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SamwickScarsdale Village Mayor delivered the “State of the Village” statement at a meeting of the Scarsdale Forum on Thursday February 13, 2019. Here are his remarks:

Thank you Tim and the Scarsdale Forum for hosting this annual event. And, thank you to the residents present this evening and those who have provided your input on Village matters over the past year. This is our Village and we always encourage you to be active participants in the issues and priorities that face our community.

I am pleased to be here and to report that the state of the Village is strong.

The Village is strong because of a number of pillars that remain consistent over time, namely:

1. Our non-partisan form of government works;
2. Our elected officials serve at-large and work collaboratively toward need-based and practical solutions;
3. The Village Board and staff are fiscally responsible and work hard to manage Village budgets to protect residents while addressing unfunded mandates and an expanding suite of municipal services;
4. The Village engages in active long-term planning and reinvesting based on an open and transparent prioritization of large Village projects; and
5. Village management is responsible and professional in the execution of Village operations.

By at least one prominent external measure, the Village is in excellent financial shape, as Moody’s has once again reaffirmed the Village’s AAA credit rating. In doing so, Moody’s cites key credit factors, such as an “exceptionally strong wealth and income profile”, extensive tax base, very low debt burden, moderate pension liability, and an adequate unassigned fund balance.

Budget Process
I would like to discuss the Village Budget, but before I do it is important to understand the budget process.

Village staff spends significant time preparing the annual budget for review and adoption by the Village Board. Over the years, Village departments have been asked to do more with less as the Village seeks to balance its long traditions of fiscal responsibility and providing residents with an expanding suite of services that meet their needs and desires. We appreciate the diligence, flexibility and creativity that staff regularly provides to bridge the competing interests of increased services and fiscal restraint.

This budget season kicked off in November when the Village Board and staff had a high-level budget discussion. From January through March, the Board reviews the operating and capital budgets in a series of public meetings, including a daylong meeting with presentations from most of the Department Heads. Without exception, the Department Heads are thorough, professional and fiscally responsible when preparing and presenting their departmental budget requests.

We also thank the residents who participated in the budget meetings. All are welcome to attend the Operating Budget Briefing Session which will be held in the 3rd floor conference room of Village Hall at 7pm on February 27th and the Capital Budget Briefing Session which will be held at the same location at 7pm on March 4th.

TaxLevyIncrease

Operating Budget
Now to the budget details. I am pleased to report that the Village is again in a position to stay within the State-imposed tax cap in the 2020-21 fiscal year with an increase in the tax levy of 1.98%. This modest year-to-year levy increase was supported by the Village’s allocation of revenues from the 1% increase in the County sales tax rate. This rate increase brought the Westchester sales tax rate to the level of our surrounding counties and unified the sales tax rate for all municipalities within the County. While we never like to see increased taxes, we are happy to receive a portion of the new County sales tax revenue to help to modestly diversify our revenue sources and provide some relief to our residents. The estimated increase in sales tax revenue is budgeted at $900,000.

The Tentative FY20/21 Budget totals nearly $59.5 million, representing a year-to-year increase of $1.4 million. The bulk of the increases are related to employee salaries determined through the collective bargaining process with our seven labor unions in accordance with the NYS Taylor Law.

Overall employee salaries and benefits represent over 75% of total budget expenditures. This level of employee costs is not unique to Scarsdale, but rather the nature of the business of local government, with services such as Police, Fire, Public Works, and Library still labor intensive.

Budget Revenues
The FY20/21 Tentative Budget identifies a total of nearly $17.4 million in non-property tax revenues, which includes the use of $1,023,000 in available General Fund Balance to decrease the tax levy. The most notable increase is seen in Sales Tax of approximately $900,000 mentioned earlier.

In summary, the property tax levy is expected to increase by $818,000, representing a 1.98% increase year-to-year. To put it in perspective, a residential property owner owning a home assessed at $1,510,000, the current average home assessment in Scarsdale, would pay the Village an additional $129 in taxes in the coming fiscal year.

I would now like to take a few minutes to discuss the Village’s Capital Budget program starting with current and then moving to planned projects. Reinvesting in our community is a major pillar of Scarsdale’s long-term management plan and there are no shortages of projects to discuss.

Current Year Capital Projects
The Village continues to invest in key infrastructure in the current fiscal year, including the following projects: public library renovation and expansion, paving 6.5 miles of Village roads, completing the conversion of over 1,500 streetlights to energy-efficient LED light fixtures, completion of the Popham Road Fire Station, reaching the major milestone of recycling over 1 million pounds of food scraps, as well as continuous investment in our infrastructure for potable water, storm water, and sanitary sewers and much more.

Allow me to provide more detail.

