December 15, 2004 Newsletter
December 15, 2004
To My Rye Brook Friends and Neighbors:
In keeping with my commitment to provide you with a quarterly up-date on what’s been happening in Rye Brook and at Village Hall, I want to apprise you of the following developments and future events.
First, to the major highlights of the past quarter:
- In late November, your Board voted to voluntarily terminate the Village’s status as an assessing unit for real property tax purposes. This decision was an evolutionary and almost natural outcome of the Town of Rye’s revaluation process and the adoption by the Town on September 15 of the Assessor’s new real property valuations based on fair market value. By terminating the Village’s status as an assessing unit, we will have, in effect adopted the Town’s new valuations. This is not an unusual occurrence since historically, the Village and Town tax rolls have basically been identical. The Village will continue to have its own budget and set the tax rate for all Rye Brook property owners. The decision to terminate our assessing status will save the Village the potential expense of several hundred thousand dollars a year if we were to institute and staff our own assessing function.
- In addition, this decision will enable us to keep the property assessments current and it also provides residents with an easier means by which they can seek redress if they feel their assessments are incorrect. Specifically, since there will only be one tax roll and one Board of Assessment Review (BAR), Rye Brook residents and business owners need only appear before one body, other than seeking judicial relief, to which their grievances can be brought.
- On this latter point, I should add that at the same time, and as a condition of our agreeing to terminate the Village’s assessing status, the Village entered into a 10-year Inter- Municipal Agreement (IMA) with the Town of Rye and The Village of Port Chester that, among other things, guarantees Rye Brook two “permanent” seats on the 5-member Town BAR (Port Chester will also have two and the Town will appoint one member, presumably from the Rye Neck area).
- In keeping with our on-going promise to provide you with information on the progress of the King Street Athletic Fields project, I am pleased to report that in discussions with Westchester County officials, we have now been advised that the County will recommend that Rye Brook receive $2 million towards construction of the fields under the County’s Legacy Grant program. In addition, the Board of Trustees will also be working with the County in an effort to receive additional monies that could be used by the Village to help defray costs for this project. One such source of funds could be from having the Village take possession of all or part of the county roads in Rye Brook, such as Ridge Street. If we were to assume such ownership, it would only be after the County brings that roadway up to near pristine conditions. This means new paving, new curbing, new sidewalks and new drainage. If we decide to pursue this route, we will not only get a vastly improved street and funds, but we will also gain control over the “look” of this key Village artery as well as when repairs are made.
- As for the fields themselves, on November 30th, at a special meeting of the Board, our outside consultant provided residents with options and costs and schematic layouts for the project. The Board is working on finalizing the most feasible plan, and we hope to make a decision by mid-December, at which time will be charging our King Street Athletic Fields Task Force with oversight on the construction design phase. Based upon this expedited timetable, we plan to commence construction by mid-2005.
- In terms of the quality of life issues, I should mention that among the dozen or so new local laws that were enacted over the last ninety days were resolutions that dealt with the protection of historic and/or scenic roads within the community; protection of our trees; height and setback ratios on construction; regulating and putting date-certain expirations on construction permits; and enacting new “no parking” zones and strictly enforcing reduced speed limits around some of our more heavily trafficked areas within he Village, especially in areas near our schools.
- Finally, one cannot comment upon quality of life issues without mentioning the leaf collection program. While some leaves are still on the ground, the piles are smaller and we will have them all collected, as promised and in line with the schedule that we previously announced. Our Highway Department staff, along with the Village Administrator, the Village Engineer and our General Foreman, did their utmost to keep their promise to the residents. I am pleased and grateful that they succeeded. At the same time, residents were equally diligent in adhering to the rules that were established to make this program effective. I thank you all for a job well done.
Looking ahead to the near future, we have requested that the New York State Comptroller’s Office conduct a review and recommendations of several fiscal matters we face, namely in the areas of cash management, alternative sources of revenues and an appropriate fund balance for Rye Brook to maintain. We have requested that the review take place early in 2005.
Our firehouse is now open and the Rye Brook Fire Department is housed there. Beginning January 2005, as long as Westchester County is prepared to provide emergency dispatch for Rye Brook and Port Chester, the firehouse will be operating on a 24/7 basis with the Port Chester Fire Department manning it on the night shifts, as required under the existing contract. Speaking of which, we are actively in negotiations with the Village of Port Chester regarding a new contract that would take effect on June 1st when the present contract terminates.
We continue to work with the Town of Greenwich and others to help alleviate the problems associated with increased traffic on King Street at the Hutchinson Parkway/Merritt Parkway/North Ridge Street intersection.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank Police Chief Robert Santoro who recently stepped down after his more than 30 years of service to our community. “Spike” retired at the end of November as the head of our Police Department, but not before making a seamless transition to Lt. Theodore Sabato, our new Chief, who, in turn helped make an equally seamless transition of Lieutenant to Sgt. Eugene Matthews. We wish Teddy and Gene well in their new posts.
On behalf of your Board of Trustees, the Village Staff and my own family, it is my pleasure to wish you the very best for a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday and a Happy New Year.
Lawrence A. Rand