State Legislative Support for North Castle Hotel Tax
December 3, 2012 Newly elected State Senator George Latimer and State Assemblyman David Buchwald are acting in tandem as they reach out to local municipalities asking what they can do for them.
Latimer says he has always been willing to draft and file a bill for local governments when requested, and plans to submit a hotel occupancy tax bill for North Castle that was requested by Supervisor Howard Arden. "This can be helpful to offset and moderate the property taxes, especially given the 2% tax cap. North Castle deserves to have the revenue stream," says Latimer. He offers no guarantees, but Latimer was successful as Assemblyman when he filed a hotel occupancy tax bill for Rye City in 2006, New Rochelle in 2009 and the Village of Rye Rook in 2010.
Latimer will meet with the North Castle Town Board in the spring of 2013, after the state budget work has been completed. The bill will be filed with the State Finance Committee and Latimer will support the bill and explain why a hotel tax makes sense. He can't promise any results, and says one school of thought is that no new taxes are beneficial now. But the bill will be alive for two years while he is in office.
David Buchwald, Assemblyman-Elect for New York's 93rd Assembly District, said, "I am a big believer that one of my prime roles as a State Assemblyman is to be an ambassador for our local communities. I am committed to working with local officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to see that our towns have a voice through home rule legislation. If a town government decides that it needs State legislation, my standard approach is to introduce the bill. Town officials, the local town attorney and the State Senate and Assembly offices will need to confer to work out the language of the exact bill."
"Having that source of revenue would help take the burden off local property taxpayers. So I understand why Supervisor Arden feels that it is only fair that North Castle be given the same opportunity as other communities," added Buchwald.
Latimer looks forward to working with Assemblyman David Buchwald to move the bill through both houses.
A Request for Hotel Tax to Go toward North Castle Infrastructure
November 30, 2012 Newly elected State Senator George Latimer and State Assemblyman David Buckwald wrote a letter to Supervisor Howard Arden seeking recommendations on issues involving North Castle that he wants them to address this year. Arden responded with a few thoughts: one was a request for them to sponsor a North Castle hotel-occupancy tax recommendation for legislation in Albany; a hotel tax cannot be passed on the local level.
"Hotel room taxes are already being levied in many Westchester municipalities and across the country," says Arden. Approximately ten Westchester municipalities have requested to join the cities and towns of Rye Brook, White Plains, New Rochelle and Sleepy Hollow, which already charge hotel taxes, according to an article that appeared on lohud.com in June, 2012; these municipalities include North Castle, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Tarrytown, Irvington, Ardsley, Elmsford, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings on Hudson and Sleepy Hollow. The consortium of the 10 municipalities wanted the state legislature to grant permission for a three-percent tax on hotel stays.
Two years ago, Mayor Joan Feinstein of the Village of Rye Brook said she was "delighted that our legislators, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and Assemblyman George Latimer, successfully advocated for passage of this legislation, and recognized the need of municipalities, such as Rye Brook, to have alternate sources of non-property revenue to maintain essential services and programs.” Feinstein’s statement appeared in New York State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer's website. Feinstein added, "I applaud their efforts and understand the importance of Rye Brook being the first village in New York State to be given the authority to levy such a tax."
In 2009, the cities of New Rochelle, White Plains and Rye were authorized to impose a hotel occupancy tax. It was passed by the senate and signed into law by Governor Paterson. At that time, Bob Romano, a candidate for the North Castle Town Board, said, "I believe North Castle needs to request the authority to impose this tax. In keeping with my goal to ease our property-tax burden, new and alternative revenue sources that have minimal or no negative impact on our homeowners should be addressed promptly, and would be a win-win for our residents."
Westchester County hotels already charge a hotel room occupancy tax that is three percent for each occupied hotel room. The total revenue from the hotel county tax is allocated as follows: 85 percent goes to the needs of the homeless and 15 percent for the purposes of tourism. In addition to the hotel tax, Westchester County hotel visitors must also pay a sales tax.
The hurdle that Westchester County had to jump through in 1987 occurred when they sent a request to legislation in Albany without details on where the extra taxes would be spent. Arden says of North Castle, "The hotel room taxes are not considered onerous by payers and we intend to earmark this revenue for infrastructure improvements to roads, bridges...."
North Castle currently has one hotel under consideration, with a few possibilities to be added down the road. La Quinta Inn & Suites is located on Business Park Drive in Armonk. The hotel, which features 140 rooms on two floors, has rates that range from $69 to $110 per night. Arden said, "It is estimated that a simple $3.00 per night room tax (for La Quinta) could currently generate as much $125,000 per year." A flat $3 per room, per night, would be more than the 3% tax that was requested by the 10 municipalities, including North Castle, in legislation this past summer.”
There have been two public discussions on building more hotels in Armonk. In 2009, IBM mentioned a plan for a 300-room hotel on its world headquarters campus in Armonk, but the subject has not been discussed publicly since that time. During a recent North Castle Town Board work session, developer Michael Fareri said he was involved in discussions with the Marriott Hotel to occupy his empty office building in Business Park Drive, directly across from La Quinta; he also said he was involved in discussions with Trader Joes.
In the past, the objection to the hotel tax from Westchester hotel owners has been that competition is tough; the hotel industry’s business has been off since the 2008 recession, and any increase passed on to their clients may, in turn, hurt their business.
Conduct During Public Meetings and Public Hearings
October 26, 2012 Much of the following information has been edited from a publication by James A. Coon of Local Government Technical Series prepared for the New York State Department of State and revised in 2008.
The New York State Open Meeting Law (OML) applies to town boards; planning boards; zoning boards of appeals; volunteer fire companies; boards of fire commissioners; municipal water boards; school boards and their committees and subcommittees. By definitions of the OML, any group organized to perform a governmental function must make all of its meetings open to the public. The meetings are subject to several state and local procedural requirements.
A public hearing is an official proceeding of a governmental body during which the public has the right to be heard. If the board anticipates a large number of witnesses wishing to testify, the board may want to limit the time for each individual’s testimony. Limiting statements to 3-5 minutes encourages witnesses to be focused and direct, and enables more people to testify. Lengthy comments can be accepted in written form after the hearing is closed. Should the board consider it necessary, provisions may be made so that extra time is given. If extra time is permitted, attendees should be prepared to allow extra time for everyone.
During public hearings, the board members may want to ask questions of witnesses to clarify facts and opinions presented in their testimony. In addition to the board’s questioning of witnesses, the board may also permit members of the public to question witnesses at the hearing. If it does so, the board should be careful not to turn the hearing into a debate. Open debates of public issues tend to heighten people's emotions, diminish the board's control over the hearing, and discourage some witnesses from testifying. This situation has occurred many times during town board meetings over the past five years.
Open meeting procedures give the public the full opportunity to observe and to participate in its own governance. Open meetings also ensure the local government's accountability to its constituents.
Our Town Board should encourage people to speak. Let's bring back the public comment period at the beginning of the town board meetings. And we should not restrict the speakers’ comments. But civility and respect should always be observed and if necessary, controlled by the supervisor or chairman. The purpose of a public hearing is to gather information which will enable the government officials to make informed decisions. Input from the public is important since a government body does not always have the answers to all the issues. Encouraging people to speak is essential because a better airing of the publics' opinion on community issues ultimately leads to greater public confidence in the decision-making process.