LibraryRenovation

Scarsdale Public Library
The Scarsdale Public Library expansion and renovation project continues and the new library is expected to open later this year. The library is one of our most treasured community hubs. When completed, the re-imagined building will bring library services into the 21st century with modern facilities and services such as its sun-filled reading gallery, toddler area, dedicated children’s program space, multi-purpose rooms, office suites, technology room, makers space, Teen Room and a cafe. The work and generosity of so many people have gone into making this project a reality and the community is better for its many volunteers and donors and we all thank you. Looking forward, I hope you will join me, the Village Board, Library Board, the Friends of the Library, staff, donors, volunteers and so many others when we open the new library later this year.

Road Resurfacing
In 2019, the Village resurfaced 6 1/2 miles of pavement on 20 different roads. This represents an investment of $1.6 million in the Village’s roadway system. It also represents over 8% of the 79 miles of Village-owned roads in a single year making significant progress toward bringing our roads up to the standards we all seek. Additionally, nearly 6,000 linear feet of new curbing was installed and over 2,400 linear feet of curbing was reset. I would also like to recognize Village Manager, Steve Pappalardo, and Village staff for suggesting a change in the Village code that requires those who open our roadways to repave the road from curb to curb rather than merely patching the road. ConEd, as we regularly see, opens many roads and this change in the Village code has resulted in our ability to perform a material amount of incremental paving each year. In fact, ConEd has reimbursed the Village over $2 million for paving since the code change was enacted in 2015.

LED Streetlight Fixture Installation
In 2019, the Village completed the installation of the last of the over 1,500 new LED street light fixtures. The Ad Hoc LED Committee, consisting of members of the Conservation Advisory Council and Village staff, did extensive research on different lights and did wide-ranging field-testing that included community surveys. The committee worked hand in hand with LED light manufacturers to develop a superior quality light fixture. The result is a noticeably better-quality LED light than is seen in any other community. Our Department of Public Work’s ability to perform the installation work, accelerated this process and saved considerable costs. There are also real cost savings that inure from the use of these more environmentally friendly LED lights. The $290,000 cost of the new LED light fixtures is expected to be repaid in less than 2.5 years as we anticipate saving about $125,000 per year in electricity and manpower costs. Thank you to the LED Committee for your diligent hard work.

Popham Road Firehouse Completion
The addition and renovation of the Popham Road Firehouse was completed in 2019. The project scope of work was extensive and we are very pleased to have the Fire Department now utilizing this newly improved modern facility.

Food Scrap Recycling
In December, the Village reached a sustainability milestone when we recycled a cumulative 1 million pounds of food scraps. Scarsdale is very fortunate to have dedicated volunteers that worked hard to find a cost-effective model to recycle food scraps. We are also fortunate to have staff that is open minded, creative and solution-based. The result is a food recycling program being used as a model for other municipalities in Westchester, Rockland and Fairfield Counties as well as serving as an impetus for Westchester County as it works to create a county-wide food waste recycling program. Thank you to the volunteers and staff that found creative solutions to enable a new sustainability program to take wings in Scarsdale and to lift so many other communities as well.

Climate Smart Community
I am pleased to announce that on Tuesday evening, the Board adopted the New York State Climate Smart Communities pledge. Sustainability and resilience themes are integral parts of our community. Our municipal operations and infrastructure increasingly reflect our collective conscience in that regard, with highly visible projects. I have already discussed the successful LED street light and curbside food scrap recycling programs. The Village also purchased its first electric vehicle and has installed recycling bins at all of Scarsdale’s parks. These programs have yielded significant financial and environmental benefits. By becoming a Climate Smart Community, Scarsdale joins 291 other municipalities throughout the state to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate. The state program offers free technical assistance, a range of grant opportunities, and rebates for electric vehicles. With the help of the Climate Smart Communities program, we expect to continue to seek opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of our Village operations.

Other Completed Projects
Other Village initiatives that have recently been completed include repairing structural cracks at the high school and middle school tennis courts; the construction of the Wynmor tot park and resurfacing of the Wynmor tennis court; continuing water system improvements and sanitary sewer work in the Mamaroneck Valley District with more discussion on these last two items to follow.

2020-2021 Fiscal Year
Coming up over the next fiscal year and beyond are the following capital projects:

Water System - In fiscal 2018-2019, our water system pumped over 1 billion gallons of water with a daily peak flow of over 6.6 million gallons. Many parts of the Village’s water distribution system are over a century old. Over the past ten years, the Village has completed significant work on the above-ground segments of our water system – upgrading the Ardsley Road Supply Station in 2011, rebuilding the Reeves Newsome Supply Station in 2014, upgrading the Ardsley Road Water Tank in 2018 and the ongoing work on the Boniface Water Tank. The Village has an aggressive leak detection program, a comprehensive water conservation plan and is in the process of installing radio frequency meters that will enable monthly billing of water. Monthly billing will help residents better identify and remedy water leaks, conserving water and money and helping the environment.

