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You are here: Home Section Table Village Voices Village Board Sets Aside $3.5 Million for COVID-19 Emergency Fund, George Latimer Provides COVID Update from the County
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Village Board Sets Aside $3.5 Million for COVID-19 Emergency Fund, George Latimer Provides COVID Update from the County

contingencyfundScarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick sought to inform the community, update them on the delivery of essential Village services and assuage concerns about the fiscal health of the Village at the first virtual meeting of the Village Board via ZOOM on Tuesday March 24, 2020.

He called for compassion, saying, “Let’s take care of each other, as we always do - reach out through phone calls and emails to our neighbors and friends, especially seniors and those directly impacted by the Coronavirus. Although we cannot be together physically, we can do our part to keep our community strong and connected.”

He shared that the Westchester County Department of Health reported 38 positive cases in Scarsdale as of 3-24-20. In order to curb the spread of the virus he reminded everyone to:

-Stay Home, Save Lives;
-When outside of your home, be sure to practice social distancing; and
-Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

He asked people to practice social distancing and to drive slowly and carefully as so many are out walking and running in the streets.

He said the Village and Board’s top three priorities are:

-The health, safety and welfare of our residents, Village employees, and local merchants
-Delivery of essential Village services
-Fiscally responsible and prudent management of the Village budget.

Turning to the discussion of the 2020-21 Village budget he said that statutory deadlines are coming up quickly. The deadline to file the draft budget was Friday March 20, a public hearing needs to be held with a vote no later than May 1, 2020.

In order to hedge against losses in revenues and the rise of expenses due to the COVID-19 crisis, Village managers have reallocated $300,000 from the 2020-21 budget into a COVID-19 contingency account. From this year’s budget they have allocated $1.25mm for a total of $1.55 million into the reserve account. Furthermore the Village Manager has directed Department Heads to restrict spending to essential items required for the operation of the Village and for their response to the current pandemic.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer joined the call and shared some important information about the crisis. He said, “There is no road map on what to do.”

As of March 24, there were 25,665 cases in New York State, 3,891 cases in Westchester with 38 in Scarsdale. Westchester County experience its first case three weeks ago in New Rochelle and Latimer said, “This tells you how contagious this virus is. The expansion grows exponentially. If this number continues to grow we run out of hospital rooms in a hurry. The County Center will be a temporary hospital and we don’t know if that will be enough. Glen Island is a testing center and we have more testing centers. We have a long list of people who need testing.” He said, “We are trying to keep the contagion at a level that the healthcare system can handle. We are going to do this based on science – not political science.”

Latimer said that all county parks, including the Bronx River Reservation and Saxon Woods are open and that the county is enforcing social distancing. They are keeping Saxon Woods Golf course open as golf is not a contact sport. The clubhouse is closed.

He also called for retired doctors and nurses to help. The county has set up a hotline at 211 and an email address for questions at covid19faq@westchestergov.com.

About assistance for local businesses, Latimer said, “We are going to have to look to Washington to provide assistance.”

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo shared what the village has done since February 2 to prepare for the crisis. Village Hall closed on March 16 and will be closed until April 17. The staff is working remotely from home on laptops and select Village staff are reporting to Village Hall. The Village Clerk handled 200 absentee ballots in a single day. The Village Court is letting people know that court is cancelled along with all evening meetings. Cleaning protocols have been enhanced and a cleaning company was engaged to clean all village facilities. They used a fogging machine at Wayside Cottage, the Library Loft and the Girl Scout House. The Village has purchased two of these fogging machines with the assistance of SVAC.

Back up plans have been arranged for all Village Departments, Police and Fire in case of illness.
Police have an emergency staffing plan and the fire department has shifted from 10-hour shifts to 24 hour shifts to cut down on the numbers of people coming and going.

Trustee Justin Arest provided more information about the Village’s finances.

He said, “We have ensured that the remaining months of our current fiscal year’s budget reflect the gravity of the situation. Outlined in a resolution added to our agenda tonight we are reducing unused funds and potential discretionary projects in the current fiscal year and putting that money into a COVID-19 contingency account to keep us prepared. Staff has also identified capital projects that will need to be eliminated or reduced in the upcoming FY. Whatever money is not used in either FY contingency account will move into the unassigned fund balance to be used where we determine it is needed.”

