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Village Accrues over $900,000 in Fees for Unpaid Taxes and More from the Village Board


When the Village Board of Trustees approved installment payments of taxes in 2020, they hoped to ease the burden of large school and village tax bills on residents, especially in light of the pandemic. So rather than receiving one payment coupon for their school and village taxes, property owners received envelopes with two coupons. A printing error cause some confusion but most paid the first installment of their tax bills on time. However, when it came time to make the second installment, it seems that many forgot. To date, 414 property owners have not paid the second installment of their school taxes, leaving them liable for steep penalties. Others neglected to pay their Village taxes as well. So this new installment tax plan may prove to be a very expensive gift to the Village who is realizing sizable revenues from penalties for non-payment.

This was to be the subject of a work session of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees scheduled before the Village Board meeting on Tuesday, February 23rd. However, the Board spontaneously switched the work session to a private Executive Session, leaving participants in the dark. Village Mayor Marc Samwick later reported that this change was made so that the Board could consult with legal counsel relating to the issue of unpaid taxes with Scarsdale’s new two-installment payment system.

At 7 pm the Board reconvened for its regularly scheduled public meeting where members voted on several resolutions and heard from constituents on a variety of issues. Mayor Samwick opened the meeting by addressing two key issues facing the town; the fees for delinquent taxpayers due to the new two-payment tax system and the Village’s 2021-2022 fiscal budget. Regarding the tax payment delinquencies, Village Treasurer Ann Scaglione reports that about 500 homeowners failed to make their second payments on-time and incurred sizable fees. As of Monday, February 22, fees for unpaid school tax bills amount to $787,000 and fees for unpaid Village taxes amount to $180,000. Treasurer Scaglione wants residents to be aware that the penalty on unpaid Village taxes increases from 8% in February to 9% in March, and she encourages all unpaid taxes to be paid by the end of February.

Below are excerpts of the Mayor’s statement on these two topics:

Two-Payment Tax Collection System:
Recognizing the havoc [the pandemic] wreaked upon personal finances, a suite of strategies was developed to reduce the financial burden of property taxes… Scarsdale Schools approached the Village in May 2020 and suggested that we consider transitioning to a two-installment tax collection system, rather than our long-standing single-installment plan. The rationale was simple: Help Scarsdale property owners with cash flow by allowing them to defer half of their property tax obligations to a second installment… The Village Board adopted a resolution implementing the new system on June 09, 2020.

Subsequently, the Village’s multi-pronged communication effort included mayoral commentary during Village Board meetings, press releases announcing the transition and reminding taxpayers of last dates to pay without penalty or interest, and delinquency notices after payments that were missed.

The tax bills, themselves, plainly stated the percent penalty information for late payments as well as the dates of penalty escalation. Our efforts exceeded the regulatory notification threshold by a substantial margin.

The Village not only leveraged numerous tools in seeking to help taxpayers amidst the pandemic, including transitioning to the two-installment tax remittance structure, but also endeavored to reduce taxpayer exposure to penalties and interest by providing notification of upcoming dues dates, stating statutory penalties for late payment, and providing late payment reminders to delinquent taxpayers… I and the Village Board regret that a portion of our taxpayers neglected to remit payment on-time and were thus exposed to seemingly harsh statutory penalties, which the Village lacks legal authority to reduce, waive, or reimburse. It is unfortunate that our efforts to help reduce fiscal stress amidst the pandemic yielded an unintended outcome for some, though I am also encouraged to report that over 94% remitted timely payment.

In the future, I implore all taxpayers to diligently track the tax remittance schedule and to call our Treasurer’s Office at 914.722.1170 with any tax remittance questions. We are here to help residents, within the confines of State and local codes.

21-22 Village Budget:
The Village went through extraordinary measures to propose a budget for the 21-22 fiscal year, which starts on June 1st... The Village acted quickly and decisively to address the fiscal impacts of the pandemic by implementing austerity spending constraints, which the Village continues to operate under, and to allocate funds into a COVID Reserve Account that now totals $2.25 million. The Village further identified $1.7 million of funded capital reserves that could qualify, if needed, for borrowing with an associated reallocation of those reserve funds to further supplement the COVID Reserve Account…Looking forward to the 21-22 budget, we continue to see some of the strains from the pandemic on our budget, most notably from an expected shortfall in parking and related revenues. The proposed tentative budget uses $2.25 million of fund balance, consisting of the use of $1,023,000 of unassigned General Fund Balance that is generally included each year in the budget plus funds from the COVID Reserve Account.

The First Pass Budget showed a proposed tax increase of 4.87%. This level of tax increase was not acceptable to the Board and staff and we pushed to find an incremental $187,300 of revenues and to reduce $413,705 of expenses, for a total net budget reduction of over $600,000. The resulting year-to-year proposed increase in the tax levy is now 3.42%, for a total tax levy of $43,239,747 and an overall General Fund budget of $60,131,681. To put this in perspective, a residential property owner owning a home assessed at $1,510,000, representing the current average home assessment in Scarsdale, would pay $7,293 in Village property taxes in FY21-22. This represents an increase of $182 year-to-year. The tax levy increase of 3.42% is below the NYS Property Tax cap limit for 2021-22…We will be conducting public briefing sessions to review the operating and capital budgets, including the public’s ability to ask questions and provide input in the proposed budgets. The Operating Budget Briefing Session will be held tomorrow, February 24th, at 5pm and the Capital Budget Briefing Session will be held one week later on March 3rd, also at 5pm. Both meetings will be held via Zoom and links to join the meetings may be found on the Village website.

