Monday, May 25th

Last updateSat, 23 May 2020 7pm

You are here: Home Section Table Village Voices
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop

auditoriumDear Scarsdale Board of Education,
The Scarsdale High School PTA Executive Committee supports the proposed 2020-2021 school budget as adopted by the Scarsdale Board of Education on May 13th.

We extend our gratitude and appreciation to the Board of Education, and the District and School Administrations for all their hard work in developing the proposed School Budget for 2020-2021. This is a challenging process under the best of circumstances and the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 health crisis has made this year's budget process significantly more difficult. We feel that the Board and the District Administration have created a budget that not only provides the financial support to maintain the educational excellence of our schools and to preserve the property values of our homes, but also, with only a 1.19% increase over this year’s budget, responds to the real concerns of our taxpayers in these uncertain economic times.

In addition, we applaud the Board's decision to use $700,000 from Debt Service, that was earmarked in the 2014 School Bond for repairs and renovations to the high school auditorium, to complete several updates to the auditorium that are critical to the safety and education of our students. This use of funds accomplishes these much needed repairs with zero increase to the total budget.

We commend the Board of Education, the District and High School Administrations for their commitment to the education of our students and thank them for their time, expertise and responsiveness during this budget process.

The Scarsdale High PTA Executive Committee
Deb Morel, President
Leanne Freda, President-Elect
Rokaya Hassaballa, VP Membership & Events
Jennifer Rossano, VP Programming & Volunteers
Seema Jaggi, Treasurer
Beth Cukier, Recording Secretary
Dana Matsushita, Corresponding Secretary

rainbowA rainbow on Fox Meadow Road: Photo credit: Susan GronerMayor Marc Samwick opened the May 12 Village Board Meet with the following update on the COVID outbreak, the re-opening process and an update on the possibility of paying school taxes in two installments: Here are his comments:

I would like to start with an update on the pandemic. Westchester County has had 31,384 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19, or about 9.3% of the statewide total. Devastatingly, the County has seen 1,227 fatalities. That is 1,227 people that were here two months ago and have been lost to this disease. We all know people who are included in this staggering number and we are worse off for their departure. One small modicum of positive news in this statistic is that the County’s fatalities total 5.7% of the statewide total, well below our percentage of positive cases.

Now, moving onto Scarsdale: The Village has had 345 positive Corona cases. The County Executive has been tracking “active cases” by subtracting the number of cases that we had two weeks ago. The assumption behind this methodology is that cases usually resolve within two weeks. Based on the County Executive’s methodology, Scarsdale is down to 6 positive COVID cases. Please keep in mind that all of the statistics I just shared are based on reported positive test results. There are a few reasons to believe that the reported statistics underrepresent the actual number of cases. First, not all positive cases are tested. Second, not all test results may make the State Department of Health list, including tests that occurred out of state or out of the County. From the start of the pandemic, it was clear that the statistics were not fully capturing the number of positive cases. While that remains frustrating, important information remains in the data we do have, namely, the trend – and that is unambiguously positive.

Based on the positive trends, the Governor has started the process of opening segments of the economy in portions of the state. The Governor has announced seven metrics that will dictate when the economy may start to reopen, including hospital and infection data and trends as well as testing and tracing capacity. Westchester County has satisfied five of the seven metrics and expects to meet the remaining two criteria within the coming weeks. Once a region is cleared to start opening its economy, there will be a four-phased reopening of business, starting with lower infection and higher economic impact industries, including manufacturing, construction and retail for curbside pick-up.

New York State, Westchester County and Scarsdale have fared better than original projections of COVID impacts. The single most important reason for the relatively positive performance is that we have collectively listened to the Governor and restricted our movement and social interaction. As we enter the next phase of addressing the pandemic, it is just as important that we follow the Governor’s direction. I found the Governor’s NY Forward – A Guide to Reopening New York and Building Back Better to be a useful document to understand the reopening process. You will be able to find the document on the Village website on the COVID-19 page should you wish to review it.

Please continue to wear face masks, wash your hands, social distance, and comply with the Governor’s guidelines. We will continue to have better outcomes if we comply with these guidelines. Our continued progress and ability to open more segments of our economy is directly linked to our cooperation.

School Taxes
The Town of Scarsdale is the billing and collection agent for real estate taxes paid to the School District. Historically, the School taxes have been collected once a year with a September 30th due date. Today, the Village received a letter from the School Board President in support of a transition to a 2-installment collection of School taxes, with collections in September and January.

This topic has been discussed periodically in Scarsdale. At this time of strong economic impacts resulting from COVID-19, we are all seeking ways to make it easier for residents to meet their tax obligations – through austerity spending measures, establishment of reserve funds, reduced tax increases, spreading out payments, and other measures. The Village Board has not yet had an opportunity to discuss any proposed change to the collection of School taxes, though the Village Board has steadfastly expressed its desire to provide relief to residents during this very difficult economic time.

