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electionsignsThis letter to the editor was written by Lee Fischman: You may have noticed that Berg, Selvaggio and Cohen election signs are now seemingly ubiquitous across Village properties. In 2018, Berg sued the Village for the right to place signs in the Village right of way. The judge issued a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, stating,

"It is ORDERED that Defendants are enjoined from enforcing the provisions of Section 256-1... with respect to posting political lawn signs in the Village of Scarsdale right of way in front of private homes,"

Banning the Village from removing signs in front of private homes seemed reasonable, and the Village is not removing any signage until the suit is settled. But Berg, Selvaggio and Cohen are exploiting and exceeding the restraining order by placing vast numbers of signs not in front of supporters' homes, but on wholly owned Village property.

The taxpayer owns Village properties. That's us. Having political signage placed on Village properties' right of way is akin to appropriating our endorsement. I did not give Berg, Selvaggio and Cohen permission to advertise in front of taxpayer property and neither did the judge. In the midst of summer greenery they also are a public eyesore. In fact, the Supreme Court agreed with the right to prohibit signs regardless of purpose in Los Angeles v. Vincent: "The problem addressed by this ordinance -- the visual assault on the citizens of Los Angeles presented by an accumulation of signs posted on public property -- constitutes a significant substantive evil within the City's power to prohibit."

Berg, Selvaggio and Cohen's action, whether direct or by delegation, is a provocation, a gamble that there is no downside to exceeding the judge's injunction. If you too disapprove of this widespread appropriation of community property, and want to send a message that papering it with election signs should not be future practice, you can register your displeasure with your vote.

Lee Fischman

flood3The Village could be forced to shelve plans for a flood mitigation project due to shortfalls in the budget from the COVID crisis.When the COVID crisis hit Scarsdale in March, no one knew what to worry about first. Little was understood about how the mysterious and possibly lethal virus could spread and residents were huddled in their homes, frightened and uncertain about what they could and could not do.

Our public officials quickly took action, and did what they could to send medical help to those in need and disseminate information about social distancing, testing and provide information on where to go for help.
They also realized that even though Village Hall was shuttered, they would need to work quickly to ensure that the Village had enough money in their coffers to fund public services and meet village obligations in a time of great uncertainty.

At a meeting held in the midst of the crisis on March 25, 2020 the trustees set aside $3.5 million into a COVID emergency fund to ensure that funds would be available to pay for essential services in the event of the loss of funds from revenue streams. Funds were drawn from both the 2019-20 budget and the 2020-21 budgets from a variety of sources identified by Village staff. The trustees also put an austerity plan in place to limit spending over the coming months.

The move appeared prescient when the Trustees reconvened on August 11 to consider how the COVID crisis had impacted Village finance. Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure, who announced her retirement earlier this year, delayed her departure to shepherd the Village through this crisis. Mayor Samwick thanked both the Village Manager’s Office and the Village Treasurer for finding funds to create reserves to cover shortfalls.
At the working session on the budget McClure ran through an analysis of where Village finances currently stand and how the Village could manage the 2020-21 fiscal year. She presented Scenario 3 which included current numbers and projections for this fiscal year.

She explained the sources of the $3,485,000 that had been set aside to fill potential revenue gaps. Approximately $1.440 million came from savings to the 2019-20 budget achieved by restricting departmental savings, another $340,000 in adjustments to the 20-21 budget and another $1,705,000 from deferring capitol projects including:

-Hutchinson River Drainage Project $450,000
-Library Debt Service Mitigation $100,000
-Heathcote Road Bridge $1,000,000
-Girl Scout House Improvements $100,000
-Village Hall HVAC Repair. $55,000

Total $1,705,000

McClure explained that non -tax revenues had fallen during the crisis and ran through her assumptions on these reductions. She explained that since residents stopped commuting during the crisis, the Village extended annual parking permits for three months to compensate those who purchase permits last year. The Village took big losses on revenues from parking permits at Freightway, Christie Place and from valet parking. Parking meter fees dropped by 50% as the Village was closed and no one was shopping. The Village also experienced drops in mortgage tax, building permits and court fines as well as interest income. Due to the fact that the Village could not operate their summer camps, they experienced another net loss of $74,748.

