As we move into the heat of the summer, we are often asked to check on our neighbors to make sure they are alright. In our community, which is much like a small town, that comes as second nature to us. Thank you to all who take an interest in making this a better community.
We hosted our third Town Hall meeting in June, and are looking ahead to the fourth, which will be held on:
TOWN HALL MEETING - AUGUST 21st
Ossining Public Library (Lower Level) at 7:30 PM
- Some more facts about the 17/20 issue.
- Continued discussion on referendum to change the Highway Superintendant from an elected to an appointed position.
- Assessments, the cost of grievances and some alternatives.
We showed a Powerpoint presentation describing the process that would ensue if petitions (to annex Election Districts 17 & 20 to Briarcliff Manor) are delivered by residents to the Town of Ossining and the Village of Briarcliff. This process can be long and expensive. We have included the Powerpoint with this update so that you can review it at your leisure.
It is the opinion of the entire Town Board that unless there is proof that this will not “harm” (disenfranchise) any resident of the unincorporated area, we cannot vote to move forward with this. We are willing to meet with the Village of Briarcliff: to this end, I have sent a request to meet with the policy makers (the two Boards) and I am awaiting their reply. The Town administration is willing to meet with the administration of the Village of Briarcliff to present the basic figures we have calculated, and work on analyzing whether there is any appreciable savings or cost increases to the residents of any parts of the unincorporated area, as well as to Briarcliff Manor.
As I explained in the meeting, (which you can view online—please go to www.townofossining.com), there are multiple communities to which the Town Board is responsible to provide services. We are like an umbrella over the entire Town—the unincorporated area of the Town, Village of Ossining, and the Village of Briarcliff. The Board is also the governing body of the unincorporated area of the Town, accountable to all of the residents and businesses. We are responsible for collecting the Town, County, and Ossining school taxes, as well as for establishing and maintaining the assessment rolls for all of the communities. As for the unincorporated area of the Town, we are responsible for resident health, safety and welfare (Police and Fire, Building/ Code Enforcement, Sanitation), and the Highway Department ensures that our infrastructure and roads are maintained and updated as necessary.
Referendum to remove the Highway Superintendent as an Elected Position
In reference to the Highway Department, we spoke to the residents present at our last Town Hall meeting about working collaboratively to determine whether or not to vote to eliminate the elected position of Highway Superintendent in the Town. We have included a copy of the Powerpoint that we shared at the Town Hall Meeting.
Some of the key points were:
- In order to be elected to the aforementioned post, the only qualifications are that you be a resident of the Town and at least 18 years old.
- The position of Highway Superintendent is now responsible for a series of challenging infrastructure issues that are unprecedented in local municipal government, including, but not limited to:
- Determining “best practices” in new technologies
- Navigating increasingly stringent reporting standards within state and local governments/ agencies
- Crafting innovative solutions to our complex infrastructure problems, sanitation, sewage and water issues
- Advanced critical & financial analysis skills: recommending solutions, calculating return on investment for capital projects, cost justification
- The position and corresponding duties are vital to the success of the community. Every election cycle could threaten the incumbency of an experienced and sound Superintendent.
- If this position were no longer an elected one, the Town could hire the most qualified person for the job, regardless of political affiliation. Some exceptional candidates cannot afford the time or the expense of the election process.
- 2012 Salary of this elected position: $89,536.
- The Highway Superintendent controls a budget of $2.2 million: this responsibility should not be determined by a popularity contest, or because the election has been uncontested.
The Town Board’s intention to place this referendum on the ballot this coming November and let the residents be heard. We also plan to continue the discussions during our Board meetings/ Work Sessions, at the Town Hall Meetings, and at civic and neighborhoods meetings.
Assessments the cost of grievances and some alternatives
As you may be aware, we have just completed our annual tax grievance period, and had over 500 residents and businesses come in to discuss their property value assessments. Believe it or not, this number is down from the past few years, and it is owing greatly to the “open door policy” of this administration. Fernando Gonzalez and his team have been meeting with many residents to explain the difference between your assessment and the taxes you pay. At our Town Hall meeting regarding the assessment process, we discussed assessments, the equalization rate, and how they affect you (the taxpayer). We will continue this discussion on August 21st with Fernando and members of his team. In the meanwhile, we have been asked to participate alongside other communities, such as Yonkers, Greenburgh, Peekskill and Bedford, to determine the cost of a collective revaluation of these municipalities. This is only a first step in the process of a collaborative effort to create fair and equitable assessments in our communities.
The high costs of assessment grievances, along with the state-mandated 2% tax cap, has resulted in communities paying for special counsel, court fees, appraisals (sometimes running as high as $17,000 per commercial property), and refunds, instead of allocating this money to resident services.
We believe it is essential that Westchester County work with local Towns and Cities to achieve the goal of fair and equitable assessment, and we will be seeking their help and funding should this project move into the next stage.
PLEASE join us on August 21, 2012 for an exciting Town Hall meeting at the Ossining Public Library. We will be sending out many update e-mails over the summer because we do understand that many of you go on vacation and travel during this season.
PLEASE feel free to forward this e-mail to any of your family, friends, acquaintances, or business associates who may have an interest in these, as well as other Town subjects.
As always, please feel very free to contact me with any questions at:SDonnelly@townofossining.com.
Thank you, and enjoy your summer!
Susanne Donnelly, Town Supervisor
16 Croton Ave, Ossining NY 10562