Editorial on Public Behavior by Michelle Boyle
August 29, 2012 A special meeting was held by the North Castle Town Board on August 28, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. The purpose of the meeting, among other agenda items, was to appoint personnel. Just before the meeting began Supervisor Howard Arden said he didn’t want to spend 15 to 20 minutes on issues that didn’t pertain to the agenda, and he eliminated the public comment period that did appear on the agenda.
Mr. Arden said he wasn’t interested in discussing a lot of extraneous topics because some people could not attend the meeting and he was protecting their interests. Several residents didn’t accept his decision to cancel the public comment period because it’s obvious that everyone has the opportunity to see the meeting on TV or online.
Resident Bob Romano said eliminating the public comment period that appeared on the agenda might null and void the meeting. Supervisor Arden responded that they could get a ruling and take a vote on the issue of eliminating the public comment period -- but the Board didn’t vote. It was unnecessary since Councilmen Diane Roth and Cronin would have voted in favor of eliminating the public hearing period, and ultimately, the majority rules.
During the meeting, several citizens wanted to discuss why the Town Board was holding a meeting at 10:00 a.m., in the middle of the week during late August, a time when most people were at work or on vacation.
The agenda of the Town Board's meetings are set by the supervisor. "Public Comment" appeared on the agenda, but Mr. Arden said it was a typo. However, if that were true he should have given the public a chance to speak. If the majority of the Town Board does not agree with the public comments, so be it, but everyone who wants to speak should be allowed to do so. Resident Barbara DiGiacinto commented that Supervisor Arden was acting like a dictator.
Supervisor Arden had reinstated the limit of comments on topic on the agenda to a three- minute speaking rule and said it would be enforced; the policy had been in effect under the two-former administrations. Before Supervisor Arden was elected he said he didn’t like the time limit and would like to see it eliminated. For the sake of time, there isn’t an issue with limiting the time allotted for the public's comments -- there is a problem, however, with not allowing people to speak.
When one resident was censored and not permitted to speak, she said it was not a politically correct thing to do. Mr. Arden responded that he was not concerned about the correct political thing to do, but rather, he was concerned about the right thing to do. In response, the resident said it was not the right thing to do either.
Resident Sam Morell was frustrated because he wasn't allowed to speak at the microphone or at his seat. Councilman Roth responded that if people continued to speak without permission, she was going to have them removed.
What became a shouting match was finally put to rest by Councilman Steve D'Angelo's comment that we should try to conduct the meeting with some semblance of order, but not before Councilman Cronin commented that this was not the Jerry Springer Show where people yell from the audience.
The attempt to silence the public ultimately backfired on Supervisor Arden: Councilman Roth pointed to several residents and accused them of conspiring to create problems at the Town Board meetings. The real question is this: How can people treat each other this way, living in a small town?
Currently, there is a lot of development at stake in Armonk and it translates into a lot of money, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars. It appears that certain people want a share of the money and will do anything to get it. Unfortunately, this type of behavior could ultimately impact future residents and drive down home values. On the other hand, it is an advantage for anyone who wants to buy land for redevelopment. Sadly, we all lose when this level of disrespect for one another takes place at public meetings.
North Castle’s Sales Tax Receipts Alison Simon
April 2, 2012 Will the new New York State sales tax exemption for clothing and shoes that cost under $110 affect the revenue received by the Town of North Castle? One of the primary sources of revenue for the Town is sales tax receipts. The answer, according to Town Comptroller Dawn H. Kertesz-Lee, is that this will have no effect on the Town, since Westchester County does not participate in this exemption.
Beginning April 1, 2012, clothing and footwear sold for less than $110 per item or pair are exempt from the New York State 4% sales tax, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Several Jurisdictions, including New York City, will also offer this exemption, eliminating sales tax on qualified items. Westchester County, however, is one of many New York State Jurisdictions that will not offer the local exemption: Sales of eligible clothing and footwear selling for less than $110 are still subject to the County sales and use tax of 3.375%. www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications
The Town of North Castle’s sales tax receipts totaled $1,540,366 in 2011. The Town “receives a share of the sales tax revenue from all purchases made” in the County. The exception to this rule applies to purchases made in the County’s four cities: Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers are exempt, since cities collect their own sales tax. Lee indicated that “Westchester County does not participate in the exemption; the 3.375% County tax will continue to be collected on all clothing purchases.” As a result, North Castle will continue to receive sales tax revenue from the County.
“Each municipal district’s share of the sales tax revenue received by the County is determined by State law and allocated based on the population of the locality,” according to Lee. A detailed accounting of County sales tax allocation can be viewed at finance.westchestergov.com/sales-tax
Sales tax receipts received by North Castle account for a significant portion of the revenue resources used to create a budget for the overall operation of the Town. This year, according to a Memorandum provided to Supervisor Arden and members of the Town Board by Lee on February 23, 2012, the sales tax revenue projected in the 2012 Budget is $1,475,000. “The Town’s share of the 2011 Sales Tax Revenue exceeded the 2011 budget projections by $190,366” (see the Fourth Qt. Sales Tax 2011 Memorandum above).
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance indicates that “sales tax applies to retail sales of certain tangible personal property and services.” This includes “tangible personal property (unless specifically exempt): gas, electricity, refrigeration and steam, and telephone service; selected services; food and beverages sold by restaurants, taverns, and caterers; hotel occupancy; and certain admission charges and dues.” www.tax.ny.gov/bus
Heated Discussion at Town Hall
Updated February 2, 2012 Councilman Michael Schiliro asked the Town Board to table several appointments for an opportunity to discuss volunteer appointments to several advisory boards in a town board's executive session. This became a contention among Councilmen Michael Schiliro, Diane Roth and John Cronin at the January 25, 2012 North Castle's Town Board Meeting.
Schiliro explained that residents are solicited and asked to submit resumes for all volunteer positions; the Town Board then may meet with prospective candidates during an executive session. After the meeting, the Town Board determines if there is concession among its members on volunteer appointments. Schiliro expressed his concerns with resignations and immediate appointments of volunteers. He said it is important that board members solicit the opinion of the committee members, especially the chairs, when there are committee vacancies. In some instances, this did not occur.
A motion was made by Schiliro and seconded by Councilman Steve D'Angelo to table the Planning Board’s appointment of Art Adelman. Mr. Adelman had previously served on the Planning Board for several years. The motion was denied by a 3-to-2 vote, as Arden, Roth and Cronin voted against the motion.
Newly appointed Planning Board Chairman Bob Greene said, "We have had one meeting on Monday night with four (of five) people. I'd appreciate it if any member doesn't stand on ceremony, whether there was a detail missed here or not. I need a full board going forward-- we have a heavy workload."
"As chair of a different committee," said Sue Shimer, Chairwoman of the Landmark Preservation Committee, "the Planning Board is quite different than other boards in our town. We are looking for someone who knows the town, someone that can jump in with knowledge." She pointed out that other committee members who served on committees such as the Landmark Preservation Committee might understand landmarks, but can learn the history of the town that applies to landmarks.
Adelman was reappointed unanimously, not by a 3-to-2 vote, as orignially appointed. Sorry for any inconvenience that this might have caused.
"Being new on the board, I may not be as familiar with people as other board members. There are a number of people being appointed to boards that I don't know. In good conscience, I can't vote for somebody I haven't met or haven’t seen their resumes. In certain cases I will vote no because I have not met these people. It is no indication of their qualifications," said D'Angelo.
Adelman will replace Beata Tatka; Ms. Tatka, who had served on the Architectural Review Board (ARB) prior to her position on the Planning Board, was appointed as Chairperson of the ARB at last night's meeting.