The Village plans to continue its significant investment in its aging water system with completion of a water system master plan; continuing upgrades to water pumping facilities; and continuing water distribution system leak detection and repair, supported in part through an intermunicipal agreement with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection which provides the Village with $657,000 in grant money to reduce community consumption.

Over the coming decade, required investments in the water system are expected to cost $34 million in addition to the over $10 million invested over just the past four years. The long-term capital plan includes an average expected expenditure for capital improvements to the water system of $3.6 million per year over the coming five fiscal years. The Village will continue to seek grant funding where available to cover water system investments but there will be meaningful costs that must be paid by water system customers, namely our residents. Future projects include upgrading distribution facilities and infrastructure (cleaning and lining of water lines and replacement of substandard water mains, valves and hydrants) as well as improvements to the Village’s connection to the Catskill Aqueduct at Ardsley Road (including the replacement of a 16-inch suction line).

Many are aware of the increases in water rates that have been phased in over the past four years to help meet these significant capital outlays. These material rate increases are necessary to complete the work just outlined and to maintain our aging water system. Unfortunately, the higher water rates are also being felt by many homeowners. System upgrades, however, benefit all residents and are appropriate to be reflected in the base water rates we all pay.

The Board clearly recognizes the burden placed on residents by recent rate increases and has paused further water rate increases in the 20-21 budget pending the results of the Master Plan of the Water Distribution System that will commence within the coming months. During this time period, the Village plans to engage a water rate consultant to assist us with creating a long-term water rate structure that balances the capital needs with well thought out responsible rate increases to our customers. The Village will provide regular updates on the important work being done on our water system and the Master Plan will be posted online upon its completion.

Sewer Infrastructure - The Village continues to focus on improving its sewer infrastructure, currently making necessary repairs identified in the Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Study in the Mamaroneck Sewer District. This work is part of the Capacity Management Operation and Maintenance Plan prepared by the consulting engineer and Village staff for the Mamaroneck District. Over the next 2-5 years while this field work continues, the Village will engage a qualified engineering firm to study the Bronx Valley and Hutchinson Sewer Districts as well. We are currently evaluating ongoing issues in the Drake Edgewood section of the Village which require immediate attention, relative to storm water inflow and infiltration into sanitary sewer lines resulting in excess sanitary sewerage discharge flows into the County’s sewerage lines and treatment plants. Sanitary sewerage discharge is heavily regulated and is subject to lawsuits, consent decrees and intermunicipal agreements. Like most Westchester municipalities, much of the Village’s sanitary sewer infrastructure is over a century old and suffers from storm water inflow and infiltration that can overburden parts of the system. The 20-21 fiscal year budget includes an allocation of $650,000 of work on our sanitary sewer system with the long-term capital plan calling for continued expenses of over $700,000 per year for at least the next four fiscal years. This is an important issue for the Village that will continue to be discussed over the coming years;

PoolComplex

Pool Complex - Our pool complex is over 50 years old and is an iconic community institution. The time has come for a comprehensive study of the complex infrastructure. We are aware that there are a number of systems and infrastructure items that are not up to current code requirements and we will be seeking extensive community input into preferences and priorities before undertaking material repairs and upgrades that are expected in the coming year or two. Please be on the lookout for a community survey of the pool complex. We encourage all residents to take time to respond to the survey to better inform the Village of where to focus our resources when we undertake the pool improvement project;

Traffic Safety - The Village Board and staff are focused on pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety and on implementing various measures to achieve enhanced safety. A Board work session with the Village’s Traffic Safety Committee was held on Tuesday to discuss traffic safety matters including: (i) the pursuit of State approval to reduce the current 30 MPH area speed limit to 25 MPH, (ii) potential future implemention of the Safe Routes to School program, (iii) enhance traffic safety in areas such as Popham Road, Fenimore Road and Heathcote Five Corners, and (iv) enhanced traffic safety through design and implementation of a pilot traffic calming measure on a suitable residential roadway. The Traffic Safety Committee is taking a holistic approach to safety that includes the 3 E’s of traffic safety - education, engineering and enforcement. Staff is aggressively seeking various funding sources, including grants and partnerships such as the Safe Routes to School program in partnership with the School District. The Police Department has increased diligence in its effort to enforce existing traffic laws and to further resident awareness of traffic laws and safety. Pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety are priorities of the Board and staff and we encourage resident input. The Traffic Safety Committee will review all resident complaints and comments;

Heathcote Road Bridge - Engineering work is under way with commencement of work to repair and reinforce the abutments under the Heathcote Road Bridge planned for FY 2020-21. Timing of this project was in part determined by the effort made by Village staff to successfully obtain a New York State grant to cover 95% of the cost of the design and construction work. The grant will save residents $1.35 million on this important infrastructure improvement;

Hutchinson River Flood Mitigation - The Village is party to an inter-municipal agreement with the City of New Rochelle, and the Town of Eastchester to complete the Hutchinson River Flood Mitigation project. Over the coming fiscal year, the design of this project is expected to be completed and preparation work in advance of construction will commence. This project will be partially funded by a $2.5 million grant from the County of Westchester and a $1M grant from the State of New York; and

Cybersecurity - The Village will continue to invest in strengthening its cybersecurity. Recognizing that this important effort is likely to become a recurring expense for the Village, the capital and operating budgets have added dedicated line items for this work.

