The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

SEPTEMBER 30, 2011


Tax cap veto will hold Bedford’s feet to the fire

For those who fear that Bedford’s decision to override a statewide 2 percent property tax cap will create runaway spending in our community, we propose that the result will be just the opposite.

After a public hearing last Tuesday night that drew more than 75 people and 13 speakers with varying opinions on the issue, the Bedford Town Board unanimously passed a resolution overriding the state-imposed 2 percent property tax cap for the town’s upcoming fiscal year. 

Earlier this year, New York State adopted a property tax cap of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, on annual tax increases permitted in municipalities statewide. But the 5-0 vote last week by the town board surpassed the 60 percent majority required to bypass the cap, allowing Bedford to adopt a tax increase that exceeds the 2 percent limit, if needed.

In the case of a delinquent government, we might worry that this decision is opening the floodgates to rampant spending profligacy. However, Bedford is not run by fiscal spendthrifts; rather, they are a finance-savvy board comprising frugal and well-trained professionals, many with financial backgrounds or careers. They recognized early on that the tax cap was little more than a shell game to shift the burden of costs from one government agency (the state) to others (municipalities). The state, which has no tax cap, can pass stormwater mandates, costs for courts, emergency services, human services, pensions — in short, just about anything — to the towns and then wash their hands of responsibility. In the case of Bedford, which is obligated to build a water treatment plant to satisfy legal demands by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and to protect the health of Katonah and Bedford Hills residents in the Consolidated Water District, millions in additional costs have potentially been added that must be funded, again, spiking the arbitrary 2 percent tax cap.

The town has still not received a satisfactory answer on whether capital costs are included in the cap, and even state legislators don’t know the answer. Yet no one would propose abandoning the water filtration plant, ongoing stormwater mitigation plans, waste treatment programs or other capital ventures initiated prior to the state instituting the cap. Likewise, there is no public outcry for widespread cuts of public workers, police officers, reductions in library hours and staff or other, potentially Draconian, cost-cutting measures at the town level.

Among the first municipalities in the state to override the cap, Bedford is actually putting a spotlight on itself, asking for its residents to hold it accountable. Should the board default on its responsibilities to citizens by using the tax cap override in an unwise or irresponsible fiscal manner, there will plenty of eyes upon them, including ours. Until a meaningful tax cap plan can include mandate relief and other fiscal reforms, the citizens of Bedford, via its elected town board, should rightly exert its ability to determine its own financial destiny.


Welcome post-storm visitors

While it is true that local homeowners fared somewhat better than residents in parts of upstate New York during Tropical Storm Irene, and its sibling, Lee, for those homeowners who suffered flooding, fallen trees, power outages and more, this is scant solace. Even as this is written there are families in Pound Ridge still without phone service as a result of storm-related outages.

And while we were fortunate to be spared the most severe damages, nevertheless homes and businesses are facing up to millions in reconstruction and repair costs, as well as the intangible costs, like Katonah artist Ed Giobbi, whose studio was destroyed and with it dozens of precious canvases and artworks.

After Katrina demolished New Orleans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency took the brunt of blame: failure to provide assistance during the evacuation, its performance during the crisis and its role in the aftermath.

For those in distress, a new and improved FEMA was back in action. The group works by direction of local governments and emergency managers, who request FEMA’s assistance in the wake of a crisis. The federal agency arrived first in White Plains, and two weekends ago, came up to Bedford Hills, setting up trailers in a parking area along Route 117. Homeowners who had suffered losses were invited to come to the trailers in order to receive recovery advice, information on claims, reporting procedures and other post-storm matters. The FEMA workers arrived from around the country, and their expertise was welcomed. Some told us that they had just come from storm scenes in Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana.

It is good to know that at a time when the merit of federal governance is under discussion, an agency can reach out to citizens and provide a helping hand. Recent wrangling in Congress “to fund or not to fund” FEMA is small-minded at best, injurious at worst. Americans reeling from natural or manmade disasters are the last who should be victims of the Capitol’s political football.

The Hurricane Emergency Loan Program provides up to $1 million in no-interest loans for assessment and repair for homes and businesses. For further information, local governments in FEMA-designated counties may contact James Levine, EFC senior vice president and general counsel, for assistance with a HELP loan at 800-882-9721 or via email at irenerecovery@efc.ny.gov.


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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

Editorial

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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