The ARB has been understaffed; even so, there was a request from Schiliro to table appointments for further discussions among the ARB and the Town Board.
"With this procrastination, we (the prior Town Board) have left the ARB as a four- member board; this town board is willing to make decisions," said Roth. A motion was made by Schiliro and seconded by D'Angelo to table the ARB appointments. A similar action had been recommended earlier for the Planning Board appointment, but was defeated with Nay votes from Arden, Roth and Cronin. Frank Benish and Angelo Monaco were appointed to the ARB by a 3-to-2 vote.
Schiliro also asked that the appointment to the Zoning Board be tabled because it had not been discussed in executive session. "When we have personnel situations, there is a process to review them before they are put on the agenda so that we all agree on it. This is no reflection on the individual, just asking for the consideration."
Arden responded, "This appointment had been on last’s Town Board meeting agenda and we did not have time to get to it."
“If you don't want to grant it, that's fine," said Schiliro.
"These are important boards and I understand we want to put someone on quickly because we have to fill a spot," said D'Angelo. "Putting candidates on the agenda for two days doesn't give the proper attention that the process deserves."
"Don't suggest for one minute that there is some elevated process to do this. Since I've been on this board for two years, it has been a different process every single time. Sometimes we get (applicants) as a red dot (on the agenda) minutes before the meeting starts or we would get an application on the Friday before the meeting," said Cronin.
A motion was made by Schiliro and seconded by D’Anglelo to table the Zoning Board of Appeals’ appointment, but defeated by "Nay" votes from Arden, Roth and Cronin. John Stipo was appointed to the Zoning Board by a 3-to-2 vote.
"Out of respect for people that serve on the committees that were appointed by previous boards, we should consider replacement appointments as a board in executive session, unilaterally, not individually," said Schiliro. He asked that the appointments to the Housing Board be tabled since one of the appointments being considered was an owner of one of the town's middle income units; as a result, it could present a conflict of interest.
Arden asked Town Attorney Roland Baroni to review the confidentiality of the housing application documents and to make a recommendation if there was a conflict of interest. "I'd be happy to render an informal opinion, but I can't do it off the top of my head because I don't know what is in the package,” said Baroni.
Roth said the input of a resident of a middle-income unit could be very helpful. She added that confidentiality would be the same for anybody serving on the board. Cronin agreed with Roth’s comments.
Everyone agreed to table the housing board appointments so they could discuss the appointments in the next executive session, after hearing Baroni's opinion. Schiliro said it shouldn't be done on the floor before they have an opportunity to discuss it in an executive session. "We shouldn’t have names on the agenda, in case they don’t get approved.”
Roth said, "We were just up in an executive session. If you had any questions, you should have said it then, upstairs with us in the past hour, and not have done it on the floor: You are the one that threw it on the floor, not us."
Main Street Armonk
Posted April 24, 2011 Frederick P. Clark Associates prepared a planning and design study of Armonk's Main Street in May 2001.
The study quotes the National Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation which has determined that a Main Street provides the following benefits to a community:
"Main Streets are a symbol of a community's economic health, local quality of life, pride and history. Main Streets provide an important civic forum where members of the community can congregate and hold special events and celebrations.
Main Streets are a good incubator for new small businesses, since larger strip shopping centers and malls are often too expensive for new entrepreneurs. Likewise, the traditional commercial district is and ideal location for independent businesses that keep profits in the community, provide needed local services, support locally owned businesses, support local community groups and projects, and provide stable economic foundations.
Vital Main Street areas reduce sprawl by concentrating mixed-use development in a core that takes advantage of existing infrastructure and community resources. Healthy Main Street areas protect property values in surrounding residential neighborhoods."
Frederick P. Clark's study states the "the Town of North Castle recognized the value and importance of Main Street communities and has commissioned this study to develop coordinated strategies to preserve and enhance one of the Town's most unique resources - Main Street in the Armonk Hamlet. Click to read Armonk Main Street Planning & Design Study dated May 2001.
According to the ASSOCIATION OF TOWNS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK TOWN LAW MANUAL
For Town Supervisors and Town Boards § 3-7. Authority. A. Board acts as a body. The town board, as the executive body of the town, acts as a unit and must function as a body (Town Law §§ 60 and 63). An individual board member may not unilaterally act on behalf of the town board. Thus, each town board member has no more or no less authority than any other board member. Therefore, no board member can legally act independently of the others or outside of the board. This means that no single member of the town board can act for or commit the board as a body to any particular program or policy.
Town Comprehensive Plan Update 1996
Town Comprehensive Plan Is Under Review, Once Again
The Town is preparing to update the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. A Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee has been formed to study a variety of issues including land use, population, transporation, natural resources, recreation, open space, public facilities, infrastructure, commerical development and residential development.
The Town is reaching out to the public for input. North Castle Forward is an interactive website intended to address community challenges online. Particpation is encouraged to help problem solve a variety of issues.
Wifi Coverage Considered for Downtown Armonk
September 11, 2013 Supervisor Howard Arden is considering a plan to connect wireless transmitter towers on town-owned buildings in order to provide wifi, or wireless internet service, for all of downtown Armonk. The plan calls for connecting existing transmitters in a triangular loop of Armonk at the Library, Town Hall and the Recreation Center. Arden also said that there might be a placement in Armonk Square.
The cost and location of the equipment depend on the signal strength and the potential need to boost different locations to strengthen the signals. At the Town Board's Work Session on September 4, 2013, Arden said that the initial cost for equipment and installation in the downtown area is estimated at $20,000 to $23,000. He said that he has approached some businesses willing to provide part of the funding, and that additional funds could potentially come from the Town's recreation funds. Further information is needed to get an accurate monthly projected cost. The monthly cost might be around $200 depending on the amount of bandwidth used. The bandwidth for wifi usage depends on the number of users online at one time. The usage will vary as more people are online downtown during the weekends, power outages, and at community events.
Town Administrator Joan Goldberg said that at a previous meeting she asked an IT consultant what would happen if the local businesses stop paying for their own connections. The concern is that if local businesses stop paying for their local internet connections and run their businesses off the town's wifi, more bandwidth would be used and this would drive up the cost. Goldberg said she will talk with other towns that have wifi in place and see how it works with their local businesses.
"We have a great downtown developing and wifi would encourage people to spend time outside on benches and in picnic areas," Arden noted. "It shows our town being on the forefront of technology." The Town of North Castle is currently an Optimum customer and Arden said he has investigated using Optimum as the wireless server, but users have to be Optimum customers to pick up the Optimum hotspot signals.
Councilman Diane Di Donoto Roth commented “The lifestyle we want to create is someone can go into the park, have lunch, and work while in the park. We want to create a friendly atmosphere for businesses, children and residents. It's another addition to our amenities that we offer above other towns that makes us more desirable."
Plans for secondary wifi towers located at Business Park and Lombardi Park are under consideration.
Town Board Considers Hiring a Town Administrator
June 23, 2012 At the June 22 Town Board work session, board members discussed hiring a town administrator. Supervisor Howard Arden compiled a list of job specifications for the position that was part of the original resolution from 2009; the original resolution had been approved under Supervisor Reese Berman's administration.
A task force, comprised of well-respected and highly regarded residents, prepared and presented a recommendation to the former Town Board which included hiring a town administrator. The resolution states, "The decision regarding if and when to fill the position be made by a future Town Board and that this resolution be reviewed and amended as needed by a future Town Board."