Much of the infrastructure improvements just outlined are not highly visible as they are either underground or electronic. We recognize that it is easier to see and appreciate the work being done on our library or the paving our roads. Nevertheless, the less visible work we foresee over the coming years is equally important and must be a focus of the Board and staff and requires the allocation of budget funds.

Village Center
The Village Board is acutely aware of the issues with retail vacancies in our Village Center. Our Village Center is a crown jewel of Scarsdale and the Village is committed to working collaboratively with property owners, tenants and residents to create a vibrant hub for our community to enjoy. Over the past year, the Village has: (i) worked to reduce parking issues by implementing the Pango parking app, (ii) started using a license plate reader to enforce parking limits to create more parking capacity for shoppers and (iii) reviewed and implemented parking fees to maintain equitable parking availability and costs to residents and merchants.

The Scarsdale Business Alliance has quickly become an invaluable partner in improving our Village Center. With new events such as Wing the Dale, the Health and Wellness Fair and, of course, the Scarsdale Music Festival adding to existing programs including the Sidewalk Sale, summer Westchester Band concerts in Chase Park, the Concourse Car Show, Light the Dale, the Halloween parade and window painting, and more, we believe that progress is being made toward bringing vitality back into the Village Center. We continue to seek more opportunities to enhance the Village and we invite the community to be part of the discussion to improve Boniface Circle where we hope to create an open and inviting space for people to congregate and enjoy the surrounding area.

Freightway
Another item that has received much Board and staff time and attention is the potential redevelopment of the Freightway parking garage in our Village Center. I will provide a very brief history of the recent discussions about the potential redevelopment of the parking garage while acknowledging that discussions about the redevelopment of the garage started shortly after its completion in 1974. Three years ago, the Board of Trustees formed the Freightway Steering Committee and retained a planning firm to engage the community in an active discussion about the potential redevelopment of the aging Freightway parking garage. The Freightway Site Redevelopment Study included many public meetings and engaged at least 750 people with the resulting Visioning Study issued in February 2018. The Village issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) in July of 2018 and seven responses were received in October 2018. After public meetings in November 2018 and January and May 2019, the Village issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). The two finalist development teams presented their respective preliminary plans to the community in December 2019.

The Board of Trustees has been and remains committed to an inclusive and transparent discussion about Freightway. The Board paused the Freightway process based on overall Board and public dissatisfaction with the proposals submitted to date and to provide the public with an additional opportunity to be heard. Only after the Board has evaluated the community’s comments will the Board discuss what might come next. To be clear, the Board has no specific plan or timeline with respect to Freightway.

The Board is listening to the community and we share the community’s focus on school and fiscal impacts. As we have said and it is worth repeating, the Board will not support a project that does not have a positive economic benefit to the Village and the school district or a project that would harm the quality of the education that our children receive.

Thank you for your active participation in the Freightway process. We continue to want to hear from you on this issue and other matters. We are listening and will continue to do so.

Communications
One of the challenges of running the Village is effectively communicating with the community – both inbound and outbound. Over the past year, we have implemented a number of changes to enhance communications, including: (i) placing the Public Comment section of Village Board meetings earlier in the meeting agenda, (ii) adding a second Public Comment session to each Board Meeting, (iii) implementing an informal monthly Coffee with Mayor series, and (iv) standardizing Trustee email addresses to the first letter and last name of each Trustee @scarsdale.com. These new tools supplement prior changes such as: (i) forming an Advisory Council on Communications, (ii) issuing the Scarsdale Official following each Board meeting, and (iii) upgrading the Village website, which includes Notify Me – a way for residents to receive notices of Village items that matter most to them. We encourage residents to: (i) visit the Village website and sign up for the Scarsdale Official and other items on Notify Me, (ii) attend Board meetings or less formal Coffees with the Mayor, and (iii) email your elected officials. We want to hear from you and we are listening.

Nonpartisan System
As I stated earlier, one of the many great things about Scarsdale is our nonpartisan political system. Over 100 years ago, Scarsdale put in place an early form of its political system to combat the bitter partisan feuding of the day. The nonpartisan system has evolved continuously and has stood the test of time as our Village has become a model that many communities seek to emulate.

