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Communications CommitteeThe Scarsdale Ad Hoc Communications Committee reconvened last week to continue its efforts to improve communications between Scarsdale Village government and residents.

After completing its first year of work in November, the group presented the Scarsdale Board of Trustees and village staff with a detailed communications plan and recommendations. The plan outlined activities to enhance the relationship between Scarsdale administration and the public, increase residents' awareness of government policies and procedures, and promote greater public participation in village affairs.

As a result, the board decided to extend the committee's work into a second year, during which it will continue to advise village staff on communications issues and provide assistance in completing suggested initiatives. Specifically, the group has been charged with maintaining and increasing resident subscriptions to "Notify Me;" updating new resident information; developing promotion materials for Scarsdale resident boards and councils; updating and standardizing village forms, applications, handouts and other documents; reviewing and drafting department overviews and FAQs; and, monitoring the village website, scarsdale.com, to suggest improvements in user experience and functionality.

Village Trustee and Committee Chair Jane Veron stated, "The committee has demonstrated a deep grasp of our community's evolving communications needs and has become the 'go to' source for resident input. One of its most popular accomplishments is the newly launched, twice-monthly eblast, Scarsdale Official, which has received rave reviews for its succinct and user friendly summaries of pertinent village issues. " She continued, "Our committee remains energized to deliver on many more of its recommendations in the coming year,"

The committee includes resident volunteers with varied communications, technology, marketing, legal and administrative expertise. It includes Justin Arest, Lee Fischman, Dara Gruenberg, Laura Halligan, ML Perlman, Barry Meiselman, Scott Rompala, Andrew Sereysky and Carol Silverman. Scarsdale Trustee Jane Veron continues to serve as chair; Trustee Deborah Pekarek remains as the BOT liaison; and, Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole also will continue to represent Scarsdale Village administration in collaborating with the group in its work between now and the end of its term in late November 2018.

Stay Informed With "Notify Me" Notify Me

Do you wonder how to get basic village information quickly and easily? Tired of asking your neighbors, "Where did you find that?" Always forgetting when to renew your annual parking pass? To help you stay on top of local news and policies that affect you, the Ad Hoc Communications Committee invites you to sign up for "Notify Me," Scarsdale's online alert notification system. It is easily accessible via scarsdale.com, and particularly useful in learning about rapidly changing issues, such as recent discussions about prepayment of property taxes. Residents may choose what information they wish to receive, such as recreation notices; press releases; meeting notifications; and the village's new, bi-weekly online newsletter, Scarsdale Official.

Laura Halligan, a member of the Scarsdale Ad Hoc Communications Committee and contributor to Scarsdale10583.com, is a local writer, editor and marketing consultant. She is principal of Pinch Hit Prose and provides communications services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits.

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budgetgraphIn response to repeated calls for a long-term financial plan for the Scarsdale School district from community groups, Superintendent Hagerman and Assistant Superintendent Mattey unveiled the first phase of a long term plan at the Board of Education meeting on 12/11/17.

Mattey explained the annual budget process and outlined the primary factors that drive the budget formulation including salaries, pension contributions, projected enrollment, anticipated revenues, debt service, health insurance costs, estimated fund balance and the state tax cap.

Taking a look at the current picture, he gave projections for 2018-19 for the district's contributions to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and Employees Retirement System (ERS), two expenses that have been volatile in the past. He reported that TRS, now at 9.8% of salaries is expected to go up to 10.5-11% for the 2018-19 school year, which could mean a $750,000 expense increase for Scarsdale. ERS, now at 15.1% is expected to remain flat at 15%.

He explained that mandated costs, such as water filters on district taps and fountains to mitigate lead will now cost the district $30,000 a year, and explained that these costs are sometimes difficult to predict.

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Overall, Mattey estimated that the 2017-18 school budget would close out at $151,169,598, which is $1.1 million or .74% over the actual 2016-17 school budget.