The 2009 resolution was adopted by a three-to-two Town Board vote. The resolution outlines the job description to include the following: coordinate daily functions of the Town; report to and advise the Town Board of the Town's activities and functions; oversee the work of the department heads and coordinate the work of Town employees; and under the direction of the Supervisor, prepare and submit the Town's tentative budget.
Under Supervisor Bill Weaver's administration, a newly formed budget and task force had outlined the job description of town administrator to include more fiduciary responsibilities.
Supervisor Arden said, “Knowing the job as Supervisor, it is my opinion that a financial consultation is not the job of a town administrator. The town budget director should be responsible as the chief operating officer working with the town administrator.”
Currently, there is no budget director working for the Town. Town Comptroller Dawn Gobeo resigned several months ago, and the Town hired a financial consultant as a precautionary measure to review her budgetary items line by line.
Arden would like to start the process by establishing a committee of five-to-seven residents. The committee would include some of the members of the two previous task forces and would be responsible for interviewing candidates for the position of town administrator. The town board members said they would like to set a timeline for hiring someone for the position by September so that he or she would be available to work on next year’s budget.
Arden added that he doesn't feel a deputy to the town administrator is necessary since other towns, including Tarrytown, New Castle and Scarsdale, do not have a deputy due to financial restrictions.
Councilman Michael Schiliro is the only current board member who was on the Town Board in 2009. He voted in favor of the 2009 resolution; however, he said he would like to further review the recommendations of the job descriptions from the two task forces. Schiliro will present his findings at the Town Board's next meeting.
Councilman Steve D’Angelo said he believes he will be the only board member who opposes hiring a town administrator. He explained that hiring a town administrator could cost up to $300,000 per year, with benefits and assuming that the individual would need a secretary; he also asked where the funds for these positions will come from.
Establishing the position of town administrator is currently on the agenda of the Town Board's June 27 meeting.
March 17, 2012 Red-dots items are defined as additions to North Castle's Town Board meeting agenda that are submitted after the deadline of the agenda posting; this occurs on the Friday before Wednesday's board meeting. Supervisor Howard Arden tabled the red-dot items from the March 14, 2012, Town Board meeting agenda.
Red-dots are usually time-sensitive issues that require immediate action by the Town Board. The other circumstance that meets the requirements of a red-dot occurs when there is an inconsequential action, such as permitting a sign under the eagle in Armonk, and the request was not entered in time to appear on the agenda.
The two late additions of red-dot items that were tabled at the March 14 meeting are an Investment Policy Modification, with the addition of The Westchester Bank, and a Credit Card Application with The Westchester Bank.
On the latest agenda, links were posted for the additional items. On one of the links, there is a memorandum to the Town Board from North Castle's Director of Finance Dawn Kertesz-Lee: "I respectfully request the modification of the Town’s Investment Policy by the addition of The Westchester Bank, 2001 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, New York 10710, as one of the Town’s designated depositaries." The banks and trust companies that are listed as designated, and have North Castle depositaries of up to the maximum amount of $35 million, are the following: Citibank; HSBC Bank; JP Morgan Chase; MBIA Class; M&T Bank, Signature Bank; TD Bank; Wells Fargo and Webster Bank.
The other red-dot item added to the March 14 agenda and then tabled by Arden was the credit card application with The Westchester Bank. In the link from the agenda, Kertesz-Lee wrote to the town board members: "I respectfully request your consideration and approval of a borrowing authorization resolution that would allow the Town of North Castle to apply, and if approved, accept a Visa or Master Charge credit card in the amount not to exceed a credit limit of $5,000 from The Westchester Bank."
Arden said The Westchester Bank would extend the town a credit limit of $5,000 per month.
Considering that Howard Arden is an active member of the Board of Directors, is it a conflict of interest if the Town of North Castle were to bank with The Westchester Bank? Arden responded to this concern: "I am actually using my influence to help the town, not to gain any advantage. There is a certain fraction in town that wants to make everything sinister, so we'll go in another direction. We are now going to the other banks we use. One of the banks is Wells Fargo, and we want to find out if they will grant us the same advantages of no banking fees that The Westchester Bank offers. If they are not willing to do so, we might very well bring that back again. If they are willing, maybe we won't change."
Furthermore, Kertesz-Lee's memo reads, "Our existing credit card issued by T.D. Bank North is insufficient to meet the Town’s departmental demands. The $1,000 credit limit is very often at its maximum within the first ten days of the month. I have contacted T.D. Bank North, and to date, the bank has not responded to my credit increase request."
Arden explained that the monthly credit card may be used when the building department needs to buy something from Home Deport. He added that $1,000 worth of credit does not go very far.
Kertesz-Lee's memorandum continues: “With the board's approval, I would like to apply to The Westchester Bank, and allow a local bank to service the town’s monthly credit requirements."
The Westchester Bank is in its fourth year of business and currently has branches in Yonkers and White Plains. John Tolomer, The Westchester Bank President and a Board of Director, met with Arden and Kertesz-Lee. Several Directors of The Westchester Bank, including Tolomer, are listed as contributors to “Friends of Howard Arden", Arden's election campaign for North Castle Supervisor in 2011.
Arden said the town was charged about $18,000 in bank fees last year for various services from different banks. "The Westchester Bank doesn't charge fees, so it seemed like a logical savings and convenience to open up an account with them; however, in the naiveté of trying to speed things up, I suggested that we put it on as a red-dot because we just finished the meeting. It was advised that things can't be done that way and they require more of an explanation so that everyone understands there is no advantage."
On The Westchester Bank website, it specifically recognizes the economic development in the communities of Armonk and Mount Kisco. "From the vibrant downtowns of Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle to the bustling northern Westchester communities of Armonk and Mount Kisco, Westchester County is experiencing tremendous business growth and economic development." It also states on the website that the bank can deliver the products and services needed to fuel the booming economy. Lastly, it says, "The Westchester Bank is a good corporate citizen and partner in the economic development of this market."
Dean Bender, President of Thompson & Bender, a public relations agency, wrote in a press release that appears on the Westchester Bank website dated November 2011: "This past June, The Westchester Bank celebrated its third year in business with impressive financial gains. The Bank, which is headquartered in Yonkers, currently has $250 million in assets. Total deposits for the two offices surpassed the $200 mark for the first time in the Bank's history."
Repair of Town Roadways
Feb. 6, 2012 General Highway Forman Jamie Norris said the major road improvement project for 2012 was budgeted for $1.79 million plus 15% for construction contingency that allows for overage. A bond was issued for $2.1 million for road improvement.
New roads were added to the list of the original eight roads that required work. The original roads are the following: Byram Lake Road, East Middle Patent, Evergreen Row, North Lake Road, Round House Court, Washington Place East, Overlook Road and Lafayette Road.
The work was started late in the fall, and as a result, the surface treatment couldn’t be done: The patch work must cure for 30 days, and after this time period, it became too cold to add the surface treatment. Not included in the cost of the original job is the additional work needed on Byram Lake Road; the cost of this project would be $46,500. In addition, the amount for the repair of East Middle Patent Road, $162,000, which is necessary to protect the repair work until the asphalt can be applied in the warmer weather, must be taken into consideration.
Additional roads added this year for repair are Mianus River Road at the cost of $320,000 for drainage, true and level, as well parts of Pond Lane. The revised total projected cost is $2,875,000. Norris said he met with the Supervisor last year and was told by Weaver that if the work is needed, we'll find the money.