Public Comments

Following the Mayor’s comments, the Board heard from Scarsdale residents during Public Comment.
• Michelle Sterling requested that the Board schedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the leaf blower code so that residents can reap the benefits.

• Bob Harrison, conveyed his dismay at the Board’s surprise private Executive Session earlier that evening. He also asked for an update on the updated Village and school taxes from last year and asked if there were plans to use those overdue funds to reduce the 3.4% proposed tax increase for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Mayor Samwick responded by stating that it would be financially imprudent for the board to use funds from a current fiscal year (that may result in a deficit) in a subsequent year. During the second round of Public Comment later in the evening, Mr. Harrison again expressed his displeasure about the 3.41% tax increase and said he felt strongly that the Board could lower the increase further.

• John McCann said that he was looking forward to the vote later in the evening on the renaming of Crossway Field and he notified the Board that he would raise the funds to pay for any plaques or sign changes associated with the renaming.

• Paul Fix spoke about the significance of Coach Richard “Rippy” Phillips to his family. He stated that it was “astounding how many letters [supporting the field name change] came in. To see how many members of this community, how many lives were affected is breathtaking… [this name change] is the first step towards thanking Rippy for everything.”

Next, Trustee Crandall announced that the library’s Virtual Vital Aging Series “Covid-19 Vaccinations: With Dr. Michael Palumbo” on March 3rd at 1:00 PM is available for signups HERE. Trustee. Crandall also said that the Senior Citizen Advisory Council reported that seniors have been able to schedule their Covid-19 vaccinations despite some technological obstacles and the short supply of available appointments. The Senior Citizen Advisory Council is looking forward to the Scarsdale Library grand reopening and would appreciate a designated space and time to use the library when it opens. Finally, Ms. Crandall announced that seniors in the community have been taking advantage of the Zoom events available to them, and many are attending Westchester Chamber Music Society and Scarsdale Recreation Department online events.

Trustee Waldman updated the Board about library events where they are ending the celebration of Black History Month with an event on black citizenship in the age of Jim Crow on Friday, February 26th at 7:00 PM. Residents are encouraged to learn more and sign up HERE. Additionally, if any teenagers are interested in joining the Teen Advisory Library Board, there is a meeting on Saturday, March 6th at 2:00 PM and you can sign up HERE.

Next, the Board voted on five resolutions, all of which passed unanimously. The first was the Resolution to Establish Fiscal Year 2021-22 Village Wide Fees and Charges presented by Trustee Arest. Mr. Arest emphasized that the Board can change certain charges at any point, so just because a charge is constant at this point does not mean that rate is permanent. Village Clerk Donna Conkling will publish the changes of the fees and schedule to the Scarsdale Village website. Trustee Crandall stated that she is "looking forward to further discussion of water rates… it is important to keep a close eye on those to keep up with present and future expenses… during [the Board's] next term I hope the Board can address the penalty for offenses… the standard penalty is $250 per violation per day. Our expenses have gone up, and we hear from the public that we need to do a better job of enforcing the Village Code. We need to study the penalty amount to see if it is still appropriate.”

The second resolution, presented by Trustee Crandall, was the Resolution to Establish the Climate Smart Communities Task Force. The resolution states that “whereas the Board of Trustees believes that climate change poses a real and increasing threat, exhibiting the potential for significant harmful disruption to natural and human systems, including environmental, social, and economic impacts; and whereas, by way of resolution (attached) adopted by the Village Board on February 11, 2020, the Village of Scarsdale adopted the Climate Smart Communities Pledge, comprised of the following goals:

1. Build a climate-smart community
2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action
3. Decrease energy use
4. Shift to clean, renewable energy
5. Use climate-smart materials management
6. Implement climate-smart land use
7. Enhance community resilience to climate change
8. Support a green innovation economy
9. Inform and inspire the public
10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action”

The task force is charged with “developing, recommending, and assisting, as needed, with implementing context-sensitive strategies and activities supportive of CSC Certification program goals” and drafting and presenting a proposed workplan to the Board that will be updated annually. Mayor Samwick stated that the Board is “excited about the many opportunities” this task force will present to address the climate crisis and he looks forward to the future of the task force.

The third resolution, entitled the Authorization to Execute an Intermunicipal Agreement with Westchester County for the Use of Voting Machines, provides for the use of four Optional Scan Voting Machines, one Ballot Marking Device, and three Privacy Booths, and the technicians necessary to operate the voting system for the Annual Scarsdale Village Election on Tuesday, March 16th.