Our system encourages a wide diversity of thought and lively debate that is based on mutual respect and active listening. We seek extensive community input and we strive to build consensus. We benefit from having our elected leaders represent the community as a whole without embedded interests and we strive to maintain a high degree of integrity. Our nonpartisan system encourages a wider range of participants that might not otherwise volunteer their time to serve the community. As a direct result of our political system, we have avoided corruption, graft, nepotism, campaign finance debts and unscrupulous business dealings in Scarsdale. Our form of government is not perfect, but it has proved over the decades to be well suited for dealing with matters of shared community concerns and the delivery of municipal services desired by residents.

Scarsdale is a wonderful place to live and raise a family – it has been for a very long time and I have no doubt that it will continue to remain so given the natural beauty of our Village in a Park, pervasive spirit of volunteerism, outstanding school system, high level of municipal services, close proximity to New York City and successful track record of our nonpartisan system.

I will conclude my comments on that positive note and will now open the floor to questions and comments.

VillageTaxAlbeit relatively brief, Tuesday’s Village Board of Trustees meeting offered residents a good amount of information about where Scarsdale is headed in the coming months.

“One of the Best” Budget Processes

A day after the latest village budget work session, Trustee Justin Arest provided an update on the planning process, describing it as “one of the best conducted, with greater detail, better analysis, and with a very healthy combination of dialogue and debate among trustees and staff.” The draft village budget for 2020-21 translates into a tax levy increase of 1.986%, or $129 for the average Scarsdale property owner. The property tax cap for the village is 4.84%, or a $1.9 million total increase over last year.

In discussing the village’s efforts to balance needs with cost, Arest said that the first pass of the budget represented a $1,004,330 million or 2.437% increase, and the village has continued to reduce the tax increase after two additional reviews.

“Despite some difficult burdens, including, but not limited to, mandatory personnel compensation and increases, smart planning, some fortuitous additional revenue, and reduced expenses, we’ve been able to produce a budget that is sensitive to pressures faced by our residents without a reduction in services, and… also includes a very aggressive capital plan,” he reported.

The proposed capital plan addresses Scarsdale’s aging infrastructure, while focusing on public safety and quality of life. Village staff have allocated funds to ensure that capital projects are planned appropriately and collaboratively, with input from staff and community, particularly important in light of the ongoing Freightway process. Arest stressed the importance of careful consideration of future “build-once opportunities,” stating, “Whatever we build must be better than what we’re replacing and suit our needs for decades to come.”

Mayor Marc Samwick followed by saying, “As is typical of budget discussions, our deliberations focused on balancing different choices and priorities. It is also important to note that a guiding principal for our work is to propose a budget that, to the greatest extent practical, serves the village as a whole.” He then thanked residents who have participated in budget work sessions to date and invited the public to participate in future meetings – the operating budget briefing session will be held at village hall on Thursday, February 27 at 7:00 pm, and the capital budget session will be held at village hall on Wednesday, March 4 at 7:00 pm.

Voters Choice Part Throws Hat Into Ring

VotersChoice


During the meeting’s public comment portion, Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) announced that he just had filed his nominating petition as a Voters Choice Party (VCP) candidate for village trustee. Scarsdale Village elections are scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, and the VCP will present three candidates who will run for three open village trustee seats – Berg, Sean Cohen, and Bob Selvaggio. They will oppose Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party candidates Justin Arest, Lena Crandall (both currently serving as trustees), and Randy Whitestone.

In speaking about a contested election Tuesday, Berg stated, “It makes it more interesting and involves the residents more in our democratic process, so that’s always good.”

As it was two years ago, the VCP’s primary platform is to provide residents with an alternative to Scarsdale’s traditional single party process. According to the group, “Residents of Scarsdale deserve a choice of candidates for their important elected village officers. These VCP candidates are each exceptionally qualified and committed to provide common sense, workable solutions to the village’s pressing problems, while preserving its character as a village of single family homes.”

Scarsdale Pledges to be Climate Smart

climatesmartAddressing another topic of interest to residents, the trustees unanimously passed a resolution to become a New York State Climate Smart Community (CSC), working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Trustee Lena Crandall presented the resolution, stating, “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… sustainability and resilience themes are woven into the rich tapestry of our community, and our municipal operations and infrastructure increasingly reflect our collective consciousness in that regard.”

As a CSC, Scarsdale has pledged to incorporate 10 elements in future planning and policy making, including:

• Building a climate-smart community;
• Monitoring emissions, setting goals, and planning for climate action;
• Decreasing energy use;
• Shifting to clean, renewable energy;
• Using climate-smart materials management;
• Implementing climate-smart land use;
• Enhancing community resilience to climate change;
• Supporting a green innovation economy;
• Informing and inspire the public; and
• Engaging in an evolving process of climate action.

While these actions lead to obvious positive environmental change, they also are expected to present other benefits such as:

• Cost savings through greater energy efficiency;
• Greater energy independence and energy security;
• Improved air quality;
• Healthier, more walkable communities;
• Conservation of green spaces for recreation and biodiversity;
• Reduction of future flood risk;
• Investment in sustainable and green businesses;
• Greater community engagement around the topic of climate change;
• Grant application bonus points for some state funding programs; and
• A robust framework to organize local climate action and highlight priorities.