Here are the estimated losses in Scenario #3

-Sales Tax - ($900,000)
-Parking Meter Fees – ($435,000)
-Parking Permits – Freightway ($543,125)
-Parking Permits Christie ($362,313)
-Valet Parking ($718,000)
-Mortgage Tax ($100,000)
-Building Permits ($100,000)
-Court Fines ($200,000)
-Interest Income ($390,000)

All told, after expenditure savings, revenues were $3,168,445 lower than projected.

With business reopening and a lively real estate market, McClure hopes that some of these losses can be made up in the second half of the year. However, she cautioned that weather events such as Tropical Storm Isaias could have further negative impacts on the budget as police and the Department of Public Works need to be paid overtime.

McClure explained that the total fund balance now stands at $15,733,000 which represents 14.11% of the Village budget. She was happy to have these undesignated reserves to pay for unexpected costs such as the storm damage the Village just experienced. About $8.35 mm of those funds are in the unassigned fund balance.

Commenting on the budget, Trustee Justin Arest said, “We have sufficient monies allocated and earmarked to cover the anticipated shortfall and a relatively healthy unassigned fund balance to protect us from future unknowns. As we move forward, we will have a better idea of longer lasting impacts. It is very possible that we will be left with a long lasting revenue shortfall caused by changing habits and reduced governmental aid. We must have conversations about our operating budget. Have we learned ways to make our processes more efficient? Is there technology we can implement or use better to allow us to eventually do more with less? And, if these are answered in the negative, then we must have difficult discussions about where we should consider creating budgetary reductions.”… given the current crisis and uncertainties that lie ahead, I believe it behooves staff to meet with the Board and the Community regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of priorities and discussing possible changes before we get too far ahead. This needs to be done starting in September and not in December. Let’s schedule more meetings. I know we are in a crisis but we are going to be in it for quite some time. We must be able to continue operating and exercising our role as a policy and oversight body.”

“…We cannot sacrifice important infrastructure and capital projects in the medium and long term as the solution to revenue shortfalls. We do have over 14% unassigned fund balance but is it prudent to start depleting that account without a plan to replenish it? And, should these monies only be used for the unexpected? These are of course just some of the questions that need to be discussed.”

“Six months ago I had been thinking about the need for a Scarsdale 2030 or 2040 plan. I think we may need this even more now. At the very least, a conversation is warranted about the Scarsdale we want to be- How we can lead and how we can ensure we remain a desirable place for people to move to and thereby help support our property values.”

Trustee Jane Veron agreed that “this budget meeting could not come soon enough.” She said, “I am a planner by nature”… and, “We get the best result when we share views.” Looking toward the future she said, “We all expect that 2020-21 will be a challenging budget year….COVID impacts will ripple through the economy. I was elected to take care of Scarsdale today while planning for Scarsdale in the future….We are facing both medical challenges and weather events are occurring….COVID has forced us to re think service delivery….There are efficiencies to exploit…. What can our department heads do to serve residents and cut costs? There needs to be room for immediate needs and future plans. We need to meet regularly to share and test new approaches….We have the balance of this year to be creative.”

Trustee Jonathan Lewis said, “We prepared for $3.4 million in reserves to cover this … Are some of these funds already in reserves? We haven’t discussed the proper level of reserves but perhaps we should. We have $15.7 in reserves as of May 1 – we anticipate drawing these down to fill the gap? I think what we need for the next meeting is how the designated and undesignated fund balances will be impacted by the numbers in this scenario. I think we need to go up tempo in our planning and we need to re-envision how we’re doing business to consider the long term impact of these trends.”

Mayor Samwick clarified, saying “There is $8.35mm in the unassigned fund balance. That’s what Moody’s uses for the rating, not the entire fund balance. Our buffer is the $8.35mm unassigned fund balance.”
Arest added, “There is clearly a reduction in our total fund balance. If we continue to have shortfalls in our operating budget, where will we make these up? And Veron said, “We don’t want to assume that deferring capitol projects is the best route. When we deferred road repairs, we saw the ramifications.”