He discussed why the entire 2020-21 budget could not be revised at this time: “We have four hurdles before us that make immediately reevaluating the entire budget infeasible. First, we are in the middle of a public health crisis and state of emergency. Our priority has been and needs to continue to be the health and safety of our community. And that leads me to the second hurdle, availability of staff. Our department heads and their teams along with the Village Manager’s Office are working considerable hours ensuring that we can keep essential services running, and that the men and women that perform these services are able to do so safely and hopefully remain healthy. Third, NY State law requires us to hold a public hearing on the tentative budget on or before April 15 and we must have our budget approved prior to May 1. Lastly, we face unprecedented uncertainty. And as uncertainty mounts, so do the number of permutations of possible impacts to our budget.”

He vowed to continue to examine Village finances saying, “This Board is fully aware of the hard work that will be needed. We know that many, many hours of budget meetings and revisions are to come. It is very likely that with staff, we as a Board and we as a community will need to reassess every service and every project. We will also have to reexamine how we plan to pay for them possibly using additional borrowing as well as using our fund balance. In other words, we know that substantial cuts could become necessary.”

Trustee Jonathan Lewis said, “COVID 19 has changed the world…. Municipal bond markets are in a high degree of stress…. We will need to dynamically manage the budget. We need a sensitivity analysis of our revenue stream. We should be able to develop a best and worst case scenario and a decision tree that will increase the probability that our response is strategic and not reactive…. Working together we can write a new chapter…. My thoughts and prayers are with all my neighbors.

Trustee Jane Veron assured residents that “We care deeply about your health and well-being.” She said,”I want to express gratitude to everyone on the front lines. I have confidence that we will bounce back. We prepared the 20-21 budget in a very different environment. What we do know now is that our underlying assumptions must change. … In record speed staff has already identified funds for emergency preparedness…. I am confident that together we will manage through. Do whatever it takes to protect your health, safety and general welfare.”

During public comments Bob Berg sounded dire warning about the economy which he said, “has come to a halt.” He said that the Fed has predicted a 50% drop in the GNP next quarter and called the stock market “a bloodbath” He continued, “The situation is far worse than the 2008-9 financial crisis. He then called on the Village to convene an emergency meeting and reduce non-property revenue by $5 million, saying “What the Village Manager and Mayor said is insufficient.” He said, “We have a terrible situation here and we have to engage in a dialogue about what to cut. We have to create a conservative and sustainable budget by May 1.”

Mayor Samwick responded to Berg saying, “We have identified $3.5 million for use in case of emergency. We have made a first step and we will continue to be diligent. Every meeting will include public comment. This is a collaborative group effort.”

Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez also forecasted financial distress. She said, “The past three weeks have been difficult. I heard a woman wondering if she would have to go on food stamps and a man who built his business wondering if he would lose it. I spoke to a mother waking up at 3 am to get a food slot for delivery.” These people live in Scarsdale. Scarsdale’s median income is $250,000. Of those who earn less than $250,000 the average is $146,000. What do you propose to do for the people you represent? The bond rating doesn’t pay for food on the table.
I know Village staff works very hard. I am concerned to hear that there has been behind the scenes activity. There is a sunshine law. All of those revenue assumptions have to be changed.”

Yingyong Chen said, “As a Village it might be beneficial to have scenario analyses.”

Later in the meeting Trustee Jane Veron relayed what she learned from Frank at De Cicco’s Market in Scarsdale who reports that the food supply is good. Some items like hand sanitizer are available in limited quantities. They are working hard to keep up with delivery requests but it’s difficult to keep up with demand. The store is open at 7 am with an hour for seniors to shop. They are closing at 7 pm each night to give staff time to restock the shelves and they have hired an outside cleaning service to clean the store.

Trustee Rochelle Waldman shared a report that Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling is open and operational. Youth outreach workers are available and Maryellen Saenger from the Aging in Place program is in touch with seniors and available to help. The SFCS Gala, originally scheduled for May, will be rescheduled for October 8, 2020.

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