Spring is in the air and so is the smell of marijuana. After New York State legalized usage and possession of up to 3 ounces of pot, it seems to be everywhere. According to the new law, people ages 21 and up can:
-Possess, display, purchase, obtain, or transport up to 3 ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis;
-Transfer, without compensation, to another person 21 or older, up to 3 ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis;
-Use, smoke, ingest, or consume cannabis or concentrated cannabis unless otherwise prohibited by state law;
However, when it comes to selling cannabis, local authorities have the power to make their own regulations. The Village of Scarsdale can decide if, where and how dispensaries can be sited in the Village and needs to enact a law or opt out by December 31, 2021. If Scarsdale does decide to permit the sale of cannabis it could be a new revenue stream. The new law imposes a 4% local tax on the retail sale of cannabis which will be distributed to the county and the Village.
You can learn everything you need to know about the new law here:
Village Trustees would like to hear your questions, comments and concerns that you think should be considered in an upcoming Village Board work session on the topic. Please send your thoughts to: Trustee Lena Crandall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Trustee Karen Brew (email@example.com)
Marijuana was just one of the items under discussion at their second meeting as a new board, and work session conducted via Zoom on April 27, 2021.
Here are a more items of interest:
Village Board meetings will now begin at 7:30 pm.
Village Manager Steve Pappalardo said that all Village employees will return to work at Village Hall on June 1. The Recreation Department is moving to Supply Field and their employees will return to work on May 1, 2021. He reported that the Village has lost a dozen employees this year. Many of those positions have been refilled, but some remain vacant. Trustee Ahuja pointed out that according to national business leaders employee retention will be challenging after the pandemic.
The Scarsdale Recreation Camp will be open this summer, operating within the guideline of state and county health departments.
The Village is working with Congressman Jamaal Bowman to see if any of our infrastructure projects are eligible for federal funding. Pappalardo outlined a big list of capital improvement projects that was sent to Bowman’s office:
Here’s the list of projects and the estimated cost:
-Drinking Water System Improvements needed to the Village’s underground water infrastructure: Cost :Up to $20 mm
-Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation; Cost: Up to $4mm
-Traffic Safety Enhancement Projects: Cost: Up to $4mm
-Scarsdale Pool Complex Rehabilitation: Cost: $2.65mm
-Village Hall Council Chambers and Municipal Court Security Improvements: Up to $1.7mmneeds improvements – Cost: Up to $1.7 million
-Wayside Cottage Interior -Cost: Up to $525,000
-Water Meter Remote Reading Network Cost: $500,000
-Heathcote Road Bridge Rehabilitation: Cost: $1.7mm (Grant from NYS DOT received,)
-Hutchinson River Flood Mitigation: Cost: $6 - $10mm (Grant funding of $3.5 million secured)
-Middle School Comfort Station - $115,000 –Possible state grant for $120,000 to fund it.
See more details on these projects here:
The Board continued a hearing on the proposed 2020-21 Village Budget of $60,115,945 which will require a 2.99% tax increase translating to a $151.00 increase for the average homeowner in Scarsdale. When the first pass was done, the tax increase was projected to be 4.87%. The increase was reduced by cutting expenses and by using $2,850,000 in fund balance, most of which was set aside in a COVID reserve fund. The Village realized $1,025,000 in revenues from interest and penalties from late tax payments, some of which were the result of the Village’s new two-part payment system.
The Village expects to receive $1.9 million in federal funds in two tranches from the American Rescue Act which will help in the short term but does not solve the Village’s longer term shortfalls.
The Mayor, Village Manager and Trustees all noted that the utilization of this level of fund balance, over $1.5mm more than last year, is an unsustainable tactic to balance the budget in the future and leaves the Village without adequate funds to protect against unprojected expenses. However, they all voiced support for the budget.
Commenting on the budget, Deputy Mayor Justin Arest thanked everyone for their hard work, especially Village Manage Steve Pappalardo. This is Steve’s last budget as he is retiring this summer and Arest thanked him for his loyalty and dedication Arest noted that the budget process began early and cost cutting measures were enacted. A Covid reserve was set aside and we were “armed with relatively low debt levels.” He said with a new Village Treasurer, Village Assesor and Attorney, the Village has the opportunity to “overhaul their practices,” and said “Scarsdale should be a model for best practices.
Trustee Randall Whitestone made the following points:
-I’ve done my own research on the historic use of unassigned fund balance going back to 2007, and in my reading it shows that our use of balance in this new budget is relatively steep by historic standards.
