Our Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions
Q. We are sick and tired of seeing our property taxes go up and up each year. We want to stay in Scarsdale but are nearing the end of our rope. What will you do to moderate property tax increases?
A. Let’s Start To Reduce Our Very High Property Tax Burden
We feel your pain! Most of the pain is caused by our school property taxes, which account for 63% of our total property taxes. Village and County property taxes each comprise just 18.25% of our total property taxes.
The Mayor and Village Trustees have absolutely nothing to do with and no control over the school budget. The $150 million/year school budget is completely separate from the $55 million/year Village budget, and is proposed by the Superintendent of Schools and the School Board Trustees and voted upon by the public.
The Scarsdale Village budget has exceeded the New York State tax cap every year but one since the tax cap legislation became effective in 2011. Why? Because the Scarsdale voters don’t get to vote on the Village budget. Instead, the Mayor and the Trustees vote to approve the budget. Scarsdale voters do get to vote for the Mayor and Trustees who set Village fiscal policy, and we feel that it is important that our neighbors have a choice to express approval or disapproval at the ballot box.
We think the Mayor and Trustees override the tax cap too early in the budgeting process and too often when approving the final budget.
We simply can’t afford to keep raising and raising property taxes. We are forcing our seniors to move out of town because the property tax burden is so high. This is a great tragedy for our community. So, unless there’s a really strong reason to override the tax cap to preserve essential services demanded by our residents, we will do our very best to approve Village budgets that stay within the tax cap.
Q. We have lived in Scarsdale for forty years. Our children graduated from Scarsdale High School thirty years ago. Our property taxes will rise 25% because of the Ryan revaluation. Our property taxes are so high that we feel we may have to sell our home because we can no longer afford to live here. What can you do to help?
A. We Want To Keep Our Empty Nesters In Town
Three out of the four Voters Choice Party candidates are empty-nesters like you. We understand the difficult choices you are facing because of the ever increasing property tax burden.
We think it is a real blow for the entire community when our seniors or empty nesters can’t afford to remain in the community where they raised their children.
Our empty nesters and seniors are often our most dedicated community volunteers. They often have the time to serve our important volunteer organizations, which define Scarsdale as a community of concerned and involved citizens. Volunteer or not, we value them as our friends and neighbors. But as retirees, or as financially strapped parents paying college and graduate school tuitions while trying to save for their own retirements, many of us find that remaining in Scarsdale has become economically infeasible because of the incredibly high property taxes.
We have to stop the madness – we must bring down the rate of property tax growth for Village taxes to within the NY State tax cap, at the least, by cutting unnecessary spending and living within our means.
As Village Mayor and Trustees, we will do everything in our power to moderate the increases in Village taxes, while preserving the essential services residents desire.
As private citizens, we will speak out to ensure that the Scarsdale School District does the same – i.e., that the school district tax levy stays within the tax cap.
We all need to remember, whether we are empty nesters or not, that keeping the empty nesters in town keeps our property taxes in check and keeps our fiscal house of cards erect. If the empty nesters move out, then young families replace them, which increases our student population and the costs of educating them. Then your school property taxes rise faster. The empty nesters, who pay school property taxes but who no longer use the schools, are the safety valve, subsidizing all the younger families in town. So let’s do everything we can to keep our treasured older residents here.
Q. What will you do about the Article 78 proceeding in which over 150 Scarsdale families have sued the Village to void the recent Ryan property revaluation and roll back the assessment roll to the 2015 values?
A. We Will Settle The Lawsuit To Roll Back The Flawed Ryan Revaluation
We will not waste your and our tax dollars litigating against our own residents over the failed Ryan revaluation.
The Ryan revaluation is legally indefensible, because Ryan has never provided the Village with his model, as he was required to do under his contract. He has never provided any evidentiary support to back up his valuations and his changes to each property’s data card. Expert Village residents have detailed the critical flaws in Ryan’s methodology and his execution of the revaluation. Diligent Village residents have used the Freedom of Information Law to force the Village to disclose thousands and thousands of emails documenting the infirmity of the Ryan revaluation.
The Village simply cannot allocate property taxes on $9 billion of real estate “on a wing and a prayer.” We will, with the Court’s assistance, fashion a fair resolution of the lawsuit.
We will then move forward. We will establish a standing Committee on Revaluation, comprised of knowledgeable Village residents, to work with the Village Staff, the Board of Trustees, and the New York State Department of Taxation Office of Real Property Services to determine best practices for conducting periodic town-wide property revaluations and to ensure that those best practices are followed when hiring a mass appraisal firm and in carrying out the next town-wide revaluation.
Residents are entitled to have a property tax system based upon the fair market value of their properties. Property assessments are used as the base for county, school, and village taxes. Residents deserve a property tax system that does not cause their property taxes to gyrate wildly year over year. Residents need consistency, fair property valuation, and rationality so that they can prepare their budgets to live in our Village.