The next step is to register with New York State to be designated as a Registered CSC, and then establish a CSC task force, which will advise and collaborate with village staff to develop plans, programs, and activities connected with the CSC

Odds and Ends

The Mayor noted that the official Freightway public comment period closed this past Sunday, but the administration continues to welcome residents’ feedback and input. “The board is listening to the community and we share the community’s focus on school and fiscal impacts,” he said. “As we have said and it is worth repeating, the board will not support a project that does not have a positive economic benefit to the village and the school district, or a project that would harm the quality of education that our children receive.”

Once assembled and reviewed by village staff, all comments submitted to the village will be made public.

Ed Morgan, representing the Scarsdale Arts Council, announced that an art fair will come to the village this summer. After almost two years of planning, the council will host the Scarsdale Summer Art Festival 2020 from mid-July through the first part of August.

The festival will feature a high-quality, juried art show, an exhibition of student art, and a variety of other events to be announced shortly. Local artists, as well as those from surrounding counties and states, will be invited to submit proposals for works in a variety of media to be showcased via a special prospectus that also will be distributed widely in the community.

The Scarsdale Public Library and Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation staff, with the assistance of the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, will assemble, install, and maintain the “Little Free Library” kiosks at Brite Avenue Park, Crossway Field, Hyatt Park, Chase Park, and Harwood Park/Library Pond. The kiosks, promoted by local Scarsdale student Danielle Kohn, will be similar to those offered by many municipalities throughout the country and Westchester County, and are believed to foster a sense of community and beautify surroundings.

Kohn has secured funding for a total of four kiosks, valued at $1,320 in the aggregate, with supporting gifts from the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, Friends of the Scarsdale Library, and the Scarsdale Foundation.

Community engagementThe following was sent to Scarsdale10583 by the Scarsdale League of Women Voters:

League Board Comment on Board of Education Community Engagement

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, Board of Directors (the “League Board”), appreciates this opportunity to offer input and comment on the Board of Education’s Community Engagement Process. The League Board believes that proactive community engagement is of vital importance to Board of Education members (the “Board”). The following thoughts and recommendations have been coalesced from past League consensus statements.

General Recommendations

As the League promotes the active participation of citizens in government; we encourage the Board:

to be proactive and wide-reaching in soliciting input and feedback;
to engage in dialogue with community members and groups to better and more fully understand constituent views and broader community priorities.

Some ways to achieve this would be Board coffees, focus groups and formal invitations to specific neighborhoods for Board meetings.

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 as well as facilitate community understanding and appreciation of the schools.

We encourage the Board to engage in a methodical public process to ensure that resulting Board policies and decisions accurately reflect Scarsdale community values.

The League recommends that the Board:

-engage early interest in District issues;
-actively seek input from residents to identify the range of community sentiment;
-engage in clear and timely communication methods;
-create spaces for dialogue.

Budget Process

In terms of the annual Budget process, the League recommends that the Board:

provide the community sufficient information and time necessary to view any Administration or Board member Budget recommendation within the larger
context of District educational goals, a master facilities’ plan, and through the lens of Scarsdale’s role as an educational leader.

The League believes that in order to understand what is at stake for our children and our community in the budget process and to make informed choices, voters need transparency on all value considerations including the needs that are not being addressed in any given proposed budget, in order to better understand the wider breadth of future District needs and plans.

Advocacy

The League recommends that the Administration and Board reinstate a Legislative Advisory Committee comprised of broad community representation, in order to:

-monitor relevant legislative issues;
-increase the number of community members educated on current issues;
-expand the community’s engagement;
-and to raise an awareness of the often-complicated legislative issues that may impact the district.

The League Board looks forward to further engagement with School Board members on process and policies to best support and enhance Scarsdale Schools and the community at large.

sbamarcyThe Scarsdale Business Alliance, now almost two years old, held their annual meeting at Great Stuff on Thursday January 30. Marcy Berman Goldstein, co-President welcomed the group and updated the membership on the past activities of the SBA and plans for the coming year.
See her remarks below:

Welcome to our first Annual Membership Meeting. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Marcy Berman-Goldstein and I am co-President of the SBA. I would like to introduce Melissa DiFabio, SBA Executive Assistant and Program Director as well as my co-President, Ken Giddon.

I would like to thank Great Stuff for hosting us this evening, Zachys for donating the wine, and DeCiccos and Standing Room Only for the food and water. We would also like to thank SBA photographer, Mark Jessamy, for being here as always!

SBAGroup

As many of you know, the Scarsdale Chamber of Commerce became defunct in 2016, and The Acceleration Project had been acting as the default Chamber in the interim. The Scarsdale Business Alliance incorporated in April 2018, under the guidance of TAP, with the short term goal of continuing the Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale.

