updated version of those comments.

• The possibility of seeking legislation to permit a three-year phase-in of increases in assessments experienced by certain residents on whom the impact of the revaluation was sufficiently harsh as to put them in jeopardy of leaving the Village was considered at a Committee of the Whole meeting held this evening just prior to this meeting. The pros and cons of pursuing that course of action were discussed, we listened to public comment on the proposal and the Board has taken the matter under advisement. To repeat comments made at prior meetings, any New York State legislation that would authorize the Village to adopt a phase-in Village Code provision would have to be approved by both houses of the State legislature and be signed into law by the Governor. If those events occurred, the matter would be back in the hands of the Village Board. At that stage, the Board would have to consider, at a public hearing, whether to adopt a Village Code provision that would put the phase-in into effect. Since the State legislature is not scheduled to re-convene until January 2017, it will be some months and several procedural steps before a phase-in Village Code provision is adopted, if it is adopted at all.

• The Village staff continues to collect and organize information that might support a claim against J.F. Ryan & Associates. In the meantime, the Village continues to withhold from J.F. Ryan approximately $49,000 in fees he claims are due his firm.

• This week the Village received notice from the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) that a tentative state equalization rate for the Town of Scarsdale of 89.14 had been established. This rate is minimally higher than the preliminary equalization rate of 89.06 issued by ORPTS on September 7, 2016. Soon after receiving the preliminary rate, the Village staff explored the possibility of contesting the preliminary state equalization rate issued by ORPTS and retained a consultant to assist with that effort. The consultant completed his analysis and submitted to it to ORPTS for review. After consulting with ORPTS regarding his work, the parties agreed that the consultant failed to undertake certain statistical procedures used by ORPTS in its analysis to make an adjustment in the sales ratio analysis data. The consultant then reviewed his work further and concluded that based on the parameters of ORPTS' approach, his calculation would be approximately the same as theirs. The Village Manager convinced the consultant to waive any payment for his work in light of this outcome.

Based on the review of the preliminary equalization rate through the Assessor and the consultant, and subsequent discussions with ORPTS, it is highly unlikely that any new information will be available to persuade ORPTS at an administrative hearing to increase the equalization rate substantially. It is therefore unlikely that further proceedings with regard to the equalization rate will be pursued. However, this may help to support our claim against J.F. Ryan relative to the quality of his work. The Village Attorney has incorporated this information into the bill of particulars he has drafted for this purpose and sent to J.F. Ryan's counsel.

• Regarding the question of whether the Village Board will take steps to void the 2016 revaluation, as has been stated at past meetings, the Village Board does not have statutory authority to take such an action on its own. We understand that should the Village wish to pursue this route, the earliest draft legislation could be submitted for initial consideration in Albany would be January 2017. Based on that timing, it is not likely we would learn whether or not the legislation passed for several months thereafter, close to the time the spring tax bills had to go out. Further, based on the report of the 2011 experience of the Town of Hamilton, New York when it sought legislation to simply extend the filing date of its assessment roll, it is possible that Westchester County might oppose any such legislative proposal as did Madison County in the case of Hamilton. That opposition proved persuasive in Hamilton's case and the Governor vetoed the legislation despite it having passed in both houses of the New York legislature. It is reasonably apparent that a request to entirely void an assessment roll – as contrasted with a request to simply extend a filing date which was Hamilton's request -- would be a more difficult issue for Albany to approve.

• We recognize residents' issues with the 2016 revaluation and the strong desire of some to reinstate the 2015 final assessment roll. However, it is less than clear that reinstating the 2015 final assessment roll, and it is not clear that that could be done, would be a prudent course to take since that roll too had its critics. One procedural issue that re-instatement might trigger is that those who may be grieved by the reinstatement of the 2015 roll would not have an opportunity file grievances. That inability must be seriously considered. It is my view that rather than reinstating a prior roll that also had its flaws and so could precipitate a host of additional issues, the Village as a whole would be better served by looking ahead and planning in a thoughtful way for the next Village-wide revaluation. If the Village were to adopt the phase-in approach just mentioned, those who felt the greatest burden of the 2016 revaluation and were in the least favorable position to bear that burden, would get some measure of relief (admittedly allocated to all other residents). In the case of the Towns of Greenburgh and Ossining, both of which adopted the phase-in approach, that approach was sufficiently bearable by all residents as to make it worthwhile. However, as has been stated previously, no decision has been made whether to implement a phase-in as described.

• With respect to the Assessor and the Assessor's Office, the Board is studying what should be done within applicable legal parameters about the staffing and functioning of that office.

Timing of SCARS Filings

The Staff has informed me that because the statutory filing deadline for the SCAR appeals of October 15, 2016 falls on a weekend, the filing deadline is extended to the next business day, which in this case, is Monday, October 17, 2016. This will allow homeowners the weekend and another business day to finalize their SCAR appeals.

Hyatt Field Parking Issues

The Parks and Recreation Department had been discussing with certain residents who live directly adjacent to Hyatt Field means for reducing the in-street traffic issues that are being exacerbated by the popularity of the new playground at Hyatt Field. The Village staff had been receiving complaints that residents could not get out of their driveways at times, due to the amount of additional traffic parked on their streets. In order to address that issue, Parks & Rec revived a plan that had been discussed in prior years to pave a driveway ingress at the border of the field and create a parking lot that would allow some number of park users to get off the local streets. When this plan became known to other residents, both in the neighborhood, and in other areas of Scarsdale, there was an outpouring of concern that open space was about to be paved over without due consideration of resident desire to preserve open space.

In light of the broader based concern expressed, a public meeting of the Parks and Recreation Council has been scheduled for October 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm in Rutherford Hall. At the meeting an overview of the proposal will be presented and resident comment will be solicited. In the meantime, no work on the part of the plan which would involve the paving of a driveway and a parking lot will be done. Note however, that as part of the re-paving of Potter Road, an additional three feet of width will be added to that street. This will allow cars parked along Potter Road to pull a bit further off the main part of the street and permit better traffic flow on that street.

Ad Hoc Committee on Communications

The Village Board perceives a need to improve its communications to residents. To that end and as the result of the efforts of Trustee Jane Veron, the agenda for tonight includes an item for the formation of an Ad Hoc Communications Committee. If the Board adopts the relevant resolution, the Committee will consist of 10 residents who responded to a general request for applications from residents interested in serving on such a Committee. Deputy Village Manager Rob Cole will also be a Committee member and the Committee will be chaired by Trustee Veron. Trustee Pekarek will also serve as a liaison to the Committee.