-I’d echo the point made by others that the way we have budgeted this year, using much of a Covid reserve and dipping heavily into unassigned fund balance, is not sustainable over the long run.
-Quite simply, we’re spending more than we’re taking in, and while we’re in the ultimate ‘rainy day period’ this year, we face some tough long-term choices. And today’s budget pressures aren’t a one-year phenomenon.
-We have some holes to fill going forward in terms of parking revenue, perhaps less robust mortgage tax receipts, and, on the capital front, the need to revitalize the pool and water system. And, based on a year of learning and the Treasurer’s plans for improved tax bill communications, I’m hopeful we won’t see nearly as much revenue inflow from tax delinquencies.
-And yes, we have to look at spending, at calibrating village services to the perhaps somewhat permanent changes we’ve seen in residents’ behavior, from less commuting to more walking, running, and biking; to being receptive to rethinking how we handle our autumn leaves.
Trustee Karen Brew also commended the village manager, staff, former trustees and colleagues for a job well done in difficult times. She said, "There is always a tension between managing the tax levy to be as low as possible while making sure that by keeping tax revenue in check one is not sacrificing the short or long-term health of the Village."
Trustee Sameer Ahuja thanked the trustees for helping him to get up to speed and to the staff for the multiple revisions to the proposed budget. As I look forward, the words that come to mind are “known” and “unknown.” This budget prepares the Village to be ready to fact those unknowns that lay ahead of us. Our process is going to be great and I have faith in the intensity the board will bring to that process in our renewed commitment to transparency and engagement.”
Trustee Jonathan Lewis thanked the trustees for vigorous discussion, questions and debate. He said, “This is our report card on how well we are performing as stewards… I believe that debates demonstrated significant process improvements. The Treasurer provided process enhancements and I expect further enhancements will help us to manage better in the future.
Trustee Lena Crandall echoed the comments of her fellow trustees and added, “During this summer we will be examining whether or not to continue to vacuum the leaves. This was a very controversial subject in the past and the Board would like your thoughts on leaf vacuuming.”
Mayor Jane Veron discussed the outlook for the Village saying, “All told, we experienced a gap of $2.7MM this past year, and we still have no idea what the future holds. While we will be receiving federal funds to make up for some of the shortfall, this is a one-time infusion of cash and doesn’t even fully cover this year’s gap. Non-property tax revenue is sharply down, and we do not have visibility to recovery. Will parking revenue return or will our residents change their way of life and work more regularly from home? How will the related non-property tax revenue line items fair as well?
Our costs continue to climb. Personnel and related expenses drive the majority of our budget, and we don’t have a tremendous amount of discretion over these line items. In fact, we have been operating for a while with open positions and a lean Village staff, placing enormous strain on our Village administration.”
Three resolutions were approved for road resurfacing, curb and pathway restoration and road patchwork. Funding for the work is coming from CHIPS allocations and Con Edison paving reimbursements.
Road Resurfacing of Village Streets $ 2,791,875.00
Curb and Pathway Restoration $712,600
Road Patchwork and Related $375,500
Girl Scout House
The Village Board announced a Public Hearing for Tuesday May 11, 2021 to review projects that may be applicable for Community Development Block Grant Funding.
Since this funding is available for projects for seniors or people with disabilities the Village is considering applying for funds for upgrades to the Girl Scout House which is used by seniors.
Specifically they could apply for:
-Installation of a new roof consisting of removing all layers of asphalt shingles and replacing with new felt paper and asphalt shingles;
-Installation of new windows and doors and new radiators;
-Installation of an air purification system; and
-Demolition of the first-floor kitchen and installation of new cabinets and appliances.
-Rehabilitation of the Girl Scout House Parking Lot
Reminders from the Village:
Gas Leaf Blower Ban
A new gas leaf blower ban goes into effect on May 1, 2021. If you use a landscaper, be sure the company is aware of the new law and complies when performing work on your property. Property owners are equally responsible for compliance, meaning that an observed violation will result in a summons to the equipment operator, landscaping company the operator is employed by, and the property owner.
During May 2021, the first month of the new regulations take effect, enforcement personnel will issue warnings and endeavor to educate landscapers and property owners about the amendments to our local law restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers; however, individuals not complying with a warning, as well as repeat violators, may receive a summons during May.
As we head into peak water usage season the Village asks residents to start conserving in order to avoid sticker shock when the bill comes in. Importantly, leaks of varying magnitude are a substantial contributor to high water bills, yet there is relatively low-cost technology that can help to detect leaks quickly and alert one by cell phone of a problem requiring attention. See some conservation tips from the Village here.
Watch the meeting online here: