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eustaceandvoice2During a fairly routine meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on January 23, trustees provided a variety of updates and status reports for residents that ranged from volunteerism and the "Cable TV Needs Survey," to budget planning and tree code.

Trustee Carl Finger opened the meeting by reviewing recent village bills, and noting that the village bidding process is quite thorough, with staff working diligently to protect taxpayer dollars. "They look at every penny for us... By the time we see it, the hard work is done."

Mayor's Comments
Mayor Dan Hochvert's comments were brief; he began by expressing admiration for teenage volunteers he met on Martin Luther King Day at the Westchester Reform Temple. These "J Teens" come from throughout Westchester and participate in a variety of local volunteer projects. Last week, they were packing medical kits for areas impacted by major storms, such as Puerto Rico. "The enthusiasm (and) the leadership that I saw in these teenagers made me sure that the future of Westchester is going to be great," Hochvert said. He exchanged contact information with the group, "so that volunteer groups in Scarsdale could call on them, since they are looking for more opportunities."

He also announced ongoing work to revise an RFP on nut weed (nut grass) control for Harwood Park and Harcourt Woods, in an effort to eliminate it in these green spaces. And, finally, he noted that the village administration and trustees have begun their annual budget process.

Trustee Committee and Liaison Reports
Trustee Seth Ross announced that the Scarsdale Cable Television Commission still is seeking responses to its "Cable TV Needs Survey," which closes on Wednesday, January 31. He asked residents to take some time to complete the online questionnaire, which can be accessed here. "We've had quite a number of responses, but not nearly as many as we were hoping," Ross reported. "More responses will enable the village to negotiate significantly better agreements with cable providers."

Ross also reminded the public to learn more about village boards and councils, almost all of which have openings now or in coming months. He also encouraged residents to get involved in local civic matters by applying to any particular board or council: "I hope that those who have served previously and those who have not will seriously consider serving the village in these capacities." To learn more, visit the village's "Boards and Councils" webpage.

Trustee Carl Finger continued by discussing finance committee matters, specifically the first budget discussions of the year. "We're off to what I think is going to be a very productive and efficient budget for the coming fiscal year." He added, "I encourage everybody to attend, if they can, any of the upcoming public meetings... It's very informative. The staff ... and the department heads are all working very hard watching our bottom line."

Trustee Jane Veron provided an update on Scarsdale Parks and Recreation matters, specifically its interest in preventing the spread of the flu and the need to "remind those engaging in sports to be mindful of ensuring sanitary conditions." The department sent flu prevention alerts to participants in its programs, and worked with the school district in getting word out to students and parents. Veron also discussed the work of the Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force, which will host "Healthy Brain Day" on April 19-20, to promote understanding of the effect of substances on the brain.

She then changed gears and thanked the Scarsdale Arts Council, which supervised the Chase Park installation of Pearl Necklace, by Simone Kestelman. Veron said that the work was enjoyed for many months and she looks forward to future public installations. Last, Veron thanked the community for its feedback on the recently released sanitation operations study. "We've received emails, phone calls (and) in-person commentary on the (recycling) proposal that was presented by the CAC (Conservation Advisory Council)," said Veron. "We will be having an information session next Tuesday at 7:00 pm, where we will continue to discuss the study." The public is invited to attend.

Next up was Trustee Deborah Pekarek, who discussed the ongoing process to amend the village's tree code to better preserve Scarsdale's tree canopy. Earlier in the evening, the Scarsdale Law and Sustainability Committees met with village staff, and members of the Friends of Scarsdale Parks and the CAC to review proposed amendments. The discussion yielded additional ideas and revisions, and the public will be advised of future developments and meetings.

Pekarek then briefly mentioned her participation in recent meetings with the Colonial Acres Neighborhood Association and League of Women Voters, and concluded her remarks by announcing that four new officers have joined the Scarsdale Police Department. They are Jamie Crespo, Viet Dang, Terrence Doyle and Maxwell Goldberg. "We welcome our four new officers to the Scarsdale Police Department and we look forward to working with them and anticipate that they will serve the village with care, concern and professionalism," she said.

Public Comments
Lena Crandall, Fox Meadow Road, mentioned that the Scarsdale Forum will host its annual Winterfest event on Saturday, February 3, at 7:00 pm. The event is open to forum members and their guests; any residents who are not members of the organization may join here.

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Fox Meadow Road, invited the public to attend an upcoming Scarsdale Forum event, "What is the School Bond and Should You Vote for It?" on Thursday, February 1, at 7:30 pm. She also discussed the forum's recently completed "Traffic Survey Report," in which it recommends that Scarsdale Village allocate resources to improve compliance with state and local traffic code provisions. Over 700 respondents completed the survey; a significant number cited concerns about walking, driving and cycling in the village.

Madelaine Eppenstein, Autenreith Road, followed up on Kirkendall-Rodriguez' comments, and thanked the community for its participation in the traffic survey, and the trustees and village administration for considering the forum report. She also provided news about Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, which will coordinate its fourth annual "Community Planting Day" and is working with village staff on a longer-term tree planting species list.

Michael Rubin, Crossway, added to Trustee Ross' comments on the cable TV survey. He explained that public input is important in determining future cable television needs, and survey data will help determine what the village should focus on when renegotiating contracts with Verizon and Altice cable television providers. Residents are urged to complete the online survey if they haven't already.

Bob Harrison, Fox Meadow Road, asked about the village's 2018-19 budget projections, specifically the proposed tax increase for homeowners. Village Manager Steve Pappalardo reported that the first pass of the budget represents a 2.18 percent tax levy increase, well under the 3.78 percent tax levy cap for Scarsdale. Pappalardo further explained that a number of factors will alter the first draft, so the information is very preliminary.