Expenses for 2017-18 at $154,341,066 are estimated at $6.9 million (4.72%) more than the 2016-17 expenses of $147,380,706. Much of this increase is due to salaries and benefits which went up when the district added new personnel last year.

fundbalance2The district will end the year with a $3,171,468 million decrease in the fund balance from $23,422,731 in June, 2017 to $20,251,263 in June, 2018. Contributing to this decrease is $2.8 million that was used to fund shortfalls from the 2014 facilities work. The district had $1.29 million in tax settlements from the tax certiorari reserve and health insurance costs are expected to be $700,000 higher than last year.

Still unknown are energy costs, which are driven by winter weather. Mattey anticipated that heating costs will also rise due to expanded facilities at the high school.

The district expects to use $1.1 million of this fund balance towards next year's budget. That would leave the district with 3.57% in reserves. The state allows the district to hold a maximum of 4% of the budget in a fund balance.
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The board was provided with historical data dating back to 2011, showing enrollment, tax cap rates, revenues and expenses. Mattey cautioned that the historical and trend data was not a reliable source of budget estimates for the future, but good information to consider. He said that some of the numbers are volatile and difficult to predict. Pension contributions, health insurance, utilities and the state tax cap are outside the district's control and therefore variable and unpredictable.

Mattey asked the Board to help project some of these factors in order to build a long-term plan.

Scott Silberfein asked how accurate the demographers are in estimating future enrollments. Bill Natbony asked if there were educational initiatives or new programs that the administration would like the board to consider.

Dr. Hagerman responded saying, "We're in a time of transition; Lynne Shain has announced her retirement –- that means will have a new curriculum person come in.... We have new spaces that will present opportunities. We talk about 21st century classrooms.... So we need to think about the future in terms of programming and space usage. Are we going to have answers to all of those questions by February 15? I am skeptical. There has to be elasticity that allows us to make changes each year. We have added a significant number of people over the last few years, so we won't have a big wish list this year. And we know we're at the top of our tax levy with the presentation tonight."

Lee Maude and Art Rublin asked Mattey to do two versions of the projection –including a base or optimistic case and a downsize case. Chris Morin suggested that the district employ forecasting tools used by other Westchester-Putnam districts and also form a budget planning committee to assist with finances and forecasting. Morin thought the administration should focus on long-term facilities planning, an area where the district has knowledge, data and control.

The timeline calls for further discussion of the trend analysis and budget parameters at upcoming meetings.

Art Rublin called for the administration to allow time for the community to comment on the proposed budget early on. Scott Silberfein asked that community members be given the opportunity to comment early at meetings so that they don't have to stay until 10 or 11 pm to speak.

Dr. Hagerman commented, "We understand our tax levy amount. We don't anticipate having a lot of FTE (full time employee) recommendations – and those were time consuming.... It's not going to be a complete rollover of the budget, but I don't think there is going to be a lot that will be a surprise to the board. We're not going to ask for what we don't need."

Watch the budgeting discussion here

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26CushmanWhen all the members of the Committee for Historic Preservation resigned from the committee in November, 2017 saying that the current Village code did not allow them to prevent the demolition of any homes, we were surprised and hopeful. We were surprised because in our memory an entire committee had never made such a statement, and hopeful because we thought that this would compel the Village Board of Trustees to make some meaningful changes to the code. In fact, former members of the committee suggested some changes that would align with the historic preservation code in nearby towns and make it possible to save some of the historic homes in Scarsdale that are being razed at an alarming rate.

However, we're not sure what if any changes will be made at all.

The Village Board of Trustees has replaced all of the committee members, and the new committee chair, Lucas Meyer was quoted in the Scarsdale Inquirer saying that he believes that only "15 structures in the Village need to be preserved for posterity." Could this mean that almost all applications for demolition filed will be approved? We wondered if this was Meyer's personal point of view or a new standard for the committee? Either way, this interpretation of the code does not even align with the current village code. If the CHP simply approves all demolition applications, no one will need to appeal a decision to the Board of Trustees and the homes will be lost without any consideration.