I propose that staff prepare an analysis of the impacts of the proposed change in the collection of School taxes and that the Board conduct a work session on this topic prior to the regularly scheduled Village Board meeting on May 26th. There will be fiscal and operational impacts associated with the proposed change and it is important for the Village Board to have sufficient information to make an educated decision on this matter. To provide staff with a sense of the Village Board’s initial thoughts on the proposed change in collection of School taxes, I invite any Board member who wishes to do so to share a summary of their initial comments on this matter.

Commenting on tax payments in installments trustees said the following:

Justin Arest said, “We are united as Scarsdale Trustees to help provide relief to taxpayers during this incredibly challenging time. We should certainly proceed to installments. It will have impacts on our budget as well and we must be prepared. Anything we can for our most impacted residents and merchants must be discussed”

Lena Crandall said, “I am certainly in favor of a second school tax payment in January. I need to learn more about what our extra administrative costs might be. What do our neighboring villages do? If there is some way for us to recoup our extra administrative costs I would like to learn more about that.”

Jonathan Lewis said, “I think this is an important initiative. We are suffering through the greatest economic crisis since the depression – and it’s not just economic. It’s a threat to their families and their loved ones. It is incumbent upon to find out how we can help them. We need more information on how this would affect us. How would this impact our reserves? We need to model out these potential changes on reserve levels and find the point up to which we will not go and then be as innovative as we can to provide relief…. This is an opportunity for us to be evolutionary and revolutionary to help our neighbors with the relief that they need.”

Jane Veron said, “I want to lend my voice to my colleagues. These are extraordinarily difficult times and I want to do what we can to help our fellow taxpayers. We need to assess the impact – and I want to do what we can to help those experiencing hardship.”

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo announced the following:

Tax Roll

Village Assessor Victoria Sirota and her staff have been working on the Village assessment roll which will be filed on June 1, 2020. If you have questions about your assessment, you can schedule an online meeting with Sirota between June 1-12.

This year, the Board of Assessment Review will also be meeting online to review grievances. You can schedule an appointment by calling (914) 722-1133.

Parking Permits

Due to the closure of Village Hall, parking permits for Village-owned lots for the coming year we will be sold by mail, not in person. This will avoid long lines and social distancing issues at Village Hall.

Election

The election for Scarsdale Village Trustees has been rescheduled for September 15, per the Governor’s Executive Order.

Day Camp and Pool

Pappalardo said there has been no clear decisions from the government on whether or not the summer camp and pool can open this summer. The deadline for the Village is the next five days. They have already spent $30,000 on the pool in case it can open, but $25,000 of that is for supplies that can be kept for next year in the event the facility remains closed.

Time is ticking on the ability of the Village to open the day camp. Pappalardo said the Village needs a relaxation of the six-foot social distancing requirement to open the day camp.

However, he does anticipate that the Governor will relax orders on tennis and that the Village tennis courts can open soon. The staff is reviewing tennis protocols from the USTA to determine what rules might apply.

Paving

Manager Pappalardo announced that $498,0000 of repaving will be done on Fox Meadow Road, Ridgecrest East and West and Grand Park Road. This work is being financed by Con Edison who ripped up the roads when replacing utility lines and are now required to do curb to curb road replacement if they disrupt the roadway. The work will begin soon.

Village

Some Village restaurants have requested permits to open sidewalk cafés. Representatives from the Village will meet with selected members of the Scarsdale Business Alliance to discuss the current state of the Village and what would be needed to re-open.

Memorial Day

American Legion Post 52 is planning a short service to commemorate veterans at their memorial in front of Kid’s Base on Mamaroneck Road. Members of the public who want to attend should wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Other Business:

Food Scrap Pilot Program

The Village Board passed a resolution to enter a pilot program for food scrap recycling with Westchester County. Food scraps from Scarsdale will be sent to the county’s Yonkers Transfer Station beginning in June 2020 for a period of six weeks. The Village currently pays tipping fees to send our food scraps to Ulster County. This pilot program will save the Village about $2,000 in tipping fees.

Personnel Changes:

Longtime Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan is retiring and will be replaced by Greg Cutler. He is currently the Director of Planning for the Town of Mamaroneck.

John Clapp was appointed Chair of the Scarsdale Planning Board, replacing Dan Steinberg who resigned.

Larry Medvinsky was appointed Chair of the Advisory Council on Parks and Recreation.

Trustee Jane Veron thanked Liz Marrinan for 20 years as the Village Planner. She called her “an incredible font of knowledge.” She said, “I want to welcome Greg Cutler who has big shoes to fill but is up to the challenge.” She thanked Dan Steinberg and called him a “steady, intelligent force on the Planning Board, saying, “We are immeasurably grateful.”

Veron also thanked for Diane Greenwald who completed two terms as Chair of the Library Board, and later transitioned to an “architectural design wonder,” overseeing the construction of the library. Veron said, “Her term is up on the Library Board but her work continues.”

