River Journal talked with Mayor Erin Malloy and Irvington Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Matusiak.
In the municipality, Malloy said that she and the rest of the governing body is looking forward to working with the 12-person Citizens’ Budget Committee again this year, with the expectation that taxes will increase by less than seven percent, which was last year’s number.
The committee will be looking at both the short-term 2008 operating budget and the municipality’s long term budget needs.
"We hadn’t yet really gotten into [the long term needs] last year," Malloy said.
Over the last year, the committee spent time with the various department heads to find ways to save money. Department heads had been asked to reduce their operating budgets to a point that helped mitigate the costs of the town’s debt service.
Malloy said the town has a capital plan in place, but "invariably, numbers of things are deferred." This year, Malloy said she would like the Citizens’ Budget Committee to perform a more strategic, long term review of the village’s capital needs so that the governing body could follow a plan "rather than being reactive."
What has happened to Malloy’s proposal to combine police departments with Dobbs Ferry?
"That is an issue that has been closed," Malloy said, adding that there had been a lot of resistance to the idea. "It’s our responsibility to look at everything … I was disappointed that the concept was viewed as undoable."
Malloy added that the governing body would continue to look for ways to save money, and pointed to areas where the village already participates in shared services, including the police being a member of the Greenburgh Task Force and the town purchasing some of its items and services through a New York State consortium.
Budget workshops are set to begin this month.
The Mayor and Village Trustees will also review plans initiated by the Off-Main Street Zoning Committee after its proposal is reviewed by the Zoning Board and the Architectural Review Board.
Malloy said the committee’s goal is to make the zoning more reflective of what actually exists in town while maintaining the vision set forth in the 2003 Comprehensive Plan.
For example, she said many of the homes — which had been built in the 1800’s — are non-conforming structures in view of the current zoning ordinances. Ultimately, she would like to update the ordinances in order to make it easier for the Planning Board and Zoning Board to review building applications.
Malloy said she would also like to resolve the two areas in town left unresolved after the 2003 Comprehensive Plan: the former industrial areas occupied by Bridge Street and the Trent Building.
"They are very thorny and difficult areas to deal with," Malloy said, explaining that the area is old and would be complicated because of traffic issues involving the heart of the village. She also said that many people in town feel a sense of public ownership in this area.
"To the previous Board’s credit, they didn’t try for an easy fix," she said.
Finally, Malloy said she looks forward to continued initiatives by the Community Advisory Board. Last year, the board created the Safe Rides Program for teens on Friday and Saturday nights. At a party, teens can call for a ride home "no questions asked."
"It’s not like a taxi service," Malloy said. Teens can’t go to another party. They must be driven home.
In the schools, Matusiak said the Board of Education would be looking at the 2008-09 school year’s goals over this next month. And during the coming months, the board would look into its strategic plan (they are in the third and final year of the current plan) and will update it to extend into 2010. This extension would be approved by the end of this school year.
The strategic plan includes a general outline for the specific goals to be accomplished. For example, Goal 4 is the implementation of the district’s technology plan. To meet this goal, the district is looking into the purchase of assistive technology, such as voice-activated software. Each year, the schools also purchase more SMART Boards.
For this coming year, the board is close to hiring a new principal for Dow’s Lane.
"We have a candidate we’re very excited about," Matusiak said, but clarified that there is no offer yet.
For current educational initiatives, the district is in the midst of efforts to train teachers in differentiated instruction and data analysis to improve state testing. In its character education curriculum, there is a peer-mediation program underway that has high school students helping out middle school students.
Meanwhile, the district will conduct a community-wide survey later this month to get input on the future of the schools.
The district has also completed a drainage report for its fields, and has begun soliciting a proposal from architects. The district will likely conduct a new referendum on the field project later this year.