Friday, Jan 22nd

Last updateFri, 22 Jan 2021 3pm

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surveyThe Ad Hoc Council to Combat Racism and Bias (CCRB), formed by resolution of the Village Board on July 20, 2020, is interested in learning about your viewpoints on diversity and inclusion in Scarsdale, including the incidence of discrimination and bias within the community.

To that end, the CCRB has been conducting listening sessions over the past several months with various segments of our community and is now expanding outreach to solicit insights and experiences from all residents, as well as others who visit, work, and have other occasion to be in Scarsdale. While such sessions have been focused on gaining insights from target Scarsdale population to-date, the next listening session, being held on Wednesday, January 27, at 8:00 PM by ZOOM, is to hear from all Scarsdale residents wishing to express their viewpoint or relate a specific experience. To participate, please send an email to the CCRB using CCRB@scarsdale.com and a confirmation will be provided, including the information needed to join the listening session. Please note that the CCRB listening sessions are not public meetings; only persons wishing to convey their relevant viewpoints and experience(s) are invited to participate and there will not be opportunity for Q&A or other form of public comment.

To facilitate broad public participation in this effort, including persons unable to attend a CCRB listening session, the CCRB has launched a Community Experience Questionnaire.

Every Scarsdale resident is requested to complete the online questionnaire, indicating whether they have experienced racism, bias, or discrimination in Scarsdale, and if so, to share such experiences with the Council. In addition, please provide ideas focused on how Scarsdale can be a more inclusive community. Non-residents are encouraged to complete the questionnaire, as well. Hard copies are available in the Village Hall lobby and may also be requested by emailing CCRB@Scarsdale.com. Feedback received will help to inform future public meetings on this topic and help to shape the findings and recommendations report that will be prepared and presented to the Village Board. Please take time to complete the Community Experience Questionnaire today.

leafblowerPrior to the Village Board meeting on1-12, Trustees held a work session to review recommendations from the Conservation Advisory Council on limiting the use of gas leaf blowers which the CAC’s recent report says are noisy and negatively impact the environment and the health of those who use them. Similar bans have been enacted in other towns in Westchester. According to Michelle Sterling, Chair of the CAC, they “proposed an incremental set of requirements that would be reasonable and feasible and strike a balance between the need for peace and quiet with the desire for a manicured property.”

The discussion centered around two option of three options.

The first is to bar the use of gas-powered blowers from Saturday – Monday during leaf season, and also ban them in May. (They are already banned from June to September.)

Option three designates Saturday and Sunday as quiet days in leaf season and also bans gas-powered leaf blowers in May.

The discussion centered on the ability of landscapers and the Village to use battery-powered electric leaf blowers to clean up leaves when the gas-powered leaf blowers are banned. The CAC contended that it’s necessary to change behavior for the public good and that residents and landscapers would adapt once these new regulations were enforced. Sterling argued “Code changes influence behavior. Larchmont implemented a full year ban – and so did Irvington. Landscapers who have battery powered electric blowers will get more business and those with gas blowers will get less. It will cause a market shift.”

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo was concerned that Village crews would have fewer days in leaf season to clean up leaves before snowfalls and that education would be required to change landscapers’ practices. He said, “The gas leaf blowers are faster.” He expressed reservations about the ability of the current Village staff to enforce the regulations, saying, “The code enforcer we have is busy with building code violations. Enforcement will fall on the police department. We would need to have dedicated crews to go out in the neighborhood and look for landscapers looking for leaf blowers and take appropriate action.”

Trustee Jonathan Lewis asked for a financial analysis of the proposal. He saw the fines as a potential revenue source for the Village, especially if the fees were graduated. He said, “The fines which will help us become more sustainable. If you have hefty fines for violations, and make the third offense $1,000, it can be a “six figure revenue generator” and you can get compliance.”

Police Chief Andrew Matturro reported that police were giving out “70 tickets per year on average for use of leaf blowers in the summer months … We have had a ban on gas leaf blowers from June 1 to September 30 since 1993.” He said, “We are trying to change behavior with the fines, but cautioned, “We will have difficulty doing that alone as a Police Department.”

Trustee Seth Ross asked, “There will be additional operational costs for residents and landscapers. I would want to know from landscapers what the additional costs will be and what their issues will be and how that will affect the residents. Are they willing to do this at no additional cost?”

Trustee Justin Arest expressed support for Option 3 and said, “We do want to hear more from the community – we would want to call for a public hearing.”

Trustee Randy Whitestone said, “We are in transition on the technology. I would like to gather input. I am in favor of one of these options – I don’t know which one.”

During public comments, former Trustee Bill Stern said, “One of the functions of government is to protect people from themselves. The gas blower situation has been studied, including by NIH that shows it is not just the noise, it’s the long-term effect on the population. Gas blowers push out an enormous amount of pollution – which induces asthma on a long-term basis. They diminish hearing.”

Madelaine Eppenstein, representing Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, said they support option 1 as a first step. She said, “This is an incredibly important issue and the Village should consider that there does come a time to make more progress.”

Elaine Weir said, “It’s good for the workers. The faster we get rid of the gas powered blowers the better.”