In public comments, Bob Berg claimed credit for suggesting installment payment for school taxes saying, “I suggested it to the school board at the time.” He called the Village’s late tax payment penalties “extortionary,” and said “Every single town in Westchester except Scarsdale has adopted the two-part tax payment plan for school and village taxes. There is no reason why we should not be doing it.” He suggested that in order to avoid additional processing costs, the Village mail one envelope with two payment coupons to be remitted in September and January.

Randy Whitestone thanked first responders and Village staff and made three points:

“First, what have we learned from this extraordinary period that will be instructive in running the business of the village going forward. We have learned to expect the unexpected in ways we could not have imagined three or four months ago. What this means in practical terms is that we should think of the budget in new ways, making it more modular and able to hinge spending based on circumstance – in essence, to ‘toggle’ spending. We will sorely need that flexibility in months to come, but if we rethink the budget process going forward, we can better incorporate this idea of “if-then” planning. …. And I do support analysis of allowing tax payments to be spread out into two installments.

Second, a rethought budget process should have as one of its pillars an openness to ideas and creative thinking. Should we think about different ways to bring thoughtful participants into the process? We have already seen how technology has spread a wide net for people to offer comments and ideas…. By the same token, I hope, continue to see going forward, is a continuing dialogue with residents about how to deal with this damaging shortfall we have encountered.

Finally, in future I’d like to see the village set strategic goals to guide its budgeting process, enunciating our priorities and what we stand for BEFORE we start talking about any numbers. Tactics flow from strategy and numbers should not be ends unto themselves, they should flow from what we are trying to accomplish as a village, both in the short and long term. Like the state slogan, let’s build our budget back better.”

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez said she was happy to hear about the road repairs. As the secretary of the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association she asked to know more so that she could inform residents as soon as possible. She agreed with Randy’s comments about the need for a strategy and spoke in favor of installment tax billing, saying “Liquidity is paramount to the stability of residents.” She continued, “Thanks for stating that you want to do everything you can to help residents. The first option would have been to not pass the budget.”

Nicholas Thompson of Forest Lane said, “I am concerned that we are raising taxes on residents going through a crisis. I am curious about why our camp and pool might be open. I would like our village to go to a flat or zero tax increase. If we are the farm team for how the village is going to survive, we need a change.”

Sean Cohen thanked the board “for considering the dual tax payments.” He said, “Transparency is great. It’s nice to be able to give input but I would like to have dynamic discussion on that input…. Last week we didn’t get to the second public comments section.”
BK Munguia encouraged residents to reuse, recycle and repurpose. She said that local girl scouts would like to be involved in the safe re-opening of the Girl Scout House which has been closed since March. She thanked the Mayor and the other five trustees who voted yes on the budget and said, “I am grateful for this board’s dedicated service to this community and I applaud the village staff.”

ScarsdaleVillagePhoto Credit: Emily GilmanUnder pressure from a rival political party that is seeking to unseat candidates for the Village Board selected by Citizens Nominating Committee, members of the Scarsdale Village Board provided a lengthy defense of the proposed 2020-21 Village Budget. At a virtual meeting held on April 28 attended by 68 viewers, the Board of Trustees ultimately voted to pass the budget by a vote of 6-1. The $59 million budget is a 1.46% increase over 2019-20 which would result in an annual increase of $95 for the average homeowner in Scarsdale. In order to minimize the increase, 49 non-union Village employees will forgo their raises in 2020-21 and $210,000 was taken from the library budget which will open two months later than anticipated.

The Village budget became a political issue in the upcoming election where a slate of three candidates for Village Trustee from the Voters Choice Party are challenging non-partisan slate. The Voters Choice Party circulated and submitted a petition with 455 signatures calling for $2 million in cuts to the budget. They claim that “These cuts can be undertaken without cutting back on services, furloughing staff, or negatively impacting our Village.”

However, in an April 23 letter to the Village from Mayor Marc Samwick on April 23 Samwick writes, “Unfortunately, some view the current situation as an opportunity to create a political divide. They advocate that the solution to reducing Village property taxes is to penalize our first responders and to ask our Village Justice to forgo his salary. This is unacceptable, especially at the time when we need our first responders more than ever. We cannot penalize first responders working hard in extraordinary circumstances, or public servants who continue to perform the job they were elected to do. Degrading our professional police, fire department, or criminal justice services is not only unconscionable but also unwise.”

The Mayor and two trustees made extensive comments defending the budget. Here are excerpts from their comments:

Mayor Marc Samwick:

The Village Board has repeatedly affirmed our commitment to review Village finances regularly and make as many budget revisions as needed as the pandemic and its aftermath continue to unfold. Our actions to date and into the future will be from an informed position, with the latest data and best visibility possible. We have taken quick, decisive action. We do not believe it to be prudent to take actions out of panic or fear. And, we will certainly not make decisions based on any political interest. That is not who we are as a community. On the contrary, we have a very long history of responsible, long-term financial stewardship that we will not abandon. This long-term focus on financial stability and strength is widely recognized, including the recognition received by our long-standing AAA credit rating, and has provided the Village with the financial flexibility to manage the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Village also benefits structurally from the ability to revise its budget continually throughout the year. As we work through the pandemic and gain better visibility, services and projects will be reevaluated. If we need to cut services in the future, we will do so carefully, thoughtfully, and with community input. Budget decisions may have unintended consequences and it is our job to consider those to the extent possible, and not to act in haste.

