Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 10 Town-School Board Joint Work Session Thoughts

(The usual disclaimers apply. This is my opinion. I do not speak for the entire School Board. Your mileage may vary, etc.)

First up was the joint Town-School Boards work session. I arrived at 7:01 and boy did I miss the early fireworks. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the turnout and it was apparent so was the Town Board. Give credit to Supervisor Gerrard who after an initial hesitation due to time and procedural concerns, made the appropriate executive decision to move the meeting to the larger auditorium, although that space too proved to be too small. I only wish there was time for the official video recording equipment to be turned on and used.

Thank you to all the residents who showed up to voice their opinions. As a School Board member I can tell you that I put the most weight on opinions from people who are willing to show up in person, in public, and voice their opinion. Although there was no time for public comment tonight at the work session, the very number of people who took the time to come watch and insist on being able to see a public meeting was impressive and speaks for itself. I obviously was unable to remain for the balance of the Town meeting, but I am sure I will get to read an account of it in the media. Or watch it on NCCTV.

In the event you were not at the joint session, I thought the meeting was productive for three reasons. One, I was able to learn more about the latest proposal and to understand much more about the process and the Town's issues. The Town's consultant methodically and meticulously walked the School Board through the history of the project leading up to the latest proposal as well as detailing the latest proposal including relevant to the CCSD numbers and facts.

Two, I was able to voice the issues and concerns