Dr. Darlene LeFrancois Haber said, “This is an issue of public health. These two stroke engines are extremely hazardous. They are not blowing air. The fumes are invisible. My patients are the landscapers. Am I concerned about my health? Yes, but not concerned enough to stop going to work and taking care of my patients. The landscapers don’t cover their ears. They have hearing loss and headaches. We need to do the right thing for them. We are part of the problem right now. I strongly support option one.”

Susan Douglass agreed wholeheartedly with what has been said. She said, “I am a proponent of option 1. There is a strong educational component here. Landscapers resist change – but if you say this is what you must do they will do it and accept it.”

Robert Alonzi Jr., the Golf Course Superintendent at Fenway asked “How do you feel this will translate for other industries? It will have a dramatic impact on the way we operate.”

Sterling responded that there is an exemption for golf courses and schools, and a proposal for a buffer within 100 feet of a residence.

Trustee Lena Crandall proposed that the Board pass a resolution to bring the matter to a public hearing and the trustees agreed to schedule one.

NYSSenateThe New York State Legislature is considering imposing new tax levies on wealthy state residents to fill the gap in the state budget partially due to the coronavirus crisis. Senators may vote to make these higher rates retroactive to an earlier point in 2020. These revenues would be used to avoid cuts to education and social service funding.

Scarsdale resident Lena Crandall objects to a retroactive tax increase on New Yorkers and sent the following letter to Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin as a private citizen, not on behalf of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees, where she is a member of the board.

Here is her letter:

An open letter to NYS Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin:

I am writing to express my concern that the New York State Assembly is considering enacting significant tax increases in the midst of the negative economic impact the pandemic is having on many businesses and residents. In addition, I am strongly opposed to the NYS Senate's proposal to make any tax increases retroactive to 2020. New York State already has taxes that are among the highest in the country. The loss of the SALT deduction has made the tax burden a much more significant economic issue. The number of my friends and acquaintances who are considering relocating to a tax friendlier jurisdiction is unprecedented. I am very concerned that while these tax increases may help address a short-term budget hole, they will result in a long term loss of tax revenue as those individuals and businesses that are able to relocate will.

Businesses have learned from the pandemic that allowing employees to work remotely can be a successful economic model, with less need for office space in New York City or State. Many Scarsdale homeowners have also discovered that they can work from anywhere. Substantial tax increases targeted at NYS residents and businesses that the State depends upon the most as a tax base for long-term economic stability are not in the best interests of our State or local communities.

From a governance standpoint, I am particularly disappointed that many people are unaware of not only the potential tax hike, but that it may be applied retroactively to the 2020 tax year. Your unsuspecting residents are currently dealing with a major snowstorm, the holidays, year-end business matters and a deadly pandemic. Many of those impacted will be caught off guard in January or April 2021 when they do their tax returns and find out that their tax bills for 2020 are significantly higher than anticipated.

Please focus on good process: Discuss appropriate measures to address the budget shortfalls in the New Year when everyone is paying attention. Remember why you went into public service and the promises you made to work in a clear, transparent way to represent all New Yorkers.

Respectfully,
Lena Crandall*
227 Fox Meadow Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583

*I am writing this letter as a private citizen and not on behalf of the Village of Scarsdale.

leafblowerThe following was written by the Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC)

Did the constant noise of leaf blowers this fall make you crazy? The onset of Covid-19, necessitating many residents to work from home and students to attend school from home, has created a heightened awareness of the negative effects of gas leaf blowers and has caused renewed requests from the community to address this issue. The Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) recently studied this issue at the request of the Village Board of Trustees and submitted a report, Mitigating the Health, Environmental, and Quality of Life Impacts of Gas Leaf Blowers, to the Board with recommendations on how to bring our community some much needed relief.

The CAC is proposing three strategies to address the negative impacts of gas leaf blowers: (1) implement “quiet days” when gas leaf blowers are prohibited; (2) limit gas leaf blower use to the time of the year when they are needed; and (3) promote the use of electric leaf blowers. The CAC believes this approach will significantly help address the noise impact, air pollution, and adverse health effects of gas leaf blowers.

The proposal seeks to mitigate the negative impacts of gas leaf blowers in a reasonable way that can be feasibly implemented by landscapers and homeowners. Advances in electric leaf blower technology have made it possible to use electric leaf blowers successfully during certain times of the year and for most landscaping needs. The proposal will both help alleviate the impacts of gas leaf blowers as well as support a longer-term shift to electric leaf blowers. With the approval of the CAC proposal, Scarsdale would join a number of other municipalities in Westchester that have recently enacted regulations to limit the impacts of gas leaf blowers.

To support the CAC proposals please write the Mayor and Trustees at mayor@scarsdale.com to make sure your voice is heard. The Board of Trustees is also holding a working session to discuss the CAC proposal on January 12, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Residents are also encouraged to log onto the working session meeting to hear more about the issue and proposed solutions. The meeting agenda and working session zoom link can be found here

A copy of the full CAC leaf blower report is available here.

sunsetIn any given year, creating and passing a budget for the following fiscal year presents many challenges. In 2020 however, this budgeting process is even more difficult, as the Village of Scarsdale faces severe pandemic-related revenue shortfalls and COVID-19 expenditures. On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, the Village of Scarsdale Board of Trustees held their first budget work session to discuss the 2021-22 budget via Zoom Video Conferencing.