…The Village Board will continue to be proactive and work to make, in its judgment, the best fiscal decisions for all of Scarsdale. And, we will do it together with the community to balance, as optimally as possible, the tradeoff between costs and services delivered

Trustee Justin Arest:

Oversight of a community’s finances is one of the most important roles of a trustee. And in this capacity, and everything we do, we are governed by New York State Law and of course the constitutions of both NY State and the United States of America. ….

Understanding that we are living through a health crisis that has created an economic crisis and therefore the restraints that we have on resources- our staff is working around the clock and many are putting their own health at risk- I believe we have acted sensibly and with great care.

… I believe that should the economic crisis not recede, certain, possibly many line items included in the budget will not be feasible. But not because there was never a will to complete them or that they were frivolous in nature. It is because we will be in a position where we must choose not to proceed in order to protect our community’s finances and that is why the budget for FY 20-21 must be flexible and adapt to our needs. Do I know how bad things will get and exactly which items will need to be sacrificed to solve the deficit we face? No. At this point no one can.

There are two changes included in this resolution: one to reduce the Library’s operating budget and use those savings to directly reduce the tax levy, and therefore the taxes our residents pay. The second is a reallocation of a planned salary increase for non-union employees to the COVID Contingent Account. Both changes are necessary now because without action, the monies would be allocated and at least partially distributed and unavailable for tax relief and additional protection from the crisis later.

…I want to conclude speaking directly to the tax increase. On a resident’s tax bill, our Village tax portion will increase by 1.46%. Village taxes cover all of our municipal services such as public safety, sanitation, water department, building department and all of other everyday services and account for roughly 18% of our total property taxes. The balance, of course, is separate from our Village government and is comprised of County taxes at roughly 17% and the remaining 65% is School taxes.

None of us are immune to the impacts of COVID-19 and I am in favor of doing everything I can in my role as your trustee to help. And that is why my message to anyone in the community who genuinely does not understand how we can increase taxes in the current environment is that all of us take this role extremely seriously, we are deftly aware that our decisions have implications and that we would not, in fact could not, advocate for any increase if we did not believe it is necessary at this point. I understand that many in our community are out of work, have seen their businesses severely impacted, and their savings diminished; there are residents who are rightfully worried, and those worries have nothing to do with political opportunism. I pray for better times for all of us financially, but my main concern currently is for all of our health and safety as well as the financial health of our village….

Our village has de facto term limits on its elected leaders. If we had chosen the politically expedient path, you would see seven trustees insisting on a tax reduction or at least a freeze. We might become more popular today and might not even be in these seats or facing reelection when the detriment of unwise choices comes back to haunt us. However, we, as individuals and as a collective board, look at our job as doing what is best for our community, not what might be in our own political interests.

zoomvillageboard

Trustee Jane Veron:

“In pre-COVID days, what feels like another lifetime, we finalized the tentative Village budget. After months of rigorous analysis, discussion and debate, we struck just the right balance - providing services our residents valued, investing in our future, and being responsible fiduciaries to our taxpayers.

Then COVID hit, and my knee jerk reaction was to cut taxes to the bone - no matter what. I knew that people would be hurting, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help. But when I moved past my emotional response, I realized that what felt good now would likely have perilous results later.

While I want to give taxpayer relief, how much is responsible to cut? Is it worth risking not having the wherewithal to pay our emergency workers overtime if COVID thinned their ranks? Could I justify not being able to regularly pick-up virus-infected trash? And what about the unanticipated costs that will likely arise? Just tonight, we have a resolution to buy more police uniforms with a note that we disposed of some because of COVID contamination. Could I have foreseen that?

The Village Board has discretion over 18% of your total tax bill. School and County taxes account for approximately 65% and 17%, respectively. Of the approximately $59MM Village budget, over 75% is non-negotiable - contractually obligated personnel-related or state-mandated expenses. The Village budget pays for services you rely upon - police, fire, sanitation, sewers, water, roads, recreation.

While none of us knows how the future will unfold, from this vantage point at this moment in time, non-property tax revenue will likely be in a precipitous decline, and we anticipate a revenue shortfall. In the ensuing months, Scarsdale will likely need to do more with less….

Tonight, we will vote on the revised budget that includes a property tax decrease and a proposed cut to salary increases for nonunion Village employees. It seems incongruous to defer hard earned increases to those who are working without break during this unprecedented time, but in preparing for the worst, we are choosing to allocate those funds to the COVID emergency account….Respected civic groups including the League of Women Voters and the Scarsdale Forum endorse our budget….

…This budget journey is just beginning. It is impossible to know right now how deep and far reaching the wrath of COVID19. There will be tough decisions that we will need to make together with data, analysis, and public conversation. Together, we will arrive at what is fundamental to Scarsdale and at what cost.