Councilman Michael Schiliro said the Financial Task Force suggested budgeting two-to-three-million dollars a year for road infrastructure and improvements. If supplemental borrowing is utilized this year, a bond resolution will be a process that requires time, explained Town Attorney Roland Baroni.
Norris said he is going to give up the CHIPS’ money amounting to $179,800, which leaves the Highway Department $595,000 in the red. CHIPS is Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program from the State. The program assists localities in financing the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of local highways. If we choose not to do the surface treatment, to true and level the roads (which Norris advices against), it brings the difference to $370,000 in the red. Norris emphasized that either we have to eliminate some roads or we must bond more money.
In addition, the roads in North White Plains need to be repaired. The supplies for Overlook Road have been ordered and the work must be done. If we take out Washington Place East and Lafayette Avenue, we'll be in the black in the amount of $48,000, said Norris.
Supervisor Howard Arden stressed that we need to consider cutting back on a few roads to make up the difference and the decision must be made soon.
A New Town Government
January 4, 2012 This is the first week of the new term of North Castle's recently elected town officials. Town Justice Robert McGoey administered the oath of office to the officials during a ceremony at Town Hall on January 3. There was a sense of pride among family, friends and residents as each official took an oath "to protect and to defend the constitution of the United States and the State of New York."
With their left hand on a Bible and their right hand in the air, they solemnly swore that they will well and truly discharge the duties of their office for the town of North Castle.
Howard Arden was sworn in as the 53rd supervisor since the incorporation of North Castle in 1736. He thanked his predecessor, Supervisor Bill Weaver, and Town Councilman Becky Kittredge for their accomplishments and dedication to public service over the decades. "Thank you Bill for all your information during a smooth transition. I greatly appreciate it. I'm looking forward to working with the new board as a team, with varied strengths to benefit the town, with many accomplishments during the New Year."
Councilman Michael Schiliro took an oath for a second term. Schiliro said, "Thank you for putting your trust in me. It is a true honor and privilege to put my name before fellow townspeople who have chosen me to make decisions on the behalf of the town. You have put your trust in my judgement to make the right decisions and I take that responsibility seriously. I congratulate Howard and Steve [D'Angelo] for joining the Town Board and look forward to working with them."
Councilman Steve D'Angelo was sworn in for his first term. He said, "Our work is about to begin," he said.
Elyse Lazansky took an oath to serve as Town Judge for a third term.
Town Clerk Anne Curran was sworn in for her first full term as town clerk. In prior years, Curran was appointed to complete a one-year term following her predecessor, Ann Leber. Curran was then elected in 2009 to complete Leber's full-four year term. In her eight years serving in the Town Clerk's office as Town Clerk and Deputy Town Clerk, she has served under four supervisors: John Lombardi 1962-2005, Reese Berman 2006-2009, William Weaver 2010 - 2011 and now Howard Arden in 2012.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey attended and said, "I look forward to dealing with some of the real challenges that our constituents are facing. Many people are doing well and others are suffering. Our focus has to be on how we keep the town functioning and to create new jobs; how we need to work for the private and public sector together to preserve the quality of life; how to make sure our schools are as good as they can be; and that our police, fire fighters and EMT are doing everything to protect our community. I look forward to working together to make sure our community remains a great place to live and work."
Is It Time for a Town Administrator in North Castle? By Alison Simon
Updated Dec. 22, 2011 Will newly elected North Castle Town Supervisor Howard Arden follow through on his foremost campaign pledge to hire a professional town administrator upon taking office in January? In his campaign for supervisor, Arden pledged that “Hiring a professional Town Administrator will be one of my first priorities upon taking office.” The hiring of a town administrator was a dominant issue in this year’s race for supervisor, and a critical issue in town discussions since it was first proposed by the town's Administrator Review Task Force in 2009.
Supervisor-Elect Arden was unavailable to answer questions as to how and when he will hire a town administrator and what criteria he will look for in candidates for the position. Arden was also unable to comment on exactly what role the town administrator would play.
The Town of North Castle Budget and Finance Advisory Task Force (ATF) issued its Recommendations Regarding the Position of Town Administrator on September 30, 2011. Those recommendations held that the role of the town administrator be modeled as a private sector-style chief financial officer, and that the town administrator take on the task of performing “many of the more complex, in-depth financial analyses presently needed to assist the Town Board in its decision making.” The responsibilities of the position would include “projects that overlap departments or are town-wide in nature including, but not limited to, managing the preparation of the annual budget, creating and maintaining a capital budget, finalizing the Department of Public Works project or negotiation of leases such as Verizon's parking lot for additional parking on Kent Place.” The report sees "this position as supplemental and not as a substitute for the responsibilities of the Supervisor and Town Board.”
During this year’s campaign for supervisor, both candidates supported the ATF’s revised role of town administrator. Incumbent William Weaver had rejected the idea of hiring a town administrator in the manner in which it was originally presented in 2009 and, despite unanimous approval by the advisory board of that recommendation, Weaver did not incorporate a town administrator into the leadership of North Castle. During his campaign, Supervisor-Elect Arden stated that hiring a town administrator to run North Castle's day-to-day affairs is one of his most important issues and suggested taking money from the salaries of the town supervisor and the town board in order to help pay for the position. Arden suggested that the town administrator's position can be revenue-neutral. The 2012 North Castle Budget does not reflect a cut in the supervisor’s salary despite Arden’s campaign pledges to decline over 50% of the supervisor’s salary.
The ATF recommends a salary of $185,000 to $200,000 for the town administrator and suggests that “the position should be hired by the Town Board, report to the Supervisor and have a term of three years” and that the position be reevaluated after that period of time. The cost of the town administrator may be offset, according to the ATF, by a reduction in the salaries of the supervisor and members of the town board. The ATF holds that “the creation of this position will enable the Town to operate in a more effective, timely and efficient manner and significant savings will result” suggesting that a detailed analysis and review of current town contractual obligations “could possibly result in a savings of at least 2%”. Meaning, for $5 million of the town’s outstanding contractual obligations, a 2% savings could amount to $100,000 in savings for the Town of North Castle.
What is North Castle’s Noise Ordinance? By Amanda Kleinberg
June 6, 2012 Recently, the North Castle Police Blotter has listed several noise complaints that are restricted by the North Castle Noise Ordinance. The Armonk Noise Ordinance “prevents excessive, unnecessary or unusually loud noise which may jeopardize the well-being, public health, comfort, convenience, safety and welfare of its citizens and the peace and quiet of its inhabitants.”
According to the North Castle Noise Ordinance, noise levels that occur from a construction site in residentially-zoned districts during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or during sundown may not exceed the maximum acceptable allowance. When using domestic power tools and equipment, no person “shall operate or permit to be operated any power tool or equipment including but not limited to saws, sanders, drills, grinders, lawn or garden tools, mowers, tractors, chain saws, leaf blowers, or gatherers of any kind when used outdoors in a residentially- zoned district, with the exception of snow and ice control equipment; this equipment may operate only during the hours of: 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays; 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturdays; and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and legal holidays.”
No construction activities are permitted to take place on Sundays or on any of the following holidays: New Year’s Day; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. The North Castle Noise Ordinance also pertains to loud sounds and the use of landscaping equipment. When landscaping, “no person shall load, unload, handle, transport, open, close or destroy any containers or construction material or other materials in such a manner as to create unnecessary noise.”
With respect to shouting, “no person shall shout, yell, call, hoot, whistle or sing on public streets or in public places between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. daily in such a manner as to unreasonably annoy any person.”