BacktoSchool 1This letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by the Restart Review Committe:

Dear Members of The Restart Committee, The Board of Education, and Key Scarsdale School Administrators,

After a little more than 1 day of receiving the Restart Plan and doing an initial review, 4 glaring inadequacies are evident in the critical areas of Safety, In-Person Learning, Improved Elearning, and Synchronous Streaming of Live Classes. Due to the extremely condensed parent review window this week, we need detailed answers from the Restart Committee to the following 4 items by 5 PM today, Wednesday, August 5th, 2020.

1) Safety – Please provide details on the following, since safety is the number 1 focus for reopening schools:

The mask wearing policy (we recommend 100% compliance), and the process for requesting and granting exemption to this policy

The specific PPE that Scarsdale Schools will provide to teachers (we recommend N95 equivalent masks and face shields)

The process for daily and weekly screening of students and faculty, the method of self-reporting potential known COVID-19 exposure and travel to areas on the NYS quarantine list or International travel, and tracking that appropriate quarantine has been implemented before a return to in-person school

A clearly illustrated workflow for a student required to quarantine under the hybrid plan, indicating how a student will switch from the hybrid model to full-time elearning, and then switch back to the hybrid learning model post-quarantine.

A clearly illustrated workflow for a sudden lockdown scenario, under the hybrid plan, indicating how all students will switch from the hybrid model to full-time E-learning, and then switch back to the hybrid learning model post-lockdown.
daily temperature checks, performed by a medical professional (self reporting is less accurate)

Transparency behind the decision to not explore the use of outdoor space, since many other districts are leveraging the fact that outdoor activities are definitely safer than indoor activities, and clarification of the hurdles, to determine if it is feasible to add an outdoor component at this late stage

The plan for COVID-19 testing - who will be tested, how frequently, which tests will be utilized, how will the tests be processed and results provided, what is the timeframe for creating the testing plan and ordering tests, since there is significant lead time for procurement, and how will testing be financed? 

2) In-Person Learning – The current Restart Plan for K-5 provides an inadequate amount of in-person learning, when compared to the plans of many peer districts, who will be providing 5 full days, and more detail is needed on how in-person academics will be prioritized for 6-12:

The Restart Plan must include 5 days of in-person learning for K-5 to meet or exceed the industry norm (including Edgemont, Byram Hills, Chappaqua, Bronxville, and Rye, as well as many other districts) for K-5 children, while also providing 6-12 with an in-person component.

For 6-12, core subjects (such as math and science) need to be given prioritization for in person learning, please provide the process for determining how the prioritization of academics will be determined, and how parents will be involved in this process

3) Improved E-learning – Please provide the list of improvements that will be made to E-learning, which is a critical component of any plan.

A strategic plan to improve E-learning must be created to address the issues from Spring of 2020 before school starts on September 8, 2020, including scheduling, accountability, teaching methods/strategies, and online testing. Many of these items were identified at the BOE Listening Session in July of 2020.

Clarification of how E-learning will remain synchronized with in-person learning, to support the scenario where students will switch between delivery methods, due to quarantine.

A plan to use established Learning Management System (LMS) , such as Blackboard or Canvas, to facilitate effective E-learning.

4) Synchronous Streaming of Live Classes – The decision to not support a synchronous broadcasting platform, such as Microsoft Teams, to allow students to attend live classes from home, causes an unacceptable level of productivity loss and puts Scarsdale in a less desirable position than its peer districts who will employ this type of technology platform.

A Restart Plan that does not contain a synchronous streaming component will be less effective than one that does, and many peer districts (such as Bronxville and Rye) are investing in these platforms, which are becoming the industry norm for highly desirable school districts.

Hybrid models provide more productive hours in front of a teacher if students can easily toggle between in-person learning in the physical school building which can also be accessed from home (frequently referred to as “livestreaming” in peer districts’ plans)
Switching between a hybrid model to a full-time online model is much more seamless when synchronous streaming is employed

We are excited to finally be brought into this process as key stakeholders and we look forward to creating a Restart Plan that appropriately positions Scarsdale as a top performing school district in Westchester, New York, and the United States.

