In an article in the last issue of River Journal, the statements by the three Republican/Tarrytown First candidates for Trustee demonstrated, among other things, a lack of understanding of many of the issues facing Tarrytown, including the central financial factors that affect our Village. Given the significance of these issues, we believe it is critical that the record be set straight so that the readers of River Journal are not left with a distorted and unsubstantiated negative view of their Village.
Terence Murphy states that he “asks himself how our current Tarrytown government, with a tax base of corporations and waterfront development, can be $46 million in debt.” To begin with, it needs to be pointed out that the current government inherited over $21 million in debt from prior administrations. Secondly, the Village’s public documents readily show that tax challenges filed primarily by these same corporations and various developments forced the Village to borrow close to $7 million over the last 10 years. (these challenges also reduced the Village’s assessment roll by almost 20 percent, resulting in tax bills for everyone else being 20% higher). Moreover, these same documents also reveal that, of the remaining bonds that were issued, virtually all of the proceeds went to restoring and replacing valuable infrastructure, most of which had been neglected by the prior administration. These expenditures include approximately $13 million needed to upgrade our deteriorated water system and nearly $8 million for Fire Department projects, such as replacing two dilapidated and obsolete firehouses and purchasing two firetrucks. Other major projects included replacing both the crumbling Village Hall and a decaying seawall, as well as repaving potholed roads throughout the Village. One wonders which of these projects Mr. Murphy and his team would like to have stopped.
It is equally important for readers to know that at the same time these crucial investments in our infrastructure were being made, the Village’s overall financial condition was not just stabilized but actually improved. Despite experiencing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, our bond-rating — the most important measure of the Village’s fiscal health — was raised 2 notches and has been regularly reconfirmed. Furthermore, not only have tax rate increases under current government averaged about 40% below that of the prior administration, but over the last 8 years, the growth rate of property tax collections in this government’s budgets have come in at about one-half of the 2% tax cap imposed by the State. And this year, because we not only stayed within the cap but actually reduced taxes by nearly 1 percent, Village taxpayers were able to receive substantial rebates from the State.
The candidates’ statements also contained several other distortions and misrepresentations. For example, while Mr. Murphy claims that the current Board is unconcerned about downtown parking, there is no mention that this same Board built a new 23-space downtown parking lot, added another 15 spaces by more efficiently utilizing existing parking, has been meeting with downtown property owners and merchants in an effort to create even more spaces, and is actively working to return the privately-owned Citibank lot to public use. Along the same lines, a statement criticizing the condition of the Tarrytown Lakes overlooks the fact that this Board created the Tarrytown Lakes committee – a dedicated group of Village volunteers who provide recommendation and suggestions on improvements to the lakes and their surroundings – and then followed the committee’s recommendation to install the weed-control aeration system in the upper lake and last year enhanced that effort with additional measures.
John P. Chang’s statements are similarly perplexing. His assertion that the current Board is “not transparent” simply fails to recognize that all of our meetings and decisions are open to the public, and every document related to Village business can be scrutinized by any resident. The only exception to this are personnel matters, which, by law, are not to be discussed in public. Mr. Chang also claims that there is a “disconnect between the Village and the School System.” Again, that statement disregards the fact that Trustee Mary McGee was a member and past-president of the School Board, that the Mayor was a co-founder of the Schools Foundation and that, among other things, the Village makes available to the School District a portion of our DPW facility for the maintenance of school vehicles and our recreation department regularly coordinates activities and facility use with the schools.
Finally, Domenic Morabito’s allegations about Trustee Hoyt are simply false. Trustee Hoyt never “advocated the elimination of the fire whistle by simply using a paging system.” Rather, Trustee Hoyt, along with Deputy Mayor Basher, has been working closely with the Fire Department and Westchester County for several years to come up with a mutually acceptable, multi-layered alarm notification system that would ensure the safety of everyone in the Village while also being sensitive to the many residents and their children living nearby who have expressed their concerns about the whistles being blown at night. The claim that only 4 complaints were received by the Village ignores the many residents who communicated in person to trustees. Mr. Morabito, who also implies that Trustee Hoyt is not concerned with emergency services and community safety, omits that Trustee Hoyt is both a long-time firefighter and an active member of our volunteer ambulance corps. By suggesting
that partnering with the County to operate the fire warning system is “an unsafe choice,” he fails to recognize that 50 out of the 58 fire departments in Westchester have already done just that.
Perhaps what is most disconcerting is that these candidates have offered no concrete positive suggestions or plans for moving Tarrytown forward. The contrast between these statements and the current Board’s record of real accomplishments and improvements to both the Village’s infrastructure and financial condition could not be more clear.
Drew Fixell, Mayor, Village of Tarrytown
Tom Basher, Deputy Mayor
Thomas Butler, Trustee
Robert Hoyt, Trustee
Mary McGee, Trustee
Becky McGovern, Trustee
Doug Zollo, Trustee