We were also surprised that local architect Bana Choura was reassigned to the committee. She previously resigned after a conflict of interest as she works on designing the homes that are built on the properties where applications for teardowns are filed. Why couldn't the trustees find someone who has not previously had to step down from the committee... and someone from outside the Village?

We also wondered if the trustees would consider the recommendations from the prior members of the CHP for changes to Village Code that would allow at least some of our homes to be preserved.

And what about the Cultural Resource Survey Report of all of Scarsdale's properties done by architectural historian Andrew S. Dolkart and Li-Saltzman Architects in 2012? The study surveyed the "architectural fabric in order to identify buildings and areas of particular architectural or historical significance." They identified a list of the most significant individual buildings "ranging from colonial-era farmhouses, to mid-nineteenth century rural villas, to architecturally distinguished suburban homes from the early decades of the twentieth-century , to exceptional mid-century Modern houses. The report says, "We realized that what is so special about Scarsdale is the cohesive nature of the built fabric. While we continued to look at each building individually , we also looked to groups of buildings that give a distinctive character to the village. Thus, the survey has identified twelve "Study Areas," where groups of buildings of high quality and with architectural integrity relating to their original design, create cohesive neighborhood ensembles "20Mamaroneck

The report suggests both individual properties as well as historic districts for preservation. Would the trustees consider ways to recognize those properties and districts and incentivize preservation of the facades?

We wrote to the Mayor and several Village trustees with our questions and here is a response from Mayor Dan Hochvert:

1: Regarding the appointment of new committee members:

After the Village Board and Staff learned of resignations of the previous Committee for Historic Preservation (CHP), they recognized there were 3 applications for Certificates of Appropriateness scheduled for hearing on 12/26. A concern was that if the Village was not able to abide by its Code which requires hearings for such applications by the CHP to determine if the applicants' properties were historic, the applicants might seek judicial approval for demolition of the property. To prevent that outcome, volunteers who had previously served on the CHP were asked if they would temporarily serve while longer term volunteers were sought. The resultant CHP consists of some members with previous CHP experience and some members who have interest in historic properties.

2. Regarding the Chairman's view that only 15 properties in Scarsdale warrant preservation:

It is important to note that the Code gives each member of the CHP one vote and requires a minimum of four votes for a decision. New York State law also requires that if fewer than four members of the CHP vote either for or against the application for a C of A, it will be deemed a default denial and the applicant may appeal to the Village Board.

3. Regarding proposed changes to the preservation code:

The Village Board received recommendations from the members of the previous CHP and will schedule public discussion of them as soon as possible in the face of a busy budget development schedule.

(Photos are taken from the 2012 Cultural Resources Survey by Li-Saltzman Architects.)

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cuomo(Saturday December 23, 2017) This just in from the Scarsdale Village Manager's Office: Scarsdale Village will accept prepayment of 2018 property taxes this week. Payments must be made in person through December 29 or by mail, postmarked on or before December 31. No online payments can be made. This follows an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo:

(From the Village) Pursuant to Governor Cuomo's December 22, 2017 Executive Order temporarily suspending certain sections of New York State tax law, the Village is now able to provide for the prepayment of 2018 property taxes prior to the end of the 2017 calendar year. Prepayment of 2018 property taxes may assist property owners in preserving income tax deductions associated with local property taxes that would otherwise be largely lost as a result of the recently adopted federal tax reform measure. The Village makes no representation, however, regarding the deductibility of prepaid taxes which will ultimately be decided by the United States Treasury.

The Village will accept prepayment for Westchester County, School and Village property taxes. As the applicable 2018 tax warrants for all three taxes will not be issued by the taxing authorities prior to December 31, 2017, property owners are asked to pay the same amount for each of the three separate taxes as was owed in 2017. Please be advised that the tax amounts billed for 2017 are available on the Village website, www.scarsdale.com. On the Front Page of the website, click on the icon titled "Property Inquiry" located in the center of the red tool bar. Navigate by street name and address to find your 2017 property tax payment information. If you have any issues accessing the website or have additional questions, please contact the Village Treasurer's Office at (914) 722-1170. The Village Offices reopen on Tuesday, December 26th at 9:00 a.m.