Sincerely,

The Scarsdale Restart Plan Review Group, including:

Maria Asnis – child in K
Ilanit Blumenfeld- child in 5th
Beverley Caen- children in 8th and 12th
Linda Cavalier – children in 8th, 10th, and 12th
Shari Fayer – child in 2nd
Sammantha Furniss – children in 2nd and 4th
Kimberly Greene-Liebowitz – children in 7th and 9th
Jen Gross – children in 9th and 12th
Diane Gurden – children in 10th and 12th
Beth Heller Gelles – child in 10th
GiGi Heidbreders, children in 8th and 11th
Lena Kempe – children in 8th and 12th
Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez – children in 4th and 5th
Mark Koch- children in 5th and 12th
Xiaoxi (Nina) Liu – child in 3rd
Arek Meleletci – child in 10th
Roger Neustadt – children in 5th, 8th, and 10th
Jing Wei – children in 4th and 9th
Christine Weston – children in 4th and 7th
Natalie Yellin- children in 3rd and 5th
Stephen Zoota – children in 10th and 11th

mciver1This is a letter from Lee Road resident Lisa McIver to Village Planner Greg Cutler about the demolition of a house next door to her home:

Hello Greg: After waiting 6 months for the house (at 112 Lee Road) to be demolished they did it this Saturday - the day we left on vacation. Our neighbor luckily heard what was happening. The house was taken down with no water to hold the dust down AND worse the structure fell onto our property. It took down a row of 5-6 large arborvitae trees and broke the Belgium blocks lining our driveway.

Our houses are tight. This builder needs to be careful of our property. Today they piled the dumpster up and did not wet down the debris. Huge clouds of dust were over our property. We are away until Saturday so we haven’t seen it but I am so angry about the blatant disregard for our property and the unskilled workers.

Here is a photo of the dust coming from the demo … one worker and no water to hold down the dust. Our neighbor said our backyard looks awful with tons of dust covering our furniture, house and patio.

Who cleans this up? Will the town test it for asbestos? We come home Saturday and shouldn’t be returning to such a mess. Our house and windows will need to be power washed and cleaned. Trees will need to be replanted and the driveway repaired.mciver2

We will file a police report when we return. They need us to be home. Would you please check the scene tomorrow? The photos below show the workers on our property with the pieces of their demolition spilling over on our property.

Please help. Our neighborhood cannot handle such blatant disregard for our well-being and our property.

We look forward to quick action.

Thank you,

Lisa Lovisolo McIver
109 Lee Road

BacktoSchoolThe Scarsdale Restart Committee will be providing the Community with its Restart Plan on Monday, August 3rd. There is an extremely abbreviated window to review this information and to provide feedback to the Restart Committee, before it is presented to NY State on August 7th. This is the first time that the plan is being shared with the parents of current Scarsdale School children, who are identified as key stakeholders in the NYS ED Guidance. To leverage extensive community expertise, and to provide a somewhat unified response from parents, a grass roots effort has been started to have interested parents, as part of the Scarsdale Restart Plan Review Group, align with the following areas for feedback:

-The Restart Task Groups (Athletics, Communications, Food Service, Human Resources, Medical/Nursing,
-Technology, Transportation, and Facilities)

-Academics - Elearning improvements, Curriculum Impact, In-Person Class Prioritization, IEP/504, Cohorts/Pods

-Mental Health - AAP Guidance for School Re-entry

-Legal - NYS ED Guidance, other legal concerns

-Covid-19 - Infectious Disease, testing expertise

We are in most need of expertise in Facilities, Transportation, Human Resources, and Food Service. Also, anyone who has experience implementing elearning systems, and any parent who is definite that they want their child(ren) to opt out, regardless of any plan that may be proposed, would help add perspective to the feedback. Please e-mail dgurden@optonline.net if you are interested in joining the effort, and specify where you would like to align yourself and the grade(s) of your child(ren).

There has also been some interest shown by Scarsdale Village residents, who do not have children currently in the Scarsdale Schools, and an effort is being made to facilitate their comments as well. Although there is overlap, the parents of children currently in Scarsdale Schools are more directly impacted by the Restart Plans. To facilitate discussion, there have been two Facebook groups created:

Scarsdale Restart Plan Review – Parents of Scarsdale Students - click here
Scarsdale Restart Plan Review – Residents - click here

For transparency, this is a grass roots effort driven by parents, and it is not officially sanctioned by the Restart Committee, Scarsdale Schools, the PTC, PTA, Board of Education, or Scarsdale Village.

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