The final two resolutions were presented by Trustee Waldman. The first was the Resolution to Name the Football Field at the Crossway Athletic Complex the Richard “Rippy” Philipps Field at Crossway. Below is the bio of Richard “Rippy” Philipps that was included in the resolution:

Philipps Bio Richard “Rippy” Philipps has been an integral and passionate part in the success of Scarsdale Youth Football for the past 26 years. He is the President of Scarsdale Raider Football consisting of athletes participating in Youth Flag and Tackle Football Programs, as well as enthusiastic parents that help out in any way they can to improve the interest in youth football in the Scarsdale community. In addition, Rippy was an Executive Board member within the Scarsdale Youth Football League (tackle) formerly run by the Scarsdale Recreation Department and is now part of the Westchester Youth Football League Board creating and implementing all safety Policy and Guidelines for the league ensuring Scarsdale youth tackle football remains vibrant and competitive. His countless hours and tireless effort on and off the field to improve the youth football program in Scarsdale has been extremely beneficial to the whole community.

Some additional Scarsdale Raider Football club responsibilities include ordering game uniforms, practice jerseys, and player and field equipment. Rippy is also the head coach for the 7th/8th-grade football team, his biggest and most fulfilling role as a volunteer. His inspirational leadership has benefited many Scarsdale athletes moving on the high school and college levels. What goes under the radar is the significant amount of student athletes he has mentored not only in sports but assisting them in real life matters in the Scarsdale community. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of tackle football not being allowed in NYS, Rippy help create, in conjunction with the Scarsdale Recreation Department, an energized Youth Flag Football program in Scarsdale which has over 230 participants from Kindergarten to Grade 8. In 2007, Rippy received the Westchester County "Volunteer Youth Sports Coaching Award. Lacrosse is one of his other passions. He has previously coached in our Scarsdale Recreation Department youth lacrosse programs.

What sets Rippy apart from all of our other volunteer coaches and makes his dedication to the Recreation Department and the Scarsdale community that much more special, is the fact that he has never had a child go through the football or lacrosse programs. The Scarsdale Recreation Department greatly appreciates his continuing contributions and dedication to not only our Recreation Department but to all student athletes and non-athletes in the Scarsdale community.

Before voting yes, Trustee Arest, commented that “this vote was harder than I thought it would be… we have not had a process on this and we haven’t had discussions on what policies will look like going into the future. It hurts our credibility when residents come and ask us for things… and we tell them we must follow a process… and then we didn’t follow them here… Rippy has had a great impact on so many people in Scarsdale… the letters written on his behalf were moving and spoke well on his behalf… it is incredible what he has accomplished… so many have had their lives touched and improved by Rippy and that is why I will vote aye.”

Trustee Whitestone also spoke about the impact of Coach Rippy and said that "his dedication and commitment has provided the vitality for the program that has impacted hundreds of people… I have seen this firsthand with the participation of my own son… he continues to make these meaningful contributions… it is great to be able to honor him in this way.”

The final vote came from Mayor Samwick who stated that he “would like to enthusiastically vote aye… I have three sons all of who went through the football program. I have seen how Rippy works with young children with kids not just on his team and in high school… I have heard stories of him helping people with jobs and being there for people when they are in need… and then we saw this incredible outpouring from the community, it was overwhelming, it was remarkable. As elected leaders of the Village, we have to work on a wide array of things here, [it is nice] to do something that is so heartwarming, so based in the goodness of our community. That is what Rippy is… he exemplifies the goodness that is Scarsdale.”

The final resolution was the Authorization to Conduct the Annual 15K/4M Road Races. For the past 51 years, the Village Parks and Recreation Department has partnered with the Scarsdale Antiques Running Club to sponsor the annual 15K, 4-mile, and Kids Fun Run road races in the Fox Meadow and Greenacres neighborhoods. This year’s races will take place on Sunday, April 11th from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM. The races will include Covid-19 mitigation measures and necessary staff support activities, including traffic control measures, event management, and public notification of race day detours.

As the last agenda item, Mayor Samwick announced the upcoming scheduled meetings:
Thursday, February 25, 2021, 5:00 PM – Village Board Work Session – via Zoom: To consider the appointment of individuals to various Boards, Councils and Committee Positions/Vacancies

Monday, March 01, 2021, 6:00 PM – Village Board Work Session – via Zoom: Advisory Council on Technology – Presentation of Village-Wide Information Technology Report

Tuesday, March 09, 2021, 7:00 PM – Village Board Regular Meeting – via Zoom (Subsequent Meeting Notice with Time and Format Changes to Follow)

Thursday, March 11, 2021, 5:00 PM – Village Board Work Session – via Zoom: Consider the appointment of individuals to various Boards, Councils and Committee Positions/Vacancies

Monday, March 22, 2021, 4:30 PM – Joint Meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees and the Scarsdale Board of Education – via Zoom

Budget discussions:
Village Board Work Sessions – Zoom Video Conferencing Tuesday, March 09, 2021 – 5:00 P.M.  

Briefing Session – Zoom Video Conferencing:
-Wednesday, February 24, 2021 – 5:00 P.M. – Operating Budget
-Wednesday, March 03, 2021 – 5:00 P.M. – Capital Budget

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