Property owners interested in prepayment can issue one or more checks made out to the "Village of Scarsdale." Pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order, payments may be made in person at Village Hall from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. through December 29, 2017. The Drop Box at Village Hall will be closed at the end of business December 29, 2017. Payments may also be mailed and will be accepted with a United States postmark, Federal Express or UPS shipment dated on or before December 31, 2017. Postage meter marks are not acceptable.

Please note that on-line banking checks issued through personal or business accounts are not postmarked and cannot be accepted if received after December 31st. On-line payments through the Village's on-line payment option at www.scarsdale.com, are also allowed under the Order, however the Village cannot currently accept such payments. We are working with our vendor on creating the necessary file for the 2018 Estimated Taxes. Please check the website for updates in this regard, and please sign-up for the "Notify Me" application on the website to receive additional information on this matter.

Please understand that the prepayment of some, all, or none of these property taxes is optional. Should property owners avail themselves of this option, the necessary adjustments to the payment amounts will be made during the normal tax billing cycles in 2018.

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CACThe Scarsdale Board of Trustees kicked off a busy evening this past Tuesday by hearing recommendations on how the village can further its conservation efforts and save money in the process. Specifically, the Scarsdale Sustainability and Municipal Services Committees reviewed proposals on modifications to Scarsdale's sanitation and recycling operations and LED street lighting.

Sanitation Operations Study/Increasing Recycling

The Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) presented an in depth "Sanitation Study," which identified service and operations improvements, and ways to increase recycling while reducing trash.

The analysis shows that Scarsdale already boasts one of the highest levels of sanitation services and recycling rates in Westchester County. In 2016, our residents generated just over 19,000 tons of waste and 65 percent of it was recycled. However, the recycling rate was, and continues to be, driven by the village's high percentage of yard waste, rather than commingled or paper recyclables. In addressing Scarsdale's Municipal Services Committee, CAC Chairman Ron Schulhof reported, "We're doing an amazing job... but we want our recycling rate to be higher and we looked for areas that we could improve."

While we may be doing an amazing job, it isn't easy. Commingled and paper recyclables are picked up every other week; residents have trouble storing two-weeks worth of recyclables and end up throwing some in the trash; and, many cannot get to the recycling center to dispose of food scraps. As a result, Scarsdale still disposes of approximately 6,600 tons of trash each year (40 pounds per household each week), which is incinerated at a cost of $28 per ton. So, addressing items that are recyclable or can be donated will continue the village's efforts to reduce total trash, improve the environment and reduce cost.

Based on its research and close collaboration with the Scarsdale Sanitation Department, and to expand recycling efforts, the CAC recommended three additions to sanitation services:

• Increase the frequency of commingled and paper recycling pickup to once per week;
• Launch weekly curbside pickup of food scraps for recycling; and
• Site a furniture donation container at the Scarsdale Recycling Center.

The committee believes these services will make it easier for residents to recycle, reduce the amount of space they need to store recyclables, and offer more recycling options, while providing the village with significant savings.

However, to implement these additional services and avoid large costs, two changes are required:

• Commingled recycling pick up will move to the curb (as paper recycling is now); and,recyclingcan
• Pickups that fall on a holiday will not be rescheduled during that week.

The CAC also recommends trash, yard waste or leaf collection service remain the same.

While the estimated cost of the proposed changes is projected to be between $13,000 and $26,000, it is expected that, by reducing trash, the village will reduce its disposal fees. In addition, the committee advises a capital investment of $3,500 to add a furniture donation container, through a partnership with Furniture Warehouse, a local nonprofit.