Lastly, “Any person violating any of these provisions shall be deemed guilty of a violation and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in an amount not exceeding $250 or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such a fine and an imprisonment.” Currently, most matters that appear in the police blotter are simply handled with a verbal warning.
North Castle's Budget and Finance Task Force
North Castle Budget and Finance Advisory Task Force is a group of business professionals and residents chosen by the Town Board. They have spent hundreds of hours analyzing North Castle's finances. On Monday evening, September 27, several members discussed North Castle's financial future for two hours. They reviewed the the town's past budgets and future issues. Task Force Chairman (and North Castle resident since 1996) Bill Potvin is a retired management consultant and former chief executive officer. Potvin says the goal of the Task Force is to provide independent and objective financial advice to the Town Board.
The Task Force spokesman Monday night, Alex Greene, a town resident for 16 years and a member of the Fire Department, is in the corporate finance business as a restructuring expert. He says we must pay heed to the town's liabilities and give a lot of thought to spending money more efficiently in the future, given the severity of the economic climate. Operating Structure
Greene discussed the town's medical and retirement benefits paid to employees and spouses since 2007 with the expected benefits to be paid over time amounting to $87M by 2040. These benefits for the town's 140 active employees and 67 retired employees have accumulated over the years. How will they be funded? Benefits paid to local employees need to be modified in future labor negotiations.
Improvements in Infrastructure
The town's infrastructure is in need of improvement. The roads and the town's buildings are in need of repair. The committee recommends borrowing $15M of money over the next five years for infrastructure improvement. The cost of the financing would be $1.8M paid in principal and interest per year. Capital improvements require money. The Task Force suggests an investment in infrastructure. Over the last several years there really haven't been any improvements because the town has worked to keep the budget as tight as possible. To rebuild roads and buildings, the committee recommends responsible borrowing.
Revenue in the Next Five Years
The town has committed to rebuild its financial reserves in order to satisfy the rating agencies. The reserves had gone down over the past years. An objective to be met over the next five years is to maintain a 15% reserve in the town's budget.
Task Force member Larry Ruisi, a former CEO and CFO, says all of our homes and and commercial businesses have decreased in value recently. Residents and commercial businesses have asked the town for reductions in their assessed value, as have companies. There is no large development anticipated during the next five years, which leads to the assumption of a 1% reduction in assessed value during the next five years.
Ruisi says annual payments in lieu of town taxes come from contactual obligations by three major corporations in our town, IBM, Swiss Re and Car Quest. This accounts for approximately 13% of our revenues in 2010. Sales tax are allocated from collections across Westchester County. Mortgage taxes are anticipated to grow only modestly over the next several years, as is departmental income such as fees from the recreation programs.
Salaries and benefits are 72% of the town's expenditures. Contractual obligations for town services such as trash collection is $1.1 to $1.2 M. The Town Attorney, engineers and third-party consultants are necessary expenses, as are the minimal costs for supplies, utilities, and principal and interest. 2010 budget expenses are now $23M and are predicted rise to $32M over the next 5 years. A revenue increase of $5.5M to $6M is anticipated. A replenishment of the General Fund balance will bring property taxes to $24M. Altogether, there may be a 29% increase in expenses, 20% increase in revenue and a 37% increase in real property taxes.
Efficient Town Services
The Task Force reviewed the Town's initiatives, including job reclassifications, removing managerial heads, department consolidation, restricting labor contracts, early retirement incentives, shared services, selective outsourcing and replenishing reserves. Each town department will be scrutinized to determine what makes the most sense going forward. Outsourcing services will be considered, keeping in mind the complexity of labor contracts. Sharing services, equipment and manpower with other communities may have advantages. Volunteer services may be considered to avoid staffing at peak levels all the time. Peak time should be seasonal, such as plowing in the winter, parks and recreation in the spring, and leaf collecting in the fall.
The point the Task Force members couldn't stress strongly enough is that "if" the town's financial outlook continues on its current path, North Castle will have an unacceptable 44% increase in taxes over the next five years. The 2011 budget process has just begun, and the Task Force is determined to avoid this outcome. "This is what will happen if we do nothing," says Ruisi, "but we have no intention of doing nothing, and it would be "irresponsible to say that town the Town's taxes will increase 44% over the next five years."
Over the next few months many pieces of the budget will come together. The Task Force intends to monitor and verify the results and hold everyone accountable. There is no quick fix and the Task Force encourages everyone in the town to work together. We may need new approaches, but as Greene says, "You've got to break eggs to make an omelet."
The video above is of the special counsel to the Town Board, Richard O'Rouke, who discussed the town's settlement with Westwood Organic Recycling.
North Castle's Town Business
Chris Carthy is Seated as the Fifth Member of the Planning Board
December 7, 2012 Christopher Carthy has lived in Armonk for eight years. During that time he has built a new home for his family, and has unsuccessfully run for the position of supervisor and the position of town board member. Carthy has been involved in many community services: he has sat on the Byram Hills Budget Committee, the Armonk Outdoor Art Show's Grounds Committee and the North Castle Democratic Committee. He presented a thickly bound analysis for the Armonk's Farmer's Market, as well as plans for a supermarket; his recommendation for the supermarket would involve a public/private ownership and would be located on the town's highway department property off Bedford Road.
Most recently, Carthy has been appointed to North Castle's Planning Board. Supervisor Howard Arden said, "Chris has been an active town member in a number of different committees and organizations." One of the five Planning Board seats was vacated by Bob Greene, who resigned as Chairman, due to a conflict of interest over the Brynwood application. The term for the Planning Board is typically five years, but Carthy's term will expire at the end of 2016.
"In the Town of North Castle, the Planning Board is responsible for the review and approval of all applications concerning the following: site plans, subdivisions and lot-line changes; some applications concerning special use permits, wetlands permits and tree removal permits; and the environmental review of those applications over which it has jurisdiction. The Planning Board may also have an advisory role in connection with some applications before the Town Board, such as those involving other categories of special use permits and zoning amendments."
The appointment to North Castle's advisory boards is based on the vote of the Town Board. Councilwoman Diane Roth said she had been concerned about Carthy's political affiliations. But Supervisor Howard Arden and Councilman John Cronin convinced Roth to support Carthy. Arden said "Chris should be a nice addition. We feel he is very well qualified and are excited about having him join the board."
There is no place for politics for those individuals who serve on the Planning Board. We asked Carthy, "How can you fairly consider the applicants that appear in front of the Planning Board without considering the politics of North Castle?" He said he would get back to us, but we have not heard from him as of this publication.
Carthy's appointment was voted on at the last North Castle Town Board meeting. Councilman Steve D'Angelo was the sole dissident on this vote. D'Angelo said it was no reflection on Carthy that he didn’t vote in favor of him. But D'Anglelo said the process is dismal, as the Town Board members agreed to speak with other people. There was another resident who was interested in the Planning Board position. Unfortunately, that resident was never given the opportunity to be interviewed. Yes, the majority rules, but democracy calls for anyone who is interested to have an opportunity to be considered for a position on an advisory board.
North Castle’s Future Is Underground Power Lines
November 11, 2012 As of November 11 at 1 p.m., Con Edison reported that 6,982 Westchester customers remained without power; fifty-seven of those customers are located in North Castle. The estimated restoration time for all 7,000 customers is November 11 at 11 p.m.; that date is 13 days after Tropical Storm Sandy blew through Westchester, pulling down thousands of trees and poles, as well as miles of power lines.