The Committee will serve for a period of one year. Its mandate will be to support the successful launch of the Village's new website, a communications platform intended to support 24/7 resident access and engagement. The Committee will also be asked to present written recommendations for strengthening Village communication strategies and cultivating engagement opportunities with the diversity of audiences served by the web site. We are excited by the creation of this Committee to provide focused resident feedback on this important and necessary function.

The State of the Village from Mayor Jon Mark

ScarsdaleVillageScarsdale Mayor Jon Mark delivered the annual "State of the Village" address at a meeting of the Scarsdale Forum on October 6 at Scarsdale Library. He indicated that the 2016 revaluation has consumed much of the Board of Trustees time this past year, preventing them from moving forward on other important issue such as land use, preservation and building regulations that continue to impact Scarsdale's landscape.

He conveyed the challenges of maintaining an independent municipal government due to decrease state funding, the tax cap and pressure to consolidate from Albany. He warned that the Village's aging sewer system will require millions of dollars in repairs in the next few years and discussed a lawsuit against the County and eleven municipalities for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

On the bright side, the Village has repaved 2.8 miles of roadways and expects to pave another half mile in the spring of 2017. He gave a report on the status of several capital improvement projects including repairs to the Heathcote Road Bridge, the Ardsley Road Water Tank and the renovation of Firehouse #1 and an update on where we stand with the proposed $17.9 mm library renovation, ending with a defense of Scarsdale's Non-Partisan system which has been under attack from those unhappy with the outcome of the 2016 revaluation.

Read the full text of Mark's speech below:

President Crandall and members of the Scarsdale Forum, thank you for having me here this evening. The following provides an overview with respect to considerations relating to the 2016 revaluation and an overview of some of the highlights of this year's budget and operational projects the Village is facing – or may take on. It also touches on a few initiatives that are, or may be, under consideration.

The 2016 Revaluation
I have spoken on this topic at prior Board meetings. The following is a brief re-cap and update of where things stand.

• The possibility of seeking legislation to permit a three-year phase-in of increases in assessments experienced by certain residents on whom the impact of the revaluation was sufficiently harsh as to put them in jeopardy of leaving the Village is to be considered at a Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for 6:00 pm on October 13, 2016. The pros and cons of pursuing that course of action will be discussed at that meeting.jonmark

• The Village staff continues to collect and organize information that might support a claim against J.F. Ryan & Associates. In the meantime, the Village continues to withhold from J.F. Ryan approximately $49,000 in fees he claims are due his firm.

• We explored the possibility of contesting the preliminary state equalization rate issued by the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) and retained a consultant to assist with that effort. The consultant completed his analysis and submitted to it to ORPTS for review. After consulting with ORPTS regarding his work, the parties agreed that the consultant failed to undertake certain statistical procedures used by ORPTS in its analysis to make an adjustment in the sales ratio analysis data. The consultant then reviewed his work further and concluded that based on the parameters of ORPTS' approach, his calculation would be approximately the same as theirs. It therefore now appears unlikely that challenging the preliminary equalization rate would be successful. The Village Manager convinced the consultant to waive any payment for his work in light of this outcome. While the results are disappointing, they are not wholly unexpected in that they appear to validate ORPTS' preliminary equalization rate. This may help to support our claim against J.F. Ryan relative to the quality of his work, and we have asked the Village Attorney to determine how best to incorporate this information into our dispute.

• Regarding the question of whether the Village Board will take steps to void the 2016 revaluation, as has been stated at past meetings, the Village Board does not have statutory authority to take such an action on its own. We understand that should the Village wish to pursue this route, the earliest draft legislation could be submitted for initial consideration in Albany would be January 2017. Based on that timing, it is not likely we would learn whether or not the legislation passed for several months thereafter, close to the time the spring tax bills had to go out. Further, based on the report of the 2011 experience of the Town of Hamilton, New York when it sought legislation to simply extend the filing date of its assessment roll, it is possible that Westchester County might oppose any such legislative proposal as did Madison County in the case of Hamilton. That opposition proved persuasive in Hamilton's case and the Governor vetoed the legislation despite it having passed in both houses of the New York legislature. It is reasonably apparent that a request to entirely void an assessment roll – as contrasted with a request to simply extend a filing date which was Hamilton's request -- would be a more difficult issue for Albany to approve.

• We recognize residents' issues with the 2016 revaluation and the strong desire of some to reinstate the 2015 final assessment roll. However, it is less than clear that reinstating the 2015 final assessment roll, and it is not clear that that could be done, would be a prudent course to take since that roll too had its critics. One procedural issue that re-instatement might trigger is that those who may be grieved by the reinstatement of the 2015 roll would not have an opportunity file grievances. That inability must be seriously considered. It is my view that rather than reinstating a prior roll that also had its flaws and so could precipitate a host of additional issues, the Village as a whole would be better served by looking ahead and planning in a thoughtful way for the next Village-wide revaluation. If the Village were to adopt the phase-in approach just mentioned, those who felt the greatest burden of the 2016 revaluation and were in the least favorable position to bear that burden, would get some measure of relief (admittedly allocated to all other residents). In the case of the Towns of Greenburgh and Ossining, both of which adopted the phase-in approach, that approach was sufficiently bearable by all residents as to make it worthwhile.

• With respect to the Assessor and the Assessor's Office, the Board is studying what should be done within applicable legal parameters about the staffing and functioning of that office.

Overview of the 2016-2017 Budget and Certain Initiatives

The 2016-2017 Budget:

The budget process drives municipal operations. Since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, Village budgets have risen on average 3.59% per year. Due to reductions or little growth in non-property tax revenues, including Village building permit fees, New York State sales tax, mortgage tax and gross receipts tax, and the flatness of New York State aid along with the tremendous loss of interest income, a tax rate of approximately $4.2666 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation was adopted for fiscal 2016-2017. Compared to the $4.1147 rate established in 2015-2016, it represents a 3.69% rate increase year to year.