Harrison then mentioned the upcoming CAC meeting on sanitation services and voiced his objections to recent recommendation for curbside pickup of commingled recyclables. He also cited other residents' comments about the effect the proposal will have on senior citizens, and urged no change in pickup procedures. Harrison went on to state his concerns about the planned Wynmor Park tennis court renovations, and wondered why the trustees awarded a contract costing $110,361 when the project was budgeted at $75,000. Pappalardo explained that the village received three bids that were similar in cost, which indicated that staff didn't budget enough funds for the project. He also provided an explanation about how the bids were structured and the contractor selection process.

Laura Halligan, a new 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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CNCGraphicThe Citizens Nominating Committee ("CNC") announced today that its members voted Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Jane Veron as its slate of candidates for three Village Trustee positions to be voted upon at the General Village Election to be held on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Jane Veron is presently finishing her first two-year term as a Scarsdale Village Trustee.

The CNC searched for potential candidates and deliberated over the course of two months diligently following up with references from throughout the Village – and beyond. The CNC considered and researched carefully the background, experience, and qualifications of each candidate.LenaCrandallCNC

According to ML Perlman, Chair of CNC (a non-voting position) "The CNC approached over 50 individuals for the role of Trustee, 5 of whom submitted their names for consideration by the CNC. The CNC researched extensively all candidates including over 80 references with first-hand experience with the candidates. After research and discussion, the CNC decided based on majority vote who would be put forth as the slate for the election."

The CNC is an independent body comprised of 30 elected representatives (6 from each neighborhood) tasked with reaching out within the Village community to encourage residents who are ready, willing and able to volunteer their service as a trustee.

arestContinued Perlman, "Residents are encouraged to remember that the CNC process in no way restricts or changes the rights and options of the community. Quite the opposite; the CNC is an independent group of volunteers that provides a service to the community in the form of finding and researching candidates for office. The community only gains by having a researched and peer-reviewed option on the ballot for voters to consider."

The CNC Chair plans to provide a CNC Fulfillment of Responsibilities Report including an overview of the CNC 2017-18 process, a link to its recorded Organization Meeting on December 5th 2017, and a list of procedural questions for consideration by the Procedure Committee.

According to Perlman "The CNC is elected by the public and its procedure janeveronis reviewed annually by the Procedure Committee. I wanted to provide as much transparency as possible for the public in particular to better understand the important work conducted by this group of volunteers."

Procedure Committee Website

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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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Mark-SvedBeverley Sved,  a 25-year Scarsdale resident and a dedicated volunteer, will be the 2018 recipient of the community's highest award, the Scarsdale Bowl. The Scarsdale Bowl is awarded annually to "one who has given unselfishly of time, energy, and effort to the civic welfare of the community," according to the Bowl founding documents.

Terri Simon, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee, said "Bev Sved is a volunteer extraordinaire whose long, broad and deep commitment to our community and calm, smart consensus-building has moved Scarsdale forward and inspired countless other residents." Sved will be honored at the Scarsdale Bowl dinner on Wednesday evening, April 25th, at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle. Simon encourages all members of the community to attend: "The Bowl Dinner is a warm and uplifting opportunity to celebrate the spirit of volunteering that permeates our Village and makes it truly a community." The Bowl Committee will send out invitations in mid-March. However, one need not receive an invitation in order to attend the Dinner, and the Committee encourages all who are interested to sign up for the Dinner on the Scarsdale Foundation website here. 

"The Scarsdale Bowl was initiated in 1943 to recognize an individual's outstanding contributions to thTerriSimone civic life of this community," said Simon. "The Dinner gives us an annual opportunity to honor a stand-out volunteer who exemplifies an approach to which we can all aspire." The Bowl Committee, a diverse group of 16 community volunteers, selects the recipient after reviewing many worthy candidates who are nominated by the community. The annual tradition of awarding the Scarsdale Bowl is maintained by the Scarsdale Foundation. The Foundation engages in a broad range of philanthropy in the Scarsdale community and supports many local institutions. One of its primary functions is funding and distributing need-based scholarships to deserving Scarsdale High School graduates and Scarsdale residents in their sophomore through senior years of college.

Last Sunday evening, the Committee voted to honor Beverley Sved, or as everyone in the Village knows her, Bev. Delegates from the Bowl Committee, including Simon, Scarsdale Foundation President Randy Guggenheimer, Foundation Liaison to the Committee Seth Ross and Committee Secretary/Treasurer Robert Jeremiah arrived at the Sved home to announce their selection. Sved was completely surprised and described getting the news about the honor as "unexpected and incredible." "I'm blown out of the water!" she said. When Simon told her that so many people were and are involved in our community because of her, Sved said, "That's so nice! That's so nice to hear!"

Sved is an engineer and Chartered Financial Analyst by training, and had a long and successful career at IBM in the areas of Corporate Strategy, Business Forecasting and Industry Analysis. At the same time she began taking on volunteer responsibilities—large and small— in Scarsdale, including serving as a Village Trustee from 1998-2002 and as Mayor from 2003-2005. In addition, Sved was a director on the boards of the League of Women Voters of Westchester and the Scarsdale Forum (both organizations in which she continues to be actively involved), a Trustee and then Vice President of the Scarsdale Foundation, a member of the Village Board Finance Committee and the Planning Board, President of the Westchester County Historical Society, a director on the boards of the United Way and Scarsdale & Edgemont Family Counseling, President of the Overhill Neighborhood Association and Chair of Scarsdale Neighborhood Association Presidents.

The community is invited to join the Bowl Committee on April 25th at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle to honor Beverley Sved who embodies Scarsdale's spirit of volunteerism.

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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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