A Board of Directors was formed, with like-minded individuals, dedicated to the Village of Scarsdale and its local businesses. Our long term goals were for the SBA to serve as a unified voice of the Scarsdale business community and a liaison to the Village government, manage and direct 3-4 community events annually, host 3-4 Meet & Greet networking events throughout the year, and provide an interactive website and social media presence to promote and unite our SBA members.

We currently have 16 voting board members serving a two-year term, a Village Trustee Liaison and 2 liaisons from The Acceleration Project.

Over the past two years, the Scarsdale Business Alliance (SBA) has built a dynamic organization of approximately 80 merchants and non-retail service providers. We have brick-and-mortar members in Scarsdale Village, Garth Road, Scarsdale Avenue, Depot Place, Central Avenue, Golden Horseshoe, and Colonial Village, and well as home-based businesses and businesses outside 10583. The SBA has several committees that members are encouraged to join, including membership, public relations, events and government relations. Our goal is to engage and sustain our current members as well as continue to grow our membership.

SBAJulius

Last year, in addition to the annual summer sidewalk sale, we held two new successful community events: The Health, Beauty & Wellness Fair in the spring with over 700 attendees, and Scarsdale Music Festival in September with over 3000 attendees. Work is under way for both of these events this year which we anticipate to be even more successful than last. The Scarsdale Business Alliance is not able to support itself and run on membership dues alone. Sponsorship funding and money raised at our community events is critical for our operational expenses.

In addition to these community events, the SBA is committed to continuing the Shop and Dine the ‘Dale initiatives started by TAP.

The SBA board of directors has been working closely and collaboratively with Village officials and property owners to address the current vacancy issues we are facing. In addition we have also been working with TAP and the Scarsdale Forum to help improve Scarsdale and create a vibrant downtown center.

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Some recent updates to share:

4ever Crystals - Glass Blown Store opened in the former Imagine Candy space at the end of October

Akai Lounge will open this year in the former Langes space
The Shade Store will be opening in the Candy N Cards space in March
New Hair Salon will be opening in the former Trio Salon location on Christie Place

Our social media presence continues to grow, with approximately 1450 local followers, and good engagement. Melissa DiFabio has been diligently working to help promote SBA members on Instagram and Facebook. Please make sure to respond to her requests for content to ensure all members are promoted equally. In addition, make sure to tag @scarsdalebusiness in your posts so she is able to repost in our story feed. An eblast was sent with more details about leveraging your social media advertising benefits.

We hope you will take the opportunity this evening to network and get to know our board of directors, SBA members and prospective members.

kindergarten“I decided when she was in-utero to keep her in preschool for an extra year.” 

“I’m sending him to kindergarten even though he’s not five until November because all of his preschool teachers say he is ready.”

“I know someone who held her July baby back from kindergarten because she wanted him to be the first to drive and I know someone who held her November baby back because she was concerned that his friends would be tired of going to Bar Mitzvahs by his Bar Mitzvah time.”  

“My daughter sent her 4-year-old son to kindergarten ‘on time’ because she really couldn’t justify paying for another year of preschool for her third child.” 

“Redshirting” is term used in college athletics to describe an athlete benched for a year so they will be bigger and stronger when they actually play. Malcom Gladwell’s 2008 book “Outliers” claims that a person’s age, relative to his/her peers, is a key predictor of success.  Gladwell helped expand the definition of “redshirting” to describe the parent-driven decision to hold their child back from a natural entry into kindergarten based on birth date and district cutoff. Initially, parents redshirted to gain a predicted “early boost” for their child based on the real or perceived notion that older children outperform their peers early on academically, socially and athletically. However, some studies have shown that the initial academic advantage older students have over younger students decreases over time. In fact, 2009 data from Scarsdale shows that younger students have a higher GPA at graduation than older students.

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According to Edgar McIntosh, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment, re-analysis in 2019 showed no correlation between age at kindergarten start and GPA at graduation. A 2011 New York Times opinion piece suggests that more mature kids may actually be negatively affected by less mature peers at the grade school level. None of this takes into account social, emotional or developmental data points which some parents use to help make their decision.

Anyone who has had a boy in preschool with a birthday in the second half of the year has likely been asked whether they plan to hold their child back for an extra year before beginning kindergarten.  

A local program for five year olds promotes the year saying, “Give your child the gift of an extra year” as a marketing tool. What is this gift?  More sleep and play for one additional year? Going to kindergarten a stronger reader? Not being the smallest on the soccer team? The idea that the child will have a lifelong advantage over others? 

And how many parents are willing to pay the extra tuition? In our survey, only 8% of respondents said cost was a factor in deciding whether to delay kindergarten for their child. The majority (60%) said money was not a factor at all. However several parents commented that redshirting is “a gift” that some can’t afford.