Q. Why do I feel like I’m driving in a war zone when I drive down our Village roads?
A. Because you are! We Need To Improve Our Crumbling Roads Now!
Our 79 miles of Village roads are in terrible shape. And they have been deteriorating for years and years. Many of us have blown out tires and dented rims on our cars after hitting the ubiquitous potholes strewn all over town. Moreover, these road hazards can and do cause traffic accidents.
Why is the condition of Scarsdale’s roads so bad?
Simply put, it’s a matter of priority. Scarsdale’s road repair policy is to repave each road once every thirty years. That means Scarsdale repaves only 2.6 miles out of 79 miles of road each year. That’s just not enough.
The most basic functions of a Village are public safety (police and fire protection) and road maintenance (keep our roads in good repair and plowed during and after snowstorms).
We have outstanding police and fire protection in Scarsdale. We have horrible road conditions.
Even while keeping tax increases to an absolute minimum, we must repave more roads each year and perform more emergency road repairs.
Right now, road repair comes out of the Village’s operating budget. But repaving a road to last thirty years is a capital project. The only way we will ever make headway to improve our roads is to issue municipal bonds to pay for this fundamental Village service.
Our current and past Mayors and Trustees have refused to issue municipal bonds to pay for more road paving, preferring to use operating funds supplemented by occasional transfers from the general fund if expenses in other areas come in lower than budget. That is a mistake. Given the poor and dangerous conditions of our roads, there is no more deserving capital project than funding a substantially increased road repair program.
Q. Do you support the proposed library renovation project?
A. Yes, We Support The Library Renovation Project
The current Board of Trustees has passed a resolution that we fully support. That resolution provides that when the Library Board raises $7.5 million in private donations for the renovation and that money is guaranteed in or by the bank, the Village will then issue $9.9 million in municipal bonds, thereby providing the remaining sums necessary to complete the project.
Our concern, which we expressed earlier this past summer and fall at Board of Trustee meetings was that Teri Simon, the Library Board President, wanted the Village to commit to issue the $9.9 million in municipal bonds BEFORE the Library Board has secured the $7.5 million in private donations. Agreeing to that would have left the Village on the hook for the $9.9 million bond issuance even if the Library Board could not come up with the $7.5 million in private donations. The resolution, as passed, eliminates this danger. So we are in favor of proceeding under the same terms and conditions as the present Board has authorized. We wish the Library Board well in securing the necessary private funding, and we hope they are able to do so quickly so that bonds can be issued while interest rates are still at extremely low levels.
Q. In light of climate change and other significant threats to our environment, how should the Village government respond?
A. We Support Sensible, Cost-Effective Sustainability Initiatives
We are environmentalists, and we applaud the efforts already undertaken by the Village of Scarsdale to implement cost-effective sustainability initiatives. Many of these recent initiatives have been originated and developed by passionate volunteers in our community.
We are fortunate to have dedicated volunteers who are committed to helping our Village reduce our impact on the environment. These individuals, many of whom are active on the Scarsdale Forum’s Sustainability Committee and the Village’s appointed Conservation Advisory Council, have been the impetus behind such important projects as the introduction of a test LED street light program, the recycling of textiles at the Village transfer station, the brand new food scrap deposit program, leaf and grass mulching education, and the easing of solar power restrictions on homeowners.
We strongly support their efforts. Besides lessening our impact on the environment, these projects will save the Village and its taxpayers money on an ongoing basis.
We will be pleased to work with these community volunteers and Village staff to reduce the Village’s carbon footprint and on other important sustainability projects.
We do not believe that the Village should be a “nanny State,” however. While we strongly encourage homeowners to mulch their leaves in the fall in place on their properties, we will not require them to mulch, and we will continue curbside leaf pickup.
We are sensitive to the concerns voiced by the community during the leaf mulching debate several years ago. Many residents want the Village to continue the curbside leaf pickup program because their properties are not suitable for leaf mulching or they do not want to incur additional costs by their gardeners or themselves to bring their leaves to the Village transfer station. We will educate the community on the benefits of mulching, but we will not legislate mandatory leaf mulching.
Several of the members of our slate are ardent environmentalists and conservationists. Robert Berg, our candidate for Mayor, and his wife, Jill, are financial supporters of Grassroots Environmental Education, an incredibly successful local non-profit that educates about the dangers of environmental toxins, and advocates for safe schools and safe communities. Zoe and Wylie, their college aged children are majoring in Environmental Policy and Marine affairs, respectively.
Trustee Candidate Brice Kirkendall-Rodríguez was one the first on-air personalities in the 1980s in Boston and southern California to launch public awareness campaigns about environmental issues. In his radio programs, he also who advocated recycling and promoted initiatives such as Earth Day.