The 2016-2017 budgeted expenditures of approximately $55.5 million represent an approximate $1 million, or 1.85% increase, from the current fiscal year 2015-2016 adopted budget. A terrific effort was made by Village department heads, Budget Officer and Treasurer to minimize increases in controllable line items to achieve the overall 1.85% increase year over year. This effort was made more difficult by two factors. First, reductions or little growth in non-property tax revenues of the sorts mentioned. In the 2016-2017 budget, non-property tax revenues are only increasing by approximately $213,000, or 1.35%. The continued failure of the New York State legislature to provide options for local governments to increase non-property tax revenues has forced an overreliance on the property tax. New means for raising revenue for local governments have been rejected by New York State. These include calls for: the reinstatement of unrestricted general revenue sharing or Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding to statutorily required per capita levels (this previous funding source of over $1 million is budgeted at approximately $186,600 for 2016-2017); increases in annual Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding for critical road resurfacing; and, reform of gross receipts tax statutes to increase the percentage of utility gross revenues provided municipalities from 1% to 3%, while incorporating cellular phone revenue in the calculation which the State itself already collects. The failure to make these sorts of changes in the mix of municipal revenue sources are part of the Governor's effort to force the consolidation of municipal governments – a goal that also underlies the so called "2% cap" legislation.
In addition, the State continues to impose onerous unfunded mandates on local governments relative to pension costs, which have increased over 100% over the past six years, currently at $4.2 million; and health insurance costs, which have increased 30% over the past three years, with the 2016-2017 budget expense at approximately $7,361,000.

A more detailed discussion of the budget can be found in the 2016-2017 Adopted Budget posted on the Village web site.

Other matters:

The capital plan for fiscal 2016-2017 is summarized on pages 22-24 of the Adopted Budget. I will touch on just a few of the projects involved in the plan.
Road repaving: Approximately 3.5 miles of roadway, identified as being in poor condition, were repaved in 2015-2016 at a cost of roughly $1.2 million. Most of these roads also received new curbing or the resetting of existing curbing. A total of 2.8 miles of roadway with associated curbing has been completed to date during fiscal year 2016-2017. Pursuant to a Village Board supplemental appropriation from the unassigned fund balance in September, additional repaving work of roughly another half mile of roadway is planned for the spring of 2017.

Future work on sewers anticipated: At prior Board meetings, status reports have been given with respect to ongoing conversations with the County of Westchester regarding an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) arising from the County's need to comply with certain NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) consent decrees governing the County's sewerage discharge into Long Island Sound. Municipalities are engaged in this discussion because their municipal sewerage collection systems empty into the County's system. Although the Village did not execute an IMA, we are working toward compliance with the essential elements of the County's requirements by conducting a Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study (SSES) and a Capacity Management Operation and Maintenance (CMOM) plan. The SSES will identify areas of stormwater inflow and infiltration ("I&I") entering the sewerage system, resulting in flows exceeding the 150 gallons per capita per day limit established by the County in its Sewer Act. These excessive flows that occur during certain rain events, contribute to the overtaxing of the County-owned sewerage treatment plants resulting in untreated sewerage being discharged into the Sound. The CMOM plan will provide a schedule of ongoing repair and operational protocols to best maintain the sewer system. Depending on what the studies show, remediation work will be required. The fiscal year 2016-2017 budget allocates a total of $350,000 in dedicated sewer rent fee funding to partially fund these two studies which are expected to continue into fiscal year 2017-2018. An additional $1 million in each of the next three fiscal years is also identified in the Capital Plan to fund the anticipated sewer system remedial work.

Clean water mandates from the Federal, State and County governments will likely cost the Village millions of dollars over the next decade. NYS and Federal grants are limited and extremely competitive. In addition, a civic group entitled the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, also known as Save the Sound, commenced a lawsuit last August naming the County of Westchester and eleven municipalities, including Scarsdale, for alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. The Village retained outside counsel and has since entered into a joint defense agreement with all of the defendant municipalities except the County. The defendant municipalities as well as the plaintiffs agreed that a resolution whereby all parties work together on a County Sewer District basis to analyze, identify and perform the required sanitary sewer improvements is a more efficient and effective method of addressing these long-standing issues. Our attorneys have met with representatives of the NYSDEC and the judge assigned to the case relative to this approach, which has been well received by both parties. More to come on this important item in the future.

Fire Station No. 1 Renovation:

This project continues to struggle to get to the starting line. After certain project design modifications were made as a result of certain site conditions discovered during the final design phase, construction bids were opened on September 13th with the lowest base bid exceeding the construction budget funding by 22%. As such, these bids will be submitted to the Village Board at our October 13th meeting with a staff recommendation to reject them. Staff is currently working with the project engineer on a revised contract which will separate the major project items allowing the Village to add or deduct items depending on need and cost. The new schedule provides for rebidding the project this month with an objective of making a bid award in November. It is hoped that this exercise will allow the project to move ahead in the coming months.

LED Street Light Project: In April 2015, the Board of Trustees reappointed the Ad Hoc Committee to research Light Emitting Diode (LED) street lights in order to improve lighting, reduce Village costs for electricity and maintenance, and conserve energy. To that end, the Committee was asked to develop a pilot program and make a recommendation on how best to move forward. The Committee conducted extensive research on LED street lighting, met with vendors, examined LED streetlights installed in neighboring communities and tested various fixtures to determine the proper lights and locations to pilot in Scarsdale.

The LED project is now at the stage of a pilot program that began in mid-July 2016. The pilot was intended to last until mid-October 2016. That time-frame is now going to be extended. The reason for the extension is that the manufacturer of the LED lights being used is making some material changes which are expected to improve the light fixtures being tested.

Based on discussions with the manufacturer, the Ad Hoc Committee is expecting the fixture in the upcoming version to have:

• Improved optics (the lens that sits over the LEDs and directs the light) that will improve the distribution of the light on the road
• Improved LEDs that will produce a more uniform light color
• Increased energy efficiency
• Additional color options including a softer color
• An updated installation bracket to address potential damage to the fixture during installation

While the extent of each of the improvements will not be known until the new version is released, and while the Ad Hoc Committee has noted that there will always be technological improvements, the Committee has advised us that these potential improvements are worth extending the pilot period to enable the new fixture to be evaluated.

Residents are encouraged to view the LED lights installed during this pilot phase and provide comments to the Ad Hoc Committee, electronically at LED@Scarsdale.com or by using a comment box located at the first floor counter at Village Hall. In addition, residents can follow the progress of this important project through Ad Hoc Committee reports posted on the Village web site when the Committee has significant developments it wishes to report.

We thank the members of the Ad Hoc Committee, residents Ron Schulhof, Chair, Farley Baker, David Raizen and Michelle Sterling, and Department of Public Works Superintendent Benedict Salanitro for the hard work they have put into this project over an extended period of time.