How much of the way we do things in Scarsdale will need to change? How much change will our residents desire or tolerate? What did we learn through past crises that can help us now? What have we learned in our quick pivot now that will inform how we work in the future?”

Trustee Jonathan Lewis voted against the budget. Here are his comments:

"In 1940, former Scarsdale Mayor Warren Cunningham explained that the purpose of Scarsdale’s non-partisan office holders was to “give Scarsdale the best possible business administration.”

Mayor Cunningham does not say our duty is to agree with each other at all times, though our tradition is collaborative. His statement, which appears on the website of the Scarsdale Citizen’s non-Partisan Party, is that our objective is the best result.

With regard to tonight’s budget resolution and my vote on it, I believe there is the world before COVID19 and the world after COVID 19. I am proud of this board and the process that led to our original budget.

With regard to the current budget, I believe that in recent board meetings and in our one working group session on the budget back in March, we never asked or addressed the key strategic question: what is the right level of taxation for this time? What is the proper level of taxation for this new period we so abruptly entered? What is the right level of taxes consistent with the best possible business administration now?

Our core business is essential services and public safety. I want to acknowledge a recent letter by 4 former mayors: Kroenlein, Hochvert, Mark, and Steves. I know these individuals and respect them greatly. I agree with their conclusion that it is critically important we maintain full budget support for our first responders, our police department and our fire department. In this emergency nothing is more important as trustees than maintaining the critical services, including sanitation and water, that keep our neighbors safe and healthy.

My view is that the best possible way to ensure we will always maintain critical services at appropriate levels is by ensuring our village balance sheet is strong, flexible, and stress tested by a variety of scenarios - including a worst case one. Reserves are our last line of defense - if we want to maintain public safety at optimal levels, we need to maintain reserves to have financial flexibility, and plan in advance how we will respond should reserve levels fall. We've not done that exercise yet. To that end:

1 - Work sessions should occur in an up-tempo manner perhaps every 2 weeks -- perhaps alternating weeks with traditional BOT meetings. In these sessions we should be debating a priority list of items that we will consider cutting in the future to maintain our strong financial position, should this become necessary. I think it will.

Some might argue more meetings may tax staff resources during a period of crisis, I believe we do not need additional staff support to discuss our strategic goals. This board is capable of discussing important strategic goals without significantly, or unreasonably drawing on staff.

This type of planning is essential, in my view, to secure our ability to pay for a fully funded level of essential services even in the darkest scenarios.

2 - In these sessions we would revisit our Scenarios 1 and 2 and define a Scenario 3. There has yet to be any conversation at board meetings about possible adverse shocks to our cost structure that would negatively impact our financial position. These cost structure shocks could include an unexpected surge in overtime, an increased required contribution to state pension plans due to the stock market sell-off, among other factors. These should be discussed and modeled.

3. Of particularly great concern is the need to create contingency plans regarding reserve levels. If revenues fall more and costs rise more our reserves will drop. There is likely a level of reserves this board will view as an absolute minimum requirement to maintain a flexible and effective financial profile. We’ve not discussed this. We could consider framing this conversation in terms of the fiscal stress indicators monitored by the state comptroller.

The analysis noted above would be, for me, important inputs to evaluating a budget’s fit for these times.

Finally, my own view is at a time of great pain and suffering there should be no tax increase. We show solidarity with our neighbors through actions and I believe no increase would have been the strongest possible initial statement of solidarity. Being in solidarity with our customers, our taxpayers, is good business. While many Westchester communities may still be raising taxes, I believe we should hold ourselves to our own standard.

I have great admiration for my fellow board members and our village manager Steve Pappalardo and his entire staff who have shown great strength and resiliency in this crisis. I want to thank them for their public service.”

Supporters and detractors for the 2020-21 proposed budget called in during the public comments period:

Former Mayor Dan Hochvert read a letter in support of the budget signed by four prior Village Mayors.

Non-Partisan Party candidate Randy Whitestone said, “We have not emerged from this crisis… George Latimer said, “The rainy day has come.” We are facing a fiscal monsoon. The Scarsdale Village budget needs to be a living, dynamic budget. Revenues may go down, expenses may go up. What about pension costs? Garbage collection is up 19% due to people being home…. I do think all the work done on the budget will come in handy. It will help the board set priorities in the future. … This has been an awful time but we will get through this with a sense of common purpose and mutual respect.”

Steve Pass called to discuss the petition circulated by the VCP – calling it “an emotional pitch to a financial desire.” He said, “I cannot find a single Village in Westchester that has proposed lowering taxes this year.” He continued, “We deserve more than political grandstanding in this time of crisis. I support the budget and thank you for all the work that you do.”

Jeremy Gans thanked everyone for their hard work and sensitivity during the crisis. He said, “This weekend Bob Berg said to me, “You and your rich friends do not think it is worth looking for savings in this year’s budget.” Ganz continued. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Our trustees have looked at every line and done everything they can to lower our taxes. People move here because Scarsdale is an incredible place to live. The community is safe, we have good schools. Taxes are used to pay our first responders and to fund our schools. I am not in favor of higher taxes. Especially now it is vital to look at all expenditures. The budget provides for expenses that the next year is likely to bring.”