"We really can not continue like this. It is not acceptable," said Supervisor Howard Arden at the North Castle Town Board meeting on November 8. Arden said he has already gone beyond the Sandy recovery to analyze the situation. "I have been on the phone with Congresswoman Nita Lowey and other officials to work on a strategy.”
In an email from Nita Lowey dated November 9, she said, "Although progress has been made in restoring power to those who lost it during Tropical Storm Sandy, the process has taken far too long, and it is clear that ConEd was woefully unprepared. While the first priority is restoring power to all households and businesses, once that is finished, the state must take a hard look at the performance of local utility companies and determine what corrective action is necessary now and in the future."
"We met with Con Edison after last year's storm, we lambasted them, they took the beating and nothing happened. This time we need to set a plan in action to solve some of the issues," Arden said. In his opinion there are really only two possible solutions: one option would be clear-cutting all the trees (which he does not think will happen) and the other would be putting together a strategy to start burying the overhead power lines.
On November 1, 2012, the acting Assemblyman and since, newly elected State Senator George Latimer wrote to the President and Chief Executive Officer of Con Ed, Kevin Burke. Latimer said, "I would like to formally request, in writing, the results of Con Edison's post-storm assessment of the consumer base in Westchester County."
Arden said, "I commit to you, after this is all back to normal, we will sit down and make some tough decisions. We need to start today to draw up a plan that will eliminate this problem in the future. It may be a ten-or-twenty year plan. But we are dealing with 19th century technology; the wires haven't changed in a hundred years. There has to be a better way to do this and we need to work toward a permanent solution. This problem is bigger than North Castle. We can work with other towns and state and federal officials to put something together toward a permanent solution. Other parts of the country don't have this problem."
North Castle Planning Board Public Hearing September 24, 2012 CVS:Consideration of amended site plan resolution.
The CVS public hearing will be continued at the next planning board meeting at Town Hall on Thursday October 11, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Chairman of Planning Board Resigns
October 9, 2012 Effective immediately, Chairman Bob Greene has resigned from the North Castle Planning Board. His resignation involves his opposition to Brynwood Golf & Country Club. "The sole issue that prompted my decision to resign from the planning board has to do with Brynwood," said Greene. “Supervisor Howard Arden has insisted that I recuse myself from anything to do with the Brynwood application. Arden's request is supported by Town Attorney Roland Baroni and special counsel Richard O'Rourke, based on a threat of a lawsuit by Brynwood, in which Brynwood will claim that I am biased against its proposed project and therefore I should be excluded from all deliberations. I fully understand Howard's concern and his request. He does not want to run the risk of a lawsuit," continued Greene.
As a longtime Windmill Farm resident, Greene expressed concern over the development of Brynwood. Although his decision to resign was his own, Greene had been publicly viewed as ruling the planning board with an iron fist.
"I don't agree that the Brynwood threat has merit and I can't agree to recuse myself, which puts me in an awkward position. I have no appetite for participating in a public dispute between the supervisor and the Planning Board chair,” said Greene. “It’s not a healthy thing for either board (the Town Board and Planning Board) or for me and the supervisor to be at odds."
Greene was manager of Arden’s campaign. Upon winning the election and being sworn in, Arden and the Town Board appointed Greene in January 2012, to the position of chairman of the North Castle Planning Board. Greene's experience as a developer of supermarkets and as a director of several real estate investment companies seemed to serve him well as chairman. He was involved most notably with the New Roc City development in New Rochelle.
"It is with deep regret that I come to this decision, but under these circumstances stepping aside seems like it’s the best decision for the town. I don't want to be the cause of a Brynwood lawsuit which, win, lose or draw, will cost the town considerable time and money,” added Greene, “as well as be a huge distraction for all involved.”
Arden said that no one asked for Greene’s resignation. It was up to him and Arden is very disappointed and saddened. “It is a loss for the town and for me personally.”
Greene's short service as chairman has seen an Article 78 petition filed to annul the CVS special use permit. It was filed by the Concerned Citizens of Armonk against the Planning Board, Town Board, the property owners and developers of the CVS Pharmacy. Greene said his decision to resign has nothing to due with the Concerned Citizens, the CVS Pharmacy application, or the CVS survey that was emailed from Greene’s Florida business address. Greene also recently resigned from the board of Residents of Windmill (ROWI) which had been outwardly opposed to the Town Board accepting Brynwood's most recent application to build 88 condominiums near the 150 acre golf course.
Greene says, "I will, of course, participate as a private citizen in the process of vetting the Brynwood proposal and will do my best to insure that the State Environmental Quality Review process does not overlook the interests of North Castle taxpayers.”
The Town Board will appoint another Chairman by a majority vote. However, in the meantime Arden says that Planning Board member Art Adelman will stand in as chairman of the Planning Board's October 10 meeting, a role he has performed in the past in Greene's absence. Arden says other qualified people have expressed interest in the position in the past and the Town Board will have “to circle back to review the applicants.”
Public Comment For Residents Only
May 7, 2012 Supervisor Howard Arden has implemented a new procedure for the public comment portion of North Castle's Town Board meetings. Arden has amended the comment period so that it is designed for residents only. This allows taxpayers an opportunity to voice their concerns or ask questions, while not permitting paid consultants or attorneys to speak during this time.
Arden stressed that if paid professionals want to speak, they should do so during the designated time, specifically, when the item appears on the agenda. Citizens or clients may speak during the opening of the meeting, now referred to as "Residents Comments.”
On several occasions during the Town Board meetings, paid professional attorneys have been reading statements for longer than the three-minute time period allowed. This situation occurred during a recent town board meeting held on April 25, 2012. During the meeting, Arden announced that due to a full agenda, they wanted to stay within the allotted three minutes during the public comment period.
Clifford Davis, attorney for St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, read a prepared statement questioning the request for a zone change of Mariani's application. Currently, Mariani’s operates as a nursery business. Mariani’s is seeking to make several changes: expand the cafe to accommodate seating for 32; apply for a liquor license; hold social events; and extend hours, all possibly with a new operator. They plan to initiate these changes, while still continuing to operate their nursery business. Davis said the applicant has applied for a catering hall to be allowed to operate at the location, and remain open until 11 p.m. One of the questions that Davis asked included “In this quiet neighbor during the evening, is the zone change consistent with the comprehensive plan?”
Jeffrey Baker, the attorney representing the Concerned Citizens of Armonk, also spoke during the public comment period. Baker suggested that the Town Board lead the review for the compatibility of CVS's application for a special-use permit, in conjunction with Mariani's application for a zone change.
Attorney Dan Hollis, representing Mariani's Garden, said it is self-serving to allow attorneys to comment, except during public hearings. Hollis said the public comment period is being hijacked in the process, with comments that should be allowed only during the public hearing.
Arden said that Town Attorney Roland Baroni agrees that it is appropriate to have professionals comment during the time when the item appears on the agenda of the town board meeting, rather than during the open comment period.
"It's not appropriate for the professionals to present a position during the comment period. But we don't want to go back to the clock, and it would be a shame to spoil this for taxpaying residents," added Arden.
