Information Emerges About $570,000 in Contributions for the Scarsdale Community Center
- The Goods
- Published on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 08:33
- Joanne Wallenstein
Information about the funds for the proposed Scarsdale Community Center is coming to light. Prompted by an inquiry to Scarsdale10583 last week, Executive Board member and former Scarsdale Mayor Ed Morgan has sent Scarsdale10583 the following letter that explains the current status of the organization and the funds. See the letter below where he explains that there is a split among the Board between those who wish to liquidate the fund and return them to the contributors and Morgan who advocates continuing to pursue the project. In the letter he explains the history of the SCC, the impact of the recession and tax cap and his ideas for moving forward.
In addition, Morgan sent us the link to the SCC's financial statements that are available on Guidestar.com. The current balance sheet, reproduced below, shows that as of June 30 2013 the fund was sizable. The balance sheet shows $557,049 in 2013, down from $578,013 in 2012.
Last, Guidestar lists the names of the Board as of 2013. The list is shown at the end of this article.
Here is the letter from Ed Morgan:
TO the SCC Board of Directors
Dear SCC Board Members:
Sometimes friends and neighbors may disagree about some matter; later, however that matter may work out, they may still remain neighbors and friends. In writing this letter to you, I observe that within the SCC we have recently had the first situation described in the preceding sentence; I hope that in time we may also at least have the second as well.
Some time has passed since my last update to you, and I should explain the recent situation to you.
The basic history of SCC is that we (and I am here referring to all of SCC's wonderful volunteers, including you as Board members and some of you as Executive Committee members) have accomplished extraordinary things with comparatively tiny amounts of money. Among other things, we have established that a majority of Scarsdale's residents favor having a community indoor pool/center facility, and backed that up by obtaining membership pledges, without the benefit of final construction drawings, from a high percentage of Scarsdale residents, a feat considered remarkable, even unique, by the highly qualified independent professional feasibility consultant engaged by SCC. We have obtained a widely praised, beautiful conceptual project design, by architects who have successfully built a comparable facility elsewhere in our County. With that conceptual design, and several studies, all pointing in the same direction, we have established the existing outdoor pool site as the most practicable Scarsdale site for the indoor pool/center facility, and one broadly accepted by the community. With repeated studies, internally by our own volunteers and externally with nationally recognized experts in the field, we have established both the conceptual soundness and the financial soundness of the proposed indoor pool/center facility for Scarsdale. The financial figures have required periodic updates, but the bottom line from all of the successive financial studies, taken together, is that a community facility such as that proposed (with all of the moneys involved serving the general public benefit rather than the profits of a commercial business) can be built with pricing competitive with other less attractive commercial, etc. facilities elsewhere in the region, and should therefore be financially feasible based on SCC's past history of broad community membership support. Additional meaningful work has also been accomplished in refining the conceptual design, the costings, and environmental and permitting aspects.
At that point, the greatest recession in 80 years intervened, with a slow and mostly tepid recovery, and exacerbated by the psychological effects of a State cap enacted on local property taxes. The original project process model assumed, with considerable encouragement at the time from all sorts of people including governmental officials, that once SCC established a significant membership base (successfully done) and perhaps a few other things (generally also successfully done), then the Village would step up, make the land needed available for project use, and advance the amounts needed to complete construction design papers, and environmental and permitting work, the same to be reimbursed to the Village from the anticipated Village bonds to be issued for project construction. The intention here was that it was to be reasonably certain that the project (including the architectural, environmental, etc. pre-construction work) over time would be paid for in full by the users of the facility through their memberships and other fees, and not by Scarsdale's taxpayers through their taxes. In short, the project was over time not to be subsidized by Scarsdale taxpayers generally.
The great recession and State cap, however, changed the original dynamics and made the original project process model obsolete, at least for the foreseeable future. In the interests of full disclosure, I note that key current Village Budget information (attached) is consistent with that view. For some, including some Executive Committee members, if the original model could no longer work, that has been enough. They have worked long and hard, even brilliantly, but they see it as time to abandon the effort and wind down SCC.
For others, however, then and still including me, that was not and is not an acceptable answer, at least if there were other options to be explored which could still complete the project for the benefit of all Scarsdalians. For me, having gotten as far as we have, it would be a betrayal of trust to all those members and others who have long supported SCC if we were not to pursue alternate ways of getting the project successfully completed. I will therefore neither support nor have any part in any SCC liquidation.
Based on advice we have received from several people knowledgeable in major fundraising efforts, it still remains reasonably possible that the project can be completed using a new project process model. To be sure, the new model would also be new to Scarsdale, differently structured than less formal "pass the hat around" kinds of efforts which have often been seen in Scarsdale. With the development fairly recently of more accurate costing information, and reflecting also the special features of the conceptual design widely lauded in the community, the total project cost would be expected to be in excess of $20 million. Based on general industry experience, the costs prior to commencing construction for construction design work, environmental, permitting, etc. would be expected to be in excess of $1 million, probably nearer to $2 million. Under the new model, fundraising would have to cover all of that pre-construction work, as well as being available for a much larger portion of total construction costs than previously anticipated, in return for seeking and gaining Village approval of the right to use the site and probably a modest amount of bonded funding as well.
The major fundraising approach, which has been successful elsewhere and which we are told could also be successful in Scarsdale, would include initially development of a feasibility study and plan, and then a period working with potential major donors sufficient to cover most of total project costs, all prior to returning for the smaller public portion of the fundraising campaign. At this point, SCC already has a portion of what would be needed for the feasibility study and plan, and fundraising would be needed to cover the rest of that cost.
To get there, several SCC actions are needed, including the following. First, the Board and Executive Committee need to be restructured to include a significant component of people with fundraising skills while retaining the other skills we have long had in excellent abundance. Second, we need to reopen membership, since about one third of Scarsdale residents were not even in the community when membership was last open, and others have also asked about such an opportunity. As contemplated by the most recently prepared SCC financial analysis provided to the Village and the public, a very special discounted membership would continue for those faithful SCC members who have been with us for many years. The new memberships would be structured differently for the current circumstances, but would still include some discount in post-opening membership fees, albeit a smaller one than provided for the original SCC members. Third, and in addition, an active "friends" of SCC group would be launched, in part to accomplish modest fundraising for current costs but more importantly as part of a larger media effort and events to publicize the SCC in the community and keep interested residents periodically informed.
For some time I have urged implementation of these actions to the Executive Committee. However, given that some Executive Committee members wish to proceed with an SCC liquidation, there has been an impasse. I am very grateful to those who have indicated willingness to seek an alternative process model for completing the SCC project. However, the impasse nonetheless continues, which doubtless has been mystifying to many in the community.
I still have faith that the basic SCC concept is sound, and hope that the work so capably already done will eventually lead to the realization of the indoor pool/center facility so long desired by thousands of Scarsdale residents. Under the totality of the circumstances described above, however, I have concluded that I should resign as SCC President, and I hereby do so, effective immediately.
I continue to wish SCC, and everyone connected with it, well now and for the future. Should new leadership decide to overcome the impasse mentioned and move forward toward the SCC objectives, please let me know. I would be pleased support such efforts to the extent that I can be useful.
Edward A. Morgan
According to Morgan, continuing SCC officers currently include: Bart Hamlin, VP; Steve Bush, Controller; Meredith Lonner, VP Membership (among other things, handles refund requests at firstname.lastname@example.org); and Alan Garfunkel, Secretary.
Board members as of 2013 include:
EVA ROMAS WILSON
Balance Sheet as of 2013