VCP candidates and their supporters called in to object to the budget:

Bob Berg spoke about cutting costs without cutting services. He criticized the board for spending $200,000 on lawyers and consultants for the Freightway Garage. He complained that he did not hear back from the Village Board on his party’s working paper. He said, “You can cut our taxes for a change – this is the time to do that.” Berg said that a verbatim transcript for each Board meeting was required by law and asked when they would be provided. He objected to the Mayor’s April 23 letter that included “a political diatribe against me and my fellow candidates for Village Trustee … is it necessary for the Mayor to use Village resources to send out these messages?

Berg’s daughter Zoe said, “I am the daughter of Bob Berg who is running for trustee. I am a proud graduate of Scarsdale High School and Barnard College. I am here to express my independent views of the budget process. This administration has been unresponsive to questions about where our tax dollars are going. What we are seeing in Scarsdale is not democracy. The local level is where hope starts. Actions speak louder than words. I hope we can work together for a better Scarsdale in the future.”

VCP candidate Sean Cohen said, “I think there are a lot of passions running around. If ever there was a time to put aside petty partisanship the time is now.”

VCP candidate for Village Trustee Robert Selvaggio said, “13% of New Yorkers are currently unemployed. My friends have been furloughed, laid off and I have taken a pay cut. My wife is unable to see patients. This is not the time to be raising taxes.”

Yingyong Chen demanded the elimination of all non-essential spending. He said, “We do not authorize the Village to stash money away for spending... Overloading this year’s budget with unnecessary expenses is irresponsible. Overburdening residents with unnecessary expenses at this time is unwise.”

Jerome Wong from 94 Brown Road, said these are “unprecedented times.” He said, “it can’t be business as usual. Financial control sends a good sign. Why should (the budget) go up? Given the suffering at least keep it flat given this environment.”

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez from Fox Meadow Road spoke at length quoting comments from a petition launched by the Voters Choice Party on April 19, 2020 that now has 455 signatures. She said, “I urge you to lower taxes in the worst economic crisis since the great depression.”

Update from the Village:

In comments from Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, he noted that two cars were stolen from resident’s driveways this week and reminded people to lock their cars and refrain from leaving the keys inside.

He reported that four village trees had been illegally cut down from the village right of way on a property in Greenacres this week and said the matter will be brought to Village Court on June 17 if it is in session.

Pappalardo said that Governor Cuomo has issued a new order allowing annual tax grievance day to be held virtually at the designated date(s) in June.

He reported that residents were for the most part complying with social distancing rules, with the exception of a wedding that was held outside last week at a resident’s home. He said summons’ were given to the homeowner.

Last Mayor Marc Samwick said that Bicycle Sundays on the Bronx River Parkway would begin, this Sunday, May 3.

In other business, the Village Board approved the following:

A change to Village code to move the deadline for senior citizens to file a renewal of their STAR exemption from May 1 to June 16 to file. Village Assessor Victoria Sirota explained that their office has reached out to those who previously filed for a STAR exemption to let them know the process for renewing this year. Those filing for the first time will still need to apply by May 1.

A software agreement with Software Consulting Associates for an upgrade to the PAS property record management system for three years for a fee of $34,000 and an annual maintenance fee of $10,000.

The purchase of new uniforms for police to replace those that were contaminated during the COVID crisis at a cost of $24,690.

An expenditure of $138,596 for engineering services including a sanitary sewer evaluation study and cleaning and inspection of sewer lines in Drake-Edgewood to alleviate wastewater back ups in homes along Barry and Madison Roads.

Funds not to exceed $30,000 for the cleaning of 1,600 catch basins in the Village for flood and pollution mitigation.

An extension of the construction management agreement for the library renovation of $140,100 to provide construction oversight through August 2020.

At a meeting of the Town of Scarsdale, following the Village Board meeting the Board approved the temporary reduction of penalties for the late payment of county taxes up to July 15 provided that the town apply the Westchester County Executives’ criteria for the determination of hardship due to COVID -19.

volunteerBelow find comments from the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale and the Executive Committee of the SHS PTA on the proposed School Budget 2020-21.

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale Board of Directors, (the “League Board”) acknowledges, with appreciation, the substantial time and effort that goes into developing the proposed 2020-21 Scarsdale School Budget (the “Budget”). We thank members of the Board of Education (the “Board”) and District Administration (the “Administration”) for the detailed, rigorous work and discussion involved in the budget process. The League Board is appreciative of the District’s leadership, focus and the complicated work undertaken during this uncertain and challenging time. As mentioned in a previous League Board comment, the League did not hold its annual membership and consensus meeting on the School Budget this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, the following comments are the views of the League Board of Directors.