Possible Village Code Provisions regarding Solar Panel Installation:

At a Board meeting in late spring, the Village Board charged the Conservation Advisory Council, or CAC, with studying the question of whether the installation of solar panels on the street facing roofs of residents' homes should be made easier to accomplish. From time to time requests for such installations are made to the Village land use boards and they are frequently turned down principally for aesthetic reasons.

Resident interest in sustainability initiatives, including installing solar panels, continues so the thought was to examine the issue to see if some best practices might be recommended to make it easier to grant such requests from a sustainability standpoint while continuing to balance them again aesthetic concerns.

We understand that the CAC is well along in its work and received substantial feedback from residents, both pro and con, in response to a survey they conducted. We look forward to getting a report from the CAC in the near future with a view to taking up this issue in public meetings going forward.

Ardsley Road Water Tank Replacement:

The Village is currently out to bid on a capital improvement project to replace the roof of the 750,000 gallon water tank on Ardsley Road. The tank provides water storage in conjunction with our secondary water pump station at Ardsley Road. The steel roof has experienced structural failure and will be fully replaced and painted with an epoxy coating. Related ancillary piping and valve work will also be completed. The total project cost is estimated at roughly $1.9 million. Bid award and contract execution are planned for this fall/winter with construction commencing in spring 2017. Construction duration is estimated at six months.

Heathcote Road Bridge Project: The Heathcote Road Bridge was built in 1910, and carries traffic of roughly 8,200 vehicles daily along Heathcote Road over the Heathcote Bypass. Originally a railroad right-of-way, the Heathcote Bypass is now owned by Westchester County, and connects New York State Route 125 at two separate locations (Weaver Street and Palmer Avenue). The Bridge is owned by the Village.
Following its biennial inspection in June 2014, the Heathcote Road Bridge received a "Red Flag Rating" from the New York State Department of Transportation. The report indicated that the abutment located on the southern portion of the bridge needed immediate attention. In order to properly address the red flag, the Village of Scarsdale hired a structural engineering firm to design a temporary support structure, as well as assess the entire structure for stability. In November 2014, the Village contracted to install the support system, and notified the State of the work being completed. An additional temporary support was installed in December 2015 to further safeguard the bridge.

While the temporary supports addressed the immediate issue, our structural engineer has determined that a larger scale project is needed to improve the overall long term stability of the bridge. This work would include replacing both bridge abutments along with other incorporated structural improvements. Our design engineer has advised us that the proposed project will cost approximately $1.5 million and take six months to complete. Funding through a bond issue is identified in the fiscal year 2016-2017 Capital Budget and the Village is actively seeking all grant opportunities. The project schedule provides for the completion of contract documents by the end of November 2016, bid advertisement in December with a bid award in February 2017. Construction would commence in spring 2017. Other than intermittent lane shifting, the bridge construction will not impact daily traffic on Heathcote Road or the Bypass.

The Proposed Library Project: libraryentry

The Village Board and Village Staff continue to work with the Library Board on the proposal to upgrade and renovate the Library. The Library Board has done considerable work in refining the proposed project with a view toward reducing cost. The Library Board remains committed to attempting to raise at least $7.5 million from private donors, and continues to look to the Village to fund the balance of the project. Based on the work and analysis done to date, the cost estimate for the project is now in the range of $17.9 million. This is down from approximately $20.5 million that was estimated at one point last year. Assuming private contributions of at least $7.5 million and receipt of a $500,000 New York State grant that the Library Board hopes to secure with assistance of Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, the Village would have to fund roughly $9.9 million of the project. This is a reduction from the $12.5 million of Village funding requested by the Library Board in the last iteration of its proposal.

There are a few considerations that put this reduced $9.9 million figure into perspective. First, the Library Board has estimated that there will be operational savings of approximately $1.5 million during the year and a half the Library is expected to be closed for renovation and a temporary facility with greatly reduced services and staff is operated, probably at the Supply Field building. This cash savings, if realized can fairly be netted against the $9.9 million for a net cost of $8.4 million. Second, the Village staff and the Library Board have estimated that there are approximately $4.5 million of deferred capital projects for the Library that would have to be done over the next several years to maintain the existing building. These include roof repair, HVAC upgrade, and renovation of the bathroom facilities to make them ADA compliant, among other things. If one assumes that this $4.5 million would be spent eventually, then the incremental cost of a fully renovated Library could be said to be $3.9 million. Of course, debt service on a $9.9 million bond is the cost that will be borne by tax payers if the project as presently proposed goes forward. However, putting the $9.9 million figure into context may be one useful factor that can be considered in weighing the pros and cons of this project.

The Village Board has had a number of public meetings on the Library proposal over a period that now spans several years. However, other than adopting a resolution in 2013 to support the funding of $4.5 million of the project conditioned on the Library Board privately raising at least a similar sum, the Board has not taken any further action with respect to the project as it has evolved and as it is presently proposed. It has been part of the Board's consideration for many months that should a decision be made to move ahead with the project, the decision to issue the required Village bond would likely be put to a Village-wide referendum vote. Though no decision on going forward has yet been made by the Village Board, based on recent discussions I have had with the Library Board President, she has requested that another public information meeting on the present revised proposal be scheduled for late November, after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Library President has further stated that it is the Library Board's intent at the late November meeting to urge the Village Board to put the matter of a bond issuance to a public referendum vote at a special election sometime in February 2017. Should such a request made, I expect the Village Board will take it under advisement and consider the matter at future public meetings.

We have received numerous emails on this project over the last several months expressing a range of views. The emails are posted on the Village web site and interested residents can review them if they wish to. It is hoped that residents will attend or watch the next public meeting on this project and provide further feedback to the Village Board on the project as then proposed. Before deciding what next steps should be taken, the Board would be greatly aided by receiving significant input from residents and a better sense of the level of support or opposition for the proposed Library.
Ad Hoc Committee on Communications: The Village Board perceives a need to improve its communications to residents. To that end and as the result of the efforts of Trustee Jane Veron, the October 13, 2016 Village Board agenda will include an item for the formation of an Ad Hoc Communications Committee. The Committee will consist of 10 residents who responded to a general request for applications from residents interested in serving on such a Committee. Deputy Village Manager Rob Cole will also be a Committee member and the Committee will be chaired by Trustee Veron. Trustee Pekarek will also serve as a liaison to the Committee.

The Committee will serve for a period of one year. Its mandate will be to support the successful launch of the Village's new website, a communications platform intended to support 24/7 resident access and engagement. The Committee will also be asked to present written recommendations for strengthening Village communication strategies and cultivating engagement opportunities with the diversity of audiences served by the web site. We are excited by the creation of this Committee to provide focused resident feedback on this important and necessary function.