In addressing the proposed changes, Schulhof outlined a number of benefits. "Recycling weekly will alleviate residents' storage and it's going to reduce the amount of handling. at the metrics, comparable communities that pick up weekly have higher recycling rates." With regard to food scraps, Schulhof stated, "We know that while the drop off site has been successful, not all residents can participate at the drop off site. Picking up (food scraps) will open this program, in practical terms, to a much higher percentage of residents." About furniture donation, Schulhof explained, "When you donate furniture now, you have to drive it some distance or wait for a truck to pick it up. By having a drop off site here, not just for large pieces but for an end table or mirror, you provide convenience for residents and support those in need."

Superintendent Salanitro said, "The information in this report is extremely accurate and we can support the CAC's recommendations through our existing operations. The more methods we implement to increase recycling, the better." He also indicated that less trash will translate into lower disposal fees for the village. "I think that we'll see a drastic decrease in our overall weights through increased food scrap recycling and reuse of furniture." He continued, "That's where the weight is. The metrics work in our favor when we reduce municipal solid waste components. "

While the trustees were impressed with the committee's report and recommendations, there were concerns about residents' reactions to service changes. Trustee Carl Finger mentioned, "When the public learns that we're considering these recommendations, I think it's important that we get some feedback." He went on, "I'm a little concerned about ... people saying 'I like my services. I don't want any change to my services.'" Trustee Deborah Pekarek, while supportive of the CAC's recommendations, agreed with Finger, "The need for some kind of public discussion is real. Although we're giving a lot, we are taking something."

Trustee Seth Ross supported the recommendations, stating, "It appears that the cost is slight and that the risk is very small. Any of the measures being taken can be modified or reversed if the program isn't working as planned. These are major factors in helping the board to support this proposal."

Mayor Dan Hochvert, also in favor of the recommendations, congratulated the CAC and village staff on its work, stating, "The best thing about this report is that it is the closest collaboration between an advisory council and staff. It's a great report."

Bob Harrison of Fox Meadow Road, said, " Being in my 70s, (this) is not an improvement in service, it's a reduction. I've now got to lug recyclables out to the street, when, today, the sanitation person comes down my driveway. I support recycling but I'm very concerned. I think you've got to hear from the entire community."

The Municipal Services Committee supported the CAC's recommendations and proposed further review by the Scarsdale Board of Trustees. It is expected that the board will request a public information session to obtain community feedback and address questions.

LED Streetlight Project

The Ad Hoc Committee on LED Streetlights presented an update on the recently concluded LED streetlight pilot, which covered both high traffic and residential roads throughout the village. The study found that LED lighting will help Scarsdale reduce energy use, lower its electric and maintenance costs and improve lighting.

The committee recommended moving forward with replacing streetlights at those locations that were tested over the past three months. New LED fixtures would be installed on "high traffic" roads: White Plains/Post Road, Mamaroneck Road, Weaver Street and Heathcote Road (between Post Road and Five Corners); and new LED bulbs would be installed on residential streets within Crane-Berkeley and Secor Farms, to preserve the current, decorative "Town and Country" fixtures.

In total, 301 streetlights would be replaced, or 15 percent of the 1,976 streetlights in Scarsdale. The committee also plans to continue research for streetlights on residential roads in preparation for a residential road pilot planned for summer 2018.

While the upfront cost of installing these fixtures is approximately $60,000, projected savings is estimated at $25,000 (resulting in a short payback period of 2.8 years). The village will be able to realize additional cost savings by using in-house personnel to install the fixtures, rather than outsourcing the work. According to Benny Salanitro, Scarsdale Superintendent of Public Works, "Installation (of pilot fixtures) was smooth and relatively straightforward. These fixtures happen to be available through a 'piggyback' program we have with Hempstead (NY), so we'll be able to purchase them quickly should we decide to move forward."

Because the village has available funds in the current year's capital budget to cover the cost of the new lighting, the Scarsdale Sustainability Committee approved the recommendations and directed staff to proceed with purchase and installation.

Laura Halligan is a Scarsdale-based writer, editor and marketing consultant. She is principal of Pinch Hit Prose and provides communications services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits.

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