New Procedures for the New Town Government
Jan. 17, 2012 During his first Town Board meeting as North Castle's new Supervisor, Howard Arden announced, as he had promised in his campaign, some procedural changes to improve the town's business practices. Arden says that the Town Board is soliciting bids, with a Request for Proposals (RFP), for personnel service contracts for a town attorney, a town prosecutor, an engineer and a labor negotiator. For now, all of the personnel service contracts are on a month to month basis until we have a chance to solicit bids from other service providers. Arden wants to review the data to determine the most cost effective way to operate. The process will tell us if we paying below or above the norm. "It doesn't mean that we are making changes." Arden says they will interview job applicants and might be able to get a better deal with a local resident who knows municipal law, or if the town attorney, Roland Baroni, continues at a more competitive level.
Arden says he is still in the process of developing the job specifications for a Town Administrator.
The Town Board was unanimously in favor of holding public work sessions on Fridays from 10:30a.m. to 12:30p.m. This will allow the Town Board and the residents more time to focus on important issues. "It is fantastic that the entire Town Board is interested in pitching in to do the job," says Arden. The first work session will be held on Friday January 20, 2012, beginning at 10:30a.m. On the agenda is the F.P. Clark Associates report, "A Formula Business," which is a planning & zoning study (LINK) and the proposed zoning changes to the Nursery Business Zoning District requested by Mariani Gardens.
Arden also said that public hearings on important issues will be held on alternate Wednesday nights, when the Town Board does not meet. "The session will focus on the issue, with everyone having a chance to participate."
Arden has also lifted the time limit used by his two predecessors during the public's comment period. "I found the flashing red light in my face disconcerting, and frankly, disrespectful. I ask the public to respect our time. A page and a half of text is almost four minutes if you read a letter. We would like to stay within that time frame, if we can."
Reductions in the 2012 Budget Cut the Increase to 1.59%
Dec. 18, 2011 At its December 14, 2011 meeting, the North Castle Town Board adopted Supervisor Bill Weaver's budget for 2012 of $29,011,765 with a tax increase of 1.59%. Weaver says the increase is equivalent to $2.39 per assessed thousand dollars of a North Castle home. The average home is assessed at $21,500 and therefore the average home owner is looking at about a $51 tax increase, says Weaver.
Larry Ruisi, a member of the Financial Task Force who has worked closely with the Town Board on the 2012 budget, says the town has taken a hard look at all its expenses. He says the budget increase is below $300,000. Further changes were made to the budget that cut the proposed 1.86% tax increase presented two weeks ago at the November 30 Town Board meeting.
There are several significant numbers in the budget. A reduction in salary expenses from having fewer town employees was offset by about a $500,000 cost that comes from a state mandated pension contribution and a nearly 4% health increase in health care costs.
Weaver says there was an increase in sales tax revenue, as well as an increase of $25,000 in the mortgage tax revenue. The two projected increases of sales and mortgage tax revenues allowed an increase of $50,000 to be added to the contingency fund balance, making $275,000 in reserves. This is below the desired 10% of the budget which has been said to be the minimum needed to maintain the Town's bond rating.
The bonds for the $2.5 million that were borrowed to fund the town's infrastructure and road improvements came in at a lower rate of 2.2069%. There will be $47,000 in interest expenses in 2012 instead of the original $97,000 that had been projected with an interest rate of approximately 4%.
The Town has changed insurance carriers, reducing its 2012 insurance premium by $61,000. The new carrier is New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) which specializes in providing liability insurance to municipalities as a group throughout New York State. Resident John Diaconis, who is an attorney in the insurance industry, says NYMIR is a good company but cautions the Town Board to keep a close eye on future premiums because they can be based upon losses experienced by other municipalities that unfortunately affect all the members of the group.
Another reduction in the budget was in the small claims against the town, which fell by .6%.
Click to view North Castle's 2012 proposed budget: Part 1 & Part 2.
Nov. 1, 2011 Supervisor Bill Weaver presented the Supervisor's tentative 2012 budget with an increase of 1.89% over the 2011 budget of $29,505,263. Over the next two months, the Town Board will review the budget in attempt to streamline it as they have in the past. The initial tentative budget increase last year was 2.84%. During the review period changes were made to bring the approved budget increase down to 1.86%.
Of the taxes that residents of the Byram Hills School District pay, approximately 16.5% goes to the town, 17.5% goes to the county and 66% goes to the school district.
The 2009 Town's expenditure details show that the largest percentage of the 2009 Town's budget was 33.34% for benefits and contractual obligations.
North Castle Ended 2010 in Good Financial Condition
Posted April 20, 2011 The auditing firm of O'Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins offered its unqualified approval of North Castle's financial position as of December 31, 2010.
2010 revenues were $17.426 million and expenditures were $15.984 million. The town underspent its budget by $1,091,000.
A few town budget items were in excess of the 2010 budget. More than $400,000 was collected in delinquent interest and penalties for late tax payments, and $230,000 was collected in excess of budgeted sales taxes.
Uncollected real property taxes of $600,000 were the largest negative variance in 2010. This money will be borrowed from the fund balance. In addition, the amount collected for licenses and permits was $153,000 less than had been budgeted, because there were fewer building permits than anticipated. State aid (which is mainly the mortgage tax) was also $184,000 less than expected.
Underspending in 2010 included $500,000 in general government support, with the largest item being the $200,000 of the contingency budget that went unspent last year. Police department spending also came in $243,000 under budget.
The auditors' annual financial report found the town's finances in good condition and in conformity with generally accepted practices, particularly because of the reserves in the fund balance. The opening fund balance in 2010 was $1.219 million, with a net increase during the year of $1.118 million, leading to a fund balance at the end of the year of $2.338 million.
In 2009 the Town Board adopted a policy to maintain the undesignated fund balance of between 10 and 20 percent of the operating budget. They achieved a level of 13 percent in 2010.
In 2011, 12 percent of the budget has been appropriated toward the fund balance. Bond rating agencies prefer 5 to 20 percent of an operating budget to be set aside in reserves.
North Castle is years ahead of a probable future state requirement that all municipalities establish a fund balance.
In the general fund, real property tax receipts were $11 million out of a total of $17.5 million in revenues.
The largest liability, and a major concern for future budgets, was the $843,000 expenditure that went toward the 77 retired employees' benefits.
Health benefits for the current 122 town employees are costing the town approximately $10,000 per person per year, for an approximate total of $ 2.1 - 2.2 million dollars. In addition, the total expense the town paid to its employee pension plan was $740,000.
The question is how best to plan for long term pension and health care benefits. The union contracts will be reviewed, and Supervisor Bill Weaver says a system of different tiers of employee contributions towards their benefits should be required. Weaver says the town is reducing staff levels as its employees retire, and is trying to determine the optimal number of employees needed to the run the town.
2009 Expenditure Detail. Courtesy of Town of North Castle, Finance Department.
Supervisor: Howard Arden Town Councilmen: Michael Schiliro, Diane Roth, John Cronin and Steve D'Angelo.
Click to enlarge Fund Balance Sheet
Click to enlarge North Castle Mortgage Tax Information
TOWN OF NORTH CASTLE Town Hall • 15 Bedford Road Armonk, New York 10504
Town Board Meeting Cable TV Schedule. Taped Town Board meetings air as follows: Armonk and Banksville - CTV 20: Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:00 noon and Thursdays and Sundays at 8:30 p.m. North White Plains - Channel 78: Fridays at 12:00 noon and Sundays at 9:00 p.m. Quarry Heights - Channel 75: Fridays at 12:00 noon.
Cable customers who have analog cable service only
and are not receiving public, educational and government ("PEG") access
channels can call Cablevision, 1.516.803.2148, option 3, to receive one
free digital converter box. Service will provide one TV access to PEG