Revisiting FAR:

Some residents continue to express interest in taking a look at what more might be done to preserve the architectural character of our neighborhoods. Over the coming months, the Board may hold public meetings to examine and consider this issue and whether changes to the existing Village Code FAR provisions might be a way to address this topic.

Development of the Freightways Open Lot:

Village staff has received informal inquiries from parties interested in pursuing development of the open lot surrounding the Freightways garage. On the Board's annual Village tour last June, this was one of the sites we visited. At that time, the Village Planner described how the lot might be developed for multiple uses, including residential and commercial uses while retaining the existing parking capacity. This sort of project is something that we might start exploring with the community in earnest over the coming year. It is noted that there are pending capital improvement needs in the Freightways garage to re-install a waterproof parking deck membrane on all floors and for other related items, which are presently identified in the Village Capital Plan and are estimated to cost approximately $1.2 million. With those capital costs looming, there may be reasons for looking at a more comprehensive approach to this developable property.

I will conclude by seguing into the next part of this evening's agenda with the following observations on the 2016 revaluation and our non-partisan system.

The 2016 Revaluation and Our Non-Partisan System

The fall-out from the 2016 revaluation has overtaken a large part of the Village municipal agenda for the past four months and have I commented generally on where things stand at the beginning of this talk.

What I wish to comment on briefly is the broader impact of the 2016 revaluation controversy on Village government and how it is perceived. It is clear that, putting aside the economic burden on residents that was triggered by the revaluation, the biggest impact has been a loss of confidence by certain residents in how the Village is governed and managed. A corollary of this is the view of some that our non-partisan system is broken and should be replaced with a partisan, issue-based process for selecting Village Board members, among other things.

While this point of view is understandable as a reaction to the discussion that has been going on over the past four months, in my view it is to some degree an overreaction. If it is a view that carries the day, we risk tossing out a system that in very large part has served our Village well for over a century and should continue to do so for the future.
I have spoken on the non-partisan system in the past and so some of what I have to say I have expressed previously – but I believe it bears repeating.

Partisanship will not bring us together as a community. It will not produce consensus solutions to shared problems. Partisanship means, by definition, taking sides. Under a partisan system candidates are elected because they take positions on issues and by doing so win elections by garnering the support of those who agree with them. Once in office, those officials may say they will act for the benefit of all citizens in the jurisdiction, but the reality may be quite different. Having been put in office by their partisan constituency, the minds of the officials may be closed to countervailing views and legitimate concerns of the minority on a particular issue. Following a partisan framework would have the potential of setting one group of residents against another -- a dynamic that in my view does not benefit the governance of a Village in which we all share a substantially common interest.

The non-partisan system that on the whole has served our Village well for over one hundred years is in dramatic contrast to that sort of partisan model. Rather, it encourages us to listen to each other and to at least try to make decisions that best serve the Village as a whole and not simply one subset of residents. Is the system perfect? No. Does it always succeed in making the best decision? No. But when compared to the sort of dysfunction we see in Congress and the recent spate of corruption trials flowing out of Albany – a lot of which can be attributed to partisanship – I submit our non-partisan system appears preferable to a large degree.

The 2016 revaluation, initiated with only good intentions and under circumstances very similar to those existing today, did not work out as planned. Going forward, I have little doubt that any subsequent revaluation will be better conceived, managed and executed. However, to make the leap from this one experience – as significant as it was and still is – to a conclusion that would throw our entire non-partisan system into the trash bin is in my mind an unwarranted over reaction. The road forward is to do a better job on the next revaluation – whenever it occurs. I do not believe that the decision-making process – whether it be about the next revaluation or another major decision affecting the Village -- is best served by partisans who may have a pre-conceived notion of what the results of the decision-making process should be.

Community Weighs Plans for Library Renovation: Scarsdale Forum Invites Residents to Participate in a Survey

libraryentryThe community continues to consider a proposed library renovation that would modernize the aging facility, make the space more flexible, handicapped accessible, and sustainable, bring in more light and accommodate new technology. In response to feedback from the Board of Trustees and the community, the Library Board has revised their plans to cut $3 million from the proposed budget therefore decreasing the funding that would be needed from the Village.

At the September 26 meeting of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, Library Board President Terri Simon and Library Director Elizabeth Bermel explained the cost savings which included modifications to the foundation of the building, substitutions for furniture, shelving and lighting, modifications to woodworking, interior materials and reductions in the purchase of AV systems and wiring. The original plan included a wrap around reading deck which has now been shelved – however it could be added on in the future if funds become available.

All the changes were made with the intent of not gutting the original plans, goals or vision for the new library. This new plan is called Option A-1.

The net result is that the total project is expected to cost $17.9 million. Funding sources will include $7.5 million in private donations, of which $2 million has already been raised along with a $500,000 grant from New York State and $1.5 million that will be saved when the library is closed for two years. Simon anticipates that the Village would need to fund $8.4 million with debt financing – which will mean an $8.4 million bond (or $9.9 million if the $1.5 million in savings cannot be included in financing for the project.)

Meanwhile, the Scarsdale Forum is studying the proposal and has issued a survey to the community to gather more information for their report.

According to a press release from the Forum, the committee will be chaired by
Madelaine Eppenstein and Rosanne Underweiser. Eppenstein said, "Now that the Village has received 'Option A-1' we are reviewing the details to understand both the revised costs and the updated project components. Wider community feedback is essential for an informed dialogue about the project."

Lena Crandall, President of Scarsdale Forum added, "The Forum continues to provide valuable analysis and research on important Village issues, as our organization has done for over 100 years. Community surveys are a natural extension of our ongoing member meetings and discussions. We welcome and encourage all residents to voice their opinions on issues of community interest."

All residents are invited to participate in the survey. To do so, either click here or email info@scarsdaleforum.com to receive the survey via email.

Update on LED Streetlight Test

LEDStreetLightRon Schulhof, who heads the LED Streetlight Committee for Scarsdale Village sent in the following update on a pilot program to test the use of LED lights on Village streets in Scarsdale. The pilot is now underway, but since one of the manufacturers is planning to release a new and improved version of the fixtures that address some of the concerns residents have raised, the committee has decided to extend the pilot program until these new lights are available to test at the beginning of next year.