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Parents who decide not to redshirt their child now find that their kids can be 15, 18 or even 20 months younger than kids who have been redshirted. Kindergarten teachers report that teaching four through six-year-olds together can be challenging.

As per New York State law, school districts retain the right to decide in which grade to place a child in school, but Scarsdale and most other school districts allow the parents to ultimately make the call. (New York City, however, has a strict cut-off of December 31st for kindergarten in order “to make education more equitable”). When a parent registers a child for Kindergarten at one of the five public elementary schools, each individual child will undergo an assessment. The school will make a recommendation for placement and if a parent questions this, they are encouraged to reach out to their local school or Eric Rauschenback, Director of Special Education and Special Services. In fact, Mr. Rauschenback published the school’s position on redshirting last year in the Dale Dispatch:  

Scarsdale10583.com sent out a redshirting survey to the community and got a tremendous response rate. Schools in Westchester and elsewhere allow parents to make the decision to delay kindergarten while in New York City, there is a strict cut-off of December 31st for kindergarten in order “to make education more equitable”.  

Many parents wrote in saying that they felt stressed about having the responsibility to decide whether or not their child is socially, physically, emotionally and developmentally ready for kindergarten citing conflicting data regarding the pros and cons. Our local survey results, on the other hand, reveal that most parents don’t want to allow the schools to decide for them. A solid 57% of parents wanted control over kindergarten entry time versus 35% who said they think the schools should make the call.

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The rest wrote in to say they would prefer for it to be a collaborative decision or that it shouldn’t be done at all. “Everyone should go to kindergarten according to their birthday,” wrote one respondent. “This would put everyone on a more level playing field, not having 4 and 6-year-olds in the same class. If they’re not ready for first grade, have them repeat kindergarten; if they’re not ready for college, have them take a gap year.” 

Back in 2013, we asked parents how they would describe their decision to redshirt their child and classified the decisions into three categories called “the three C’s”: compassionate, competitive or coerced.

Compassionate - This parent is genuinely concerned about their individual child’s kindergarten readiness and has sometimes been advised by a professional (e.g. pediatrician or preschool teacher) to redshirt based on the child’s developmental needs.   Some experts believe that children of this type may benefit from special services offered in public schools more so than a kindergarten delay. 

Competitive - This parent has generally reviewed the data that supports redshirting and believes that their child will have a competitive edge over his classmates if redshirted.  This purported “edge” can be academic, social, and/or athletic. 

Coerced - This parent feels pressured to redshirt their child because so many others are doing so and can see that they are skewing the kindergarten entry age. This parent is less likely to take their individual child into consideration when making the decision to redshirt and may be concerned that allowing their child a natural entry into kindergarten means that their child isn’t just 11 months younger than another child, but maybe even a year and a half younger.  

Our 2019 survey results revealed that about 40% describe their decision as compassionate, 14 % felt coerced, 5% felt competitive and 41% did not or would not redshirt their child. Several people commented that they really felt it was a combination of being coerced and competitive, or compassionate yet ultimately coerced.
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When asked about why they decided to redshirt their child, the majority of people did so simply because of the child’s birthdate. The secondary reason was social followed closely by readiness. Physical attributes such as short stature ranked last as parents impetus for delaying kindergarten (Image G). One mom said, “My son gets tired early afternoon and still naps. Full-day kindergarten would be too hard on him.” A few other parents cited speech and motor delay issues as their reason to redshirt as well as being born prematurely. A mom commented, “I didn’t hold back our very young but big and bright son; it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.” Yet another mom didn’t hold her daughter back, “…but now she’s 18 months younger than a couple other kids in her class which just seems unfair to me.” One dad admitted he did it because of how competitive other parents are and another parent said they redshirted because they thought there was a discrepancy between the child’s biological age and developmental age.

A Scarsdale preschool director and “3’s” teacher informed me that in her experience, most parents who solicit help in making the kindergarten decision feel like they fall into the “coerced” category.  “Kindergarten should be ready for children whether or not all children are ready for Kindergarten,” she said. For this site’s 2013 redshirting piece, Lynn Shain, who was serving as Scarsdale’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum pointed out, “…there are developmental differences between kids born on the same day and kids born 17 months apart.” 

So, what’s the answer? Because that’s why you’re reading this to the end, right? 

Jen Meerow Berniker published a letter to her son last year on the Scary Mommy blog, apologizing for being “so foolish” as to conceive him at a time that would result in her having to face the dilemma “…about whether or not to delay kindergarten…the parenting micro-crisis of the moment for parents of 4-year-olds with late birthdays.”   

She summarizes the entire idea of redshirting by saying, “At the time you are going through it, it seems like the most important decision ever, like you are holding your child’s fate in your hands, as if that arbitrary month in which they were born has something to do with who they will become, rather than just a data point in the larger picture of a life.” And with that, Jen sent her 4-year-old boy to kindergarten.

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