To get a jump-start on this unusual year, Village Manager Stephen Pappalardo began the budgeting process early and requested that his department heads submit their 2021 operating budgets one month ahead of schedule (by November 30th instead of December 31st). In order to prepare for various case scenarios, department heads were asked to create 3 budgets – one accounting for the same level of funding from the previous year, a second with a reduction of 5%, and a third with a reduction of 10%. These variations will assist the Board of Trustees in their decision-making process in the event of budget cuts for the 2021 fiscal year.

The primary speaker of the evening’s meeting was Ann Scaglione, Scarsdale’s new Village Treasurer. Ms. Scaglione reviewed the financial state of Scarsdale and what the future versions of the budget might look like as a result of the town’s revenues and expenses this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several departments did not meet their estimated revenue goals. Areas such as the Scarsdale Parking Detail and Fines and Forfeitures failed to bring in the same level of funds as in a typical year ask parking and meter fees fell sharply. Additionally, the Parks and Recreation Department faced revenue shortfalls largely caused by the cancellation of Scarsdale Day Camp this past summer, resulting in $630,697 in lost revenue.

In total, Ms. Scaglione projected that village revenues will fall short of original estimates by around $5.5 million. She also shared that Scarsdale saved money in a variety of ways throughout the pandemic. Ms. Scaglione estimated that the town will come in under budget for expenses by approximately $4.0 million. Overall, the village has a projected year-end deficit of $1.34 million, but came into this fiscal year with a fund balance of $1.52 million.

During this time, an important cost-saving measure was reducing Scarsdale Village’s personnel expenses. Decisions such as the choice to decrease the number of employees hired for leaf collection, reduce overtime, keep some part-time and intern positions open, and cancel events such as the Fall Scarsdale Tree Planting saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for the village. In addition, departments such as Public Safety, which includes the Fire and Police Departments, came in under budget this year by over $528,000. Savings were also realized from reductions in the Village’s payment to state retirement and pension funds.

On the revenue side, a strong real estate market resulted in the highest amount of mortgage tax revenue we have seen in years, with $405,429 in September, more than double the prior year. Also due to an increase in county sales tax those funds are up as well.

After Ms. Scaglione reviewed the financial state of Scarsdale, Mayor Marc Samwick noted the “exemplary management of the crisis” by village leaders and stated that “the long-term fiscal management of the village has served us well in these difficult times.” Trustee Justin Arest followed with a question on how sustainable it will be for the town to maintain their departments at these decreased funding levels. Additionally, Trustee Arest commented that he “appreciated the 5% and 10% budget exercise (because) it reinforces great fiscal management and the position that (the town) is in will lead to some tough decisions” in the future.

Trustee Jonathan Lewis echoed this sentiment and highlighted the uncertainties Scarsdale faces in the coming year. He noted that “if there aren’t any changes [to revenues in 2021] we will be faced with the tough choices of drawing down reserves, tightening expenses, or raising taxes.” Trustee Lewis also pressed for the need to prepare for the worst-case scenarios and said that “updates with the [COVID-19] vaccine will influence our decisions in real-time and we should have flexible frameworks to deal with these changes.”

Finally, Trustee Lena Crandall stated that “we need to be careful with our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars” especially given that New York State and the federal government might look to them for “increased] personal income tax payments.” She closed by emphasizing the need to “keep Scarsdale an attractive and safe place to live.”

At the end of the meeting, Diane Gurden, a board member to the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, read the following statement:

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale Board of Directors (the “League Board”) appreciates the opportunity to comment at the outset of the Village Budget process. As the League has only started to engage in its observation and study of the Fiscal Year 2021-22 Village Budget process, the following recommendations have been coalesced from past League of Women Voters of Scarsdale consensus statements.

The League Board understands that due to the global pandemic, the Village has moved to austerity spending, which will remain in effect throughout the 2020-21 fiscal year. In addition, department heads have been directed to restrict spending to essential items required for the operation of the Village and for their response to the current pandemic. The League Board recognizes that there have been, and will continue to be, impacts to revenue as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis and that the Village Board and Administration will continue to evaluate and look at the current budget as the year progresses.

Now that the 2021-22 budget process has begun, the League Board recommends that the Village Board and Administration engage the community in a timely manner to ensure a proactive, practical, public dialogue regarding the revenue generation options and potential cost savings under consideration. The League Board recommends that the Village Board and Administration seek community input and ascertain community sentiment while making budget choices that may potentially affect service levels and impact Village tax rates. Similarly, regarding long term capital spending, the League Board encourages the Village Board to clearly detail which projects will be funded in the 2021-22 budget as well as which projects must be delayed, and to establish, along with the community, a timeframe to plan for long term infrastructure needs. We encourage the Village Board and Administration to provide clear, concise, transparent explanations of Budget decisions, in addition to a broad overview of what is needed to maintain and improve our Village infrastructure, so that the community will understand the Village Board’s proposed Budget priorities.

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