Here is the report:

The Committee on LED Streetlights has been piloting LED streetlights at seven locations on high traffic roads and town and country locations since July 12, 2016. The initial timeframe for the pilot was planned at three months, to conclude on October 12, 2016. One of the manufacturers of the pilot LED Streetlights recently informed the Committee that a new version of their fixture will be released in early 2017 with material improvements to the lighting. The new version will also address a potential defect in the housing that could cause damage to the fixture upon installation. These upgrades are expected to address some of the concerns expressed by residents and Committee members in regards to the current Pilot fixtures.

The pilot lights impacted are those on Mamaroneck Road (Garden Road to Sheldrake Road) and White Plains (Post) Road (Crane Road to Wayside Lane). These lights will be removed and replaced with the non-LED streetlights that were previously installed at these locations. The other pilot light (from other manufacturers) will remain installed.

In light of these developments, the Committee recommends the extension of the pilot program to allow for testing of these new fixtures that are expected to be available in early 2017.

New fixture update:

Based on discussions with the manufacturer, we are expecting a number of material improvements to the fixture in the upcoming version:

-Improved optics (the lens that sits over the LEDs and directs the light) that will improve the distribution of the light on the road
-Improved LEDs that will produce the a more uniform light color
-Increased energy efficiency
-Additional color options including a softer color
-Updated installation bracket to address potential damage to the fixture during installation

While the extent of each of the improvements will not be known until the new version is released and the Committee realizes that there will always be technological improvements, the Committee feels these potential improvements are worth extending the pilot period to include this new fixture.

What we'll be doing while we wait:

Over the next few months the Committee will continue working with the industry to find appropriate fixtures for our various types of fixtures and streets. We will also continue our research and discussions of LED Streetlight upgrades with other municipalities (both locally and nationally).

For questions regarding the LED Streetlight Project our Committee email us at LED@Scarsdale.com. We welcome questions and feedback from the community.

Mayor Lays Out Revaluation Road Map and Hints at Changes in the Assessor's Office in Scarsdale

scarsdaleaerialviewScarsdale Mayor Jon Mark sought to assure residents that the Board of Trustees and Village Managers were doing everything possible to address the flawed 2016-17 revaluation, ameliorate its effects and ensure better outcomes in the future at the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday September 13.

In lengthy remarks, Mayor Mark gave updates on a host of issues surrounding the 2016 revaluation, which residents determined was mathematically incorrect and could not be validated.

The Mayor's full comments appear below, but in brief, here is what he shared:

Equalization Rate:

The state has determined an equalization rate of 89.06 for Scarsdale. The equalization rate is used to distribute school district or county taxes among multiple municipalities. Equalization rates of 100 are granted to municipalities whose aggregated assessed values fall between 95 and 100, and since the new valuation was supposed to bring Scarsdale to full market value the Village should have been at 100. However, using their own calculations, the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) determined that Scarsdale's preliminary aggregate taxable value was $10,159,000,000, while the aggregate of the town's assessment roll as set in the 2016 revaluation only added up to $9,048,000,000. Dividing the town's assessed value by the value determined by ORPTS yields a 89.06 equalization rate.

The impact of this equalization on Scarsdale residents' Westchester County taxes cannot yet be determined, though Mark believes it will be "relatively small."

J.F. Ryan:

The Village has withheld $43,000 from J.F. Ryan's original contract as well as a $6,000 bill from Ryan's appearance at an August 17th meeting. They are considering filing a claim against Ryan.

Grievances:

The Board of Assessment Review considered 1,103 grievances during the summer and granted reductions to 373 applicants or to 34% of applicants. These reductions will result in a decrease of approximately $72.4 million from the 2016 assessment roll.

Future Revaluations:

To plan for future revaluations, the Board is looking for input from the community and will await the results of a study to be done by a committee of the Scarsdale Forum.

Phased-in Increases:

The Board will also consider asking State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin to propose legislation in the state legislature to allow residents who meet certain requirements – including the STAR exemption- to phase in their property tax increases over three years. Though this would help those that were hardest hit, it would also cause a slight increase in the taxes of other residents who would need to make up the shortfall.

Village Assessor:

Last – it appears that the Board of Trustees is seeking a legal ways to dismiss Village Assessor Nanette Albanese and/or members of her staff. In the Mayor's remarks about the Assessor and Assessor's office he says, "At this point, all that we are prepared to say is that the Board is studying what should be done within applicable legal parameters about the staffing and functioning of that office."

Subsequent to the meeting, on September 15, the final 2016 tax assessments were posted on the Village website. Take a look at your taxes here.

See the Mayor's full remarks below:

Comments by Jon Mark
Meeting of Board of Trustees
September 13, 2016

Revaluation 2016: Topics to be discussed:

1. 2016 State equalization rate
2. Seeking redress from J.F. Ryan
3. Summary results of the Assessment Board of Review
4. Process for considering a future revaluation
5. Phase-in legislation
6. Will the Village take steps to void the 2016 revaluation
7. The Assessor and Assessor's Office

2016 State equalization rate: As has been mentioned at prior meetings, we have been waiting for ORPTS to issue its state equalization rate. ORPTS issues equalization rates each year regardless of whether or not a municipality does a revaluation. We have been informally advised by ORPTS that its preliminary calculations have resulted in an equalization rate of 89.06. This number is a weighted aggregation of a residential rate calculated by ORPTS at 88.48 and rates of 100 for each of commercial, vacant and public utility service properties in the Village. The equalization rate for the Town last year was 100. We have asked the Village staff to estimate what the 2016 equalization rate might mean to residents, but first some context. What is the equalization rate and why is it utilized?

In New York State, each municipality determines its own level of assessment (this is in contrast to most states that require one level of assessment statewide). Hundreds of taxing jurisdictions including most school districts and counties do not share the same taxing boundaries as the cities and towns that are responsible for assessing properties. The equalization rate is a mechanism intended to distribute school district or county taxes among multiple municipalities. To accomplish that objective, the level of assessment, or LOA, of each municipality is equalized to full market value. The agency that makes the calculation used for this purpose is the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services, a division of the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

It is important to note that the ORPTS analysis is of the aggregate assessed value of the municipality. It does not engage in a property-by-property assessment. The equalization rate is not intended to correct unfair individual assessments in a city or town. That function is, by statute and regulation, left to the local assessor and to individual residents through the grievance process.