Revised Proposed Budget Overview

At the April 20 Board Meeting, in response to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis and following community input and Board discussion, the Administration revised the proposed Budget, reducing the Budget initially drafted in February from $166,850,850 to $162,508,332. On May 4, the Administration presented a further reduction of $110,000 due to a decreased projection in student enrollment, revising the Budget to $162,396,316. These reductions in proposed expenditures signify a budget-to-budget increase of 1.00%. According to Board President Pam Fuehrer, this is “among the lowest in our peer group,” and represents the second lowest percentage in the Scarsdale School District’s school budget growth in 10 years. The corresponding revised proposed tax levy now represents a 2.08% increase. The Administration’s current proposed Budget includes all but one of the spending reductions presented at the March 23 Board meeting. The early payoff of a computer lease is the sole potential Budget reduction discussed on March 23 that was not included in the April 20th proposal. However, this possible reduction of an additional $406K would have served merely to defer by one year, not eliminate, this expenditure item.

The League Board understands that the economic impact associated with the COVID-19 health crisis has affected Budget revenue projections, including an anticipated reduction in State Aid, sales tax, and investment earnings, warranting significant revisions to the Budget initially proposed in February. We recognize that the COVID-19 crisis has altered the financial reality of the Scarsdale community, and we acknowledge the importance of responding to the complex and challenging economic environment in a manner that recognizes the potential continued impact on Scarsdale residents, while prudently planning for additional future budget uncertainties in years ahead.

At the same time, the League Board seeks to ensure that our students continue to receive the high level of education that will best enable them to meet the challenges of an uncertain future. The League Board supports and encourages the District’s continued pursuit of forward-looking curricular initiatives and program enhancements that provide opportunities and environments to stimulate innovation and educational excellence for both students and teachers. The League Board further recognizes that our local schools are the product of decades of consistent community investment and urges the Board to maintain Scarsdale’s long tradition of educational excellence.

The League Board offers its views and recommendations regarding certain budgetary items as well as the budget process, and we hope that our comments and recommendations will be considered.

Assigned Fund Balance/Reserves

The League Board supports a general approach to budgeting to ensure the stability of school finances, and the current proposed Budget’s prudent level of reserves and assigned fund balance. Such an approach could prove critical to the community’s ability to sustain its commitment to educational excellence in what are likely to be even more challenging budget years ahead.

The League Board understands that the District’s credit rating can also be negatively affected if either the undesignated reserve or total fund balance drops below a certain threshold, an important factor in the District’s ability to issue bonds in the future. The League Board further notes that, as recently as 2015, the District, with the support of the community, took measures to rebalance and stabilize the budget and thereby address a 2014 Moody’s downgrade that was related to the District’s declining fund balance and over-reliance on non-recurring revenue.

SHS Auditorium Project Deferral

While the League Board understands the Administration’s economic rationale for eliminating the $1.9 million in proposed expenditures for the SHS Auditorium renovation from the initially drafted budget, we hope that the District will consider alternative means to finance the project. The auditorium renovation project was originally included in a Bond proposal approved by voters in December 2014. That Bond proposal provided funding to resolve water intrusion issues, as well as to install a variety of seating, light, and sound upgrades. Since the actual cost to resolve the water issues far exceeded the estimates on which the Bond relied, the District was not able to complete any of the other auditorium renovation projects included in the Bond. Although subsequent voter-approved school budgets included proposals to fund individual aspects of the auditorium renovation, the majority of the voter-approved renovations remain unaddressed.

Security

The 2020-21 Budget line for Security is $1,220,071, which is an increase of $103,040 over the current year due primarily to an increase in funding for the purchase of security-related supplies and equipment. The League Board reiterates a past request that benchmarking information and other research be made public to educate and contextualize Budget funding in the area of security. The League hopes that through this information, the community will have the opportunity to better understand how similar schools in Westchester and beyond have approached increased security. Further, by viewing District recommendations within the context of benchmarking and research, the community would be able to understand which measures have been considered and found to be most appropriate and effective for districts like Scarsdale.

The League Board recommends that the Board create a means for the community to gauge not only whether implemented security measures incorporate best practices but also whether they reflect and connect to the values of the entire Scarsdale community. We continue to encourage the Board to engage in broad community outreach in order to understand how the community at large views the complex issue of school safety and increased security measures.

Staffing

The League Board notes that the Administration and Board continue to support the elementary class size policy and the Middle School house structure. The League Board continues to recommend supporting traditional class sizes and norms at all levels in order to ensure a classroom environment most conducive to student learning and the achievement of the District’s educational goals as outlined in the strategic plan.

The League Board believes that the inherent flexibility required to meet student needs and the ability to reassess student needs are essential components of a Scarsdale education and that both are time- and labor-intensive for teachers and guidance counselors. Furthermore, the League believes that individualized instruction and the opportunity for student research are hallmarks of a Scarsdale education. To create and promote these opportunities for students, the League Board acknowledges the importance of protecting class load and scheduling for teachers and guidance counselors as well as preserving class size.