In determining the equalization rate, ORPTS analyzes the municipal LOA, basically the aggregate value of real property in the municipality as reported by the municipality. Based on national standards, ORPTS reviews the LOA to determine if it is within adequate tolerances to be used as the equalization rate. Those tolerances, if a municipality wishes to achieve an equalization rate of 100, are an LOA in the range of 95 to 105. In municipalities where ORPTS cannot confirm the LOA as being within their range, ORPTS uses its own independent estimate of total market value to determine the equalization rate. Since the LOA as reported by Ryan resulting from the 2016 revaluation was 94, it was not surprising that ORPTS concluded that an equalization rate of 100 would not be appropriate for the Town.

So how did ORPTS come up with the preliminary equalization rate and what does it mean to residents in terms of dollars and cents? The first part of this question requires an understanding of the statistical analysis ORPTS performed. ORPTS has provided the Village with the results of their modeling and their sales ratio study. The Village intends to make that information, as well as the underlying source data that ORPTS provided, available to residents by putting it on line. The technical analysis used by ORPTS will be parsed by the Village staff and interested residents can do so as well. The bottom line is that the preliminary aggregate taxable value calculated by ORPTS is approximately $10,159,000,000. The aggregate value of real property used by ORPTS taken from information on the Town's tentative assessment roll is approximately $9,048,000,000 (without giving effect to the results of grievances). Dividing that figure by the ORPTS calculated number produces the 89.06 equalization rate.

In terms of dollars and cents, assuming the ORPTS preliminary calculation becomes final, the school tax levy may go up slightly, an estimated one-third of one percent. The boundaries of the school district and the Town of Scarsdale are largely co-terminus with approximately 96% of the total value of Town properties located in Scarsdale. The relevant exception being the approximately 200 homes within the Mamaroneck strip. Thus, all that is being reallocated across the Village by virtue of the equalization rate is the impact of the rate on the approximately 200 homes in the Mamaroneck strip.

The impact on County taxes cannot be calculated since it is derived by comparing the aggregate taxable value of Town property to the aggregate taxable value of all real property in the County. This latter figure is not presently known although in 2015 the aggregate full value of County real property was approximately $163.8 billion. What can be said about the County tax component is that should the County aggregate value be approximately the same as in 2015, the Village's share will be larger using the $10 billion figure than it would be using the $9 billion figure. However, the expected dollar increase in the Village's share should be relatively small.

The Village/Town tax is not affected by the equalization rate. In this regard it is critical to keep in mind that none of what has just been described affects the 2016-2017 budget. The budget of approximately $55.5 million was adopted last spring. Of that budgeted amount, approximately $38.5 million is expected to be raised from real property taxes. None of what has just been summarized concerning the equalization rate changes either of those budgeted numbers.

One further contextual note: What would have happened with respect to the equalization rate if the Village had not undertaken a revaluation for the 2016 roll? It is likely that the result might have been approximately the same in terms of the equalization rate. Why? If there were no 2016 revaluation, ORPTS would have conducted its 2016 review using the 2015 final Town assessment roll. The 2015 final roll included an LOA of approximately $9,033,000,000 – an amount lower than the LOA resulting from the 2016 revaluation and thus presumably also below the low end of the ORPTS acceptable range of 95 to 105 needed to achieve an equalization rate of 100. If that were the case, ORPTS would have done its own LOA calculation that produced the $10.2 billion figure. At our request, ORPTS calculated a pro forma equalization rate assuming there had not been a 2016 revaluation and came up with a pro forma rate of 89.87. Of course, in preparing the 2016 assessment roll, that $9 billion figure would have been adjusted for new construction and additions. Even so, those sorts of adjustments would not likely have increased the value more than approximately $650 million to get within the lower end of the ORPTS 95 to 105 range that would permit a 100 equalization rate. So it is reasonable to note that even without the 2016 revaluation, the ORPTS equalization rate would have been close to the rate ORPTS has calculated.

However, the Village did do the 2016 revaluation and as part of that exercise had hoped to meet the criteria for ORPTS to issue an equalization rate of 100. In light of that, the Village staff has started assembling the information that might support an appeal of the ORPTS preliminary calculation. That administrative appeal process is outlined in a NYS publication available on the ORPTS web site. It requires submission of a complaint to ORPTS backed up with data as to why the ORPTS calculation is in error and that the Town LOA should be given full value. Based on what can be pulled together by the staff, the administrative process may or may not be pursued. In terms of a time frame, once ORPTS formally issues the tentative equalization rate, a hearing date is set for 25 days thereafter. A complaint must be filed within five days prior to the hearing date. Overall, ORPTS advised that this process, if pursued, would likely be completed on or prior to December 1st since that is the date the County sets its tax roll and would want to know the final equalization rate before that date.

Seeking redress from J.F. Ryan: This brings us to the next point. The Village staff is organizing the information that might support a claim against J.F. Ryan Associates. The ability of the Village, or the inability, to assemble information to support the ORPTS administrative complaint process will be factored into that analysis. In the meantime, the Village continues to hold onto the approximate $43,000 unpaid balance of J.F. Ryan's 2016 revaluation contract and has not paid Mr. Ryan the $6,000 he billed the Village for his August 17th appearance in Village Hall.

Summary results of the Assessment Board of Review: The Assessment Board of Review finished its process of reviewing 1103 grievance filings on September 1, 2016. We thank that Board for their extraordinary effort in completing their work in a timely fashion. As an overview, we are advised that 373, or 34 %, of the petitions were granted some reduction in their assessment; 720, or 65 %, of the petitions were denied; 7, or 0.7% were dismissed; and 3, or 0.3% were withdrawn. The relief granted so far will have the effect of reducing the aggregate taxable valuation of Village real property by an aggregate of approximately $72.4 million for the 2016 tentative assessment roll – a decrease of approximately 0.8%. Giving effect to these results, the 2016 aggregate assessed valuation would be approximately $21.9 million less than the 2015 final assessment roll total.

We assume that many of those who grieved will continue their grievance process by filing either a SCAR petition or an Article 7 petition to seek further relief in court. The deadline for filing is 30 days after the final assessment roll is filed. The final assessment roll is expected to be filed on September 15, 2016 as required by applicable law. As previously noted, relief granted in SCAR filings is limited to reductions of not more than 25%. Article 7 proceedings are not so limited. Residents who wish to pursue their matters further should consult with their advisors as to what sort of filing might be appropriate for them. The 2016 aggregate valuation will be reduced further by some amount depending on the results of SCAR or Article 7 petitions filed.

Process for considering future revaluation: At prior Board meetings we have commented that the process for considering a future revaluation should be a thoughtful one that included, among other things, resident input. In that regard, we had spoken generally about forming an ad hoc advisory committee of residents for that purpose and the Board might still do so. However, for the moment I was encouraged by the article in last Friday's Inquirer about the steps taken by the Scarsdale Forum to activate its committee to study the issue. If the Forum committee can produce a reasonable road map of next steps, that would be valuable input for this Board. Of course, the Board would welcome and consider input on this subject (or any subject) from other sources including neighborhood associations, the League of Women Voters and individual residents. Stepping up to provide this sort of feedback to the Village Board is a large part of what volunteerism in the Village is about.

Phase-in legislation. Some of you may be aware of the three year phase-in legislation passed in Albany that permits eligible residents of the Town of Greenburgh and Town of Ossining to phase in the results of their recent revaluations over three years. Only residents who meet the conditions of the laws as adopted, with further refinements by Greenburgh and Ossining, respectively, are entitled to the phase-in. Among those requirements are that a resident be eligible for the STAR exemption, be current on all property tax payments and have a full value increase in assessment due to the recent reassessment not related to increases due to physical improvements or a removal or reduction of property tax exemption, exceeding 25%. In addition, the property must be owned by the owner of record who appeared on the assessment roll at the time of the reassessment, and remain in the same ownership throughout the exemption period. If ownership changes, the exemption will be discontinued. In the case of Greenburgh, there are other eligibility requirements that are specified in the Greenburgh Local Law Section 440.67.1 which was adopted by the Town of Greenburgh on July 19, 2016 and can be found on its web site. Ossining Local Law No. 8 of 2016 can be found on the Town of Ossining web site.

The phase-in eases, to some degree, the immediate cash flow impact of the revaluation on eligible residents whose assessment increases exceed the threshold amount. It does not decrease their assessment. It also has the effect of causing the other residents to pay more tax—in decreasing percentages over the three-year phase-in period -- than they otherwise would have if the new reassessments had been given full effect in year one. Greenburgh and Ossining apparently felt this result was a fair trade-off in light of the economic burden to be borne by residents who experienced assessment increases above the threshold percentage.

The staff has been asked to do a preliminary analysis of the potential impact of such a phase-in assuming the more than 25% eligibility threshold used in the Greenburgh and Ossining precedents. At the more than 25% level, there would be approximately 130 properties potentially eligible for phase-in if the other criteria for eligibility were met. These are not all of the properties that experienced increases in excess of 25%, but only those that would meet the STAR exemption eligibility requirement. The underlying rationale for this requirement in the legislation that was adopted was to provide this form of relief to those most in need of it from a financial point of view using eligibility for the STAR exemption as a metric for making that cut. We understand from speaking with Assemblywoman Paulin's office that this was an important consideration in drafting the Greenburgh and Ossining state legislation since it focused the phase-in relief on residents who might be forced to move as a result of the additional tax burden. Making phase-in available to residents who meet the eligibility requirements outlined might make a considerable difference to those hardest hit by the 2016 revaluation on the one hand and on the other hand when spread over all Village properties the incremental increase attributable to a phase-in (which would decline over a three year period) might be bearable. The presently estimated financial impact of such a phase-in plan would be an increase in the Village levy of about 1.2 cents per thousand in the first year, declining to approximately a half a cent per thousand in year two and zero in year three. Assuming a house valued at $1.5 million, it is estimated that the dollar impact would be approximately $95.06 in year one and $47.47 in year two. Of course, the final figures will not be calculable until the final 2016 assessment roll is known and the tax levy for 2016-2017 is set.

Pursuing a phase-in would require the adoption of authorizing legislation in Albany and the adoption of an enabling Village code provision once State legislation was enacted. Neither of those things have happened yet and so phase-in is not presently authorized. We have spoken with Assemblywoman Paulin, her staff and personnel at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance about the possibility of having authorizing legislation adopted and her office is willing to pursue that possibility if the Village Board decides that should be done. Any Village Board action on the possibility of a phase-in would be considered pursuant to a public hearing on the matter before this Board, and residents would have an opportunity to comment on any such proposal, if made.

Will the Village take steps to void the 2016 revaluation: As has been stated at past meetings, this Board does not have statutory authority to take such an action on its own. During the conversation we had with Assemblywoman Paulin's office and the Tax Department about phase-in legislation, we spoke about the possibility of voiding the 2016 revaluation and reinstating the 2015 final assessment roll. We were advised that may be theoretically possible but were not cited to any precedents of that having been done. The comment was made that such an action would require special legislation to be passed by both houses of the legislature and then be signed by the Governor. The lone example of such a legislative process we were cited to was not an analogous case – and in any event proved ineffective. In 2011, the Town of Hamilton sought legislation that would have extended the date for filing a tentative assessment roll. As reported, the effort was prompted by resident unhappiness with increases in their assessments due to a reassessment. Madison County (in which Hamilton is located) officials opposed the legislation on the ground that the delay would upset the budget process county-wide and would postpone finalization of equalization rates. The legislation was passed by the New York State legislature, but was vetoed by the Governor and so did not become effective.

We were told that should the Village wish to pursue this route, the earliest draft legislation could be submitted for consideration would be January 2017. Based on that timing, it is not likely we would learn whether or not the legislation passed for several months thereafter, close to the time the spring tax bills had to go out. Further, based on the report of the Hamilton experience, it is possible that Westchester County might oppose any such legislative proposal for the same reasons Madison County did – and such opposition proved to be persuasive in that case. The Board will continue to consider whether to go down this path weighing its pros and cons. We recognize residents' issues with the 2016 revaluation and the strong desire of some to reinstate the 2015 final assessment roll. However, it is less than clear that reinstating the 2015 final assessment roll, and it is not clear that that could be done, would be a prudent course to take since that roll too had its critics. One procedural issue that re-instatement might trigger is that those who may be grieved by the reinstatement of the 2015 roll would not have an opportunity file grievances. That inability would be among the factors to be seriously considered in pursuing this course. It may be that rather than reinstating a prior roll that also had its flaws, the Village as a whole might be better served by looking ahead and planning in a thoughtful way for the next Village-wide revaluation. Some consideration of this topic will continue.

The Assessor and the Assessor's Office: At this point, all that we are prepared to say is that the Board is studying what should be done within applicable legal parameters about the staffing and functioning of that office.

Concluding Observation: There is an overriding community interest in moving forward. It is hoped that we share the goal of coming together as a Village, working through the various organizations mentioned, as well as with individual residents, to come up with the next steps on the subject of a possible future revaluation. If we can work together on that task, perhaps we can then get back to focusing on other projects and activities that are part of enjoying our Village.

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