The League Board reiterates that classroom teachers are the first line of defense in regard to observing student social/emotional issues, and a teacher’s ability to detect and address problems or refer the student to a counselor must be supported by appropriate staffing. The League recommends that the Administration and Board continue to provide appropriate staffing to protect the high academic standards of the High School. The League believes that staffing should be reflective of an underlying high school culture that supports academic choice, allows each student to forge a personal connection to an educator and provides a safe, healthy environment in which students can develop and grow.

The League Board continues to encourage the Administration to communicate proactively and clearly with the parent community and the community at large regarding the importance of supporting special education students in Scarsdale Schools. We would like the Administration to continue to address appropriate staffing needs as current elementary-aged special education students move through the Scarsdale school system.

Budget Process/Community Input

The League Board commends the Board for creating the opportunity, in the past several budget study sessions, for continued public input into the Budget. The League believes that a more complete picture of community feedback, combined with relevant expert opinions and research, will serve to enhance Board decisions on complex issues and their implementation as well as facilitate community understanding and appreciation of Scarsdale Schools.

We commend the Administration and Board as well for voicing support for advocacy at the Board table and for including the parent community in initiatives to advocate for legislation that directly impacts Scarsdale Schools and public schools in general.

The League Board further commends the Administration for creating a Budget Book; initially on February 3, and in a revised form on April 20 and May 1. The Budget Book allows a comprehensive view of the myriad components of the Budget and through this tool there is an enhanced understanding of the Budget itself. We thank the Administration as well for posting League questions from the budget process on the District website. The League Board further commends the Administration for the detailed, thorough and difficult work of planning for anticipated economic changes as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Budget Vote

On March 29, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.13 postponing any School Board Election that had been scheduled for April or May until at least June 1, and stating further that such an election is subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting.

On May 1, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.26 stating that School Board/Budget Elections are scheduled for June 9 and will be held via mail with return postage included. Each district will send out a postcard notice which details the date of the election, date of the Budget hearing, the definition of a qualified voter and an absentee ballot.

Thank you for taking our comments and recommendations into consideration.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors, League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

Scarsdale High School PTA

The Scarsdale High School PTA Executive Committee appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposed 2020-2021 School Budget. We hope everyone here and in the Scarsdale community is doing well. We also appreciate what a difficult time this is, and thank the members of the Board of Education and both the District and the High School Administrations, and our faculty and staff for their commitment to the education of our students and for their time, expertise, and responsiveness during the budget process.
The High School PTA Executive Committee stands by its previous statements of support for all of the High School administration’s requests, but we acknowledge and agree that some of those requests, while necessary, are more appropriate for future budget cycles.

We fully support the District’s recommendation against personnel cuts in the 2020-21 school budget. We expressly do not support reductions to faculty or staff at the high school that would increase class sizes, decrease curriculum offerings or negatively affect critical support resources for our students.

With respect to the high school auditorium project, we continue to support the full project as necessary for the safety and education of our students and community members who use the space. We disagree with the board’s decision not to transfer from Debt Service the approximately $730,000, earmarked in the 2014 Bond for the auditorium, to the project fund to at least start some of the most critical items on the auditorium project list in the coming year. There are glaring safety and curriculum-related issues in that space that need to be addressed; to ignore them is to put our children at risk.

We remind the Board and the community of the following facts:

● Our schools are the crown jewels of Scarsdale.
● The well-being and success of our children, not to mention our property values, directly correlate to the quality of those schools.
● This proposed budget is for the ​entire ​upcoming school year-- a year in which we hope our students and faculty will enjoy using our educational facilities to their full potential.

With those facts in mind, we must develop and pass a budget that can support optimal learning and maintain the educational excellence of Scarsdale schools, even in these uncertain times. Again, we appreciate your time and efforts on behalf of Scarsdale High School, our students, and the larger community, and your consideration of our comments this
evening.

The SHS PTA Executive Committee
Deb Morel, President,
Leanne Freda, President-Elect
Rokaya Hassaballa, VP Membership and Events Jennifer Rossano, VP Programming and Volunteers
Seema Jaggi, Treasurer
Beth Cukier, Recording Secretary
Dana Matsushita, Corresponding Secretary


quinoaPhoto Credit: peasandcrayons.comI’m guessing at this point, no matter how much you like to cook, you are probably tired of cooking. Batch cooking, or cooking more than one meal’s worth of food, is a great way to cut down on your time cooking (and washing dishes). The only issue is for people who don’t like leftovers, especially kids, who often aren’t into the idea of leftovers day after day. One of my favorite time saving strategies, now more than ever, is to reinvent your leftovers. With these meals you make enough food for two meals at once, but you actually serve it in 2 different ways.

Below are some ways to reinvent your leftovers.

food chart

Have other foods you are trying to make into a new meal? Send me a message on Instagram. Or, have other ideas that work for your family? Would love to hear how you reinvent your leftovers!

Jodi Greebel, MS, RDN is a Pediatric Registered Dietitian and the founder of Citrition (www.citrition.com). Jodi consults with children as well as for schools and camps. Follow her on instagram @greengrownmeals for healthy meal ideas, cooking tips and more on how to feed your family.

Leave a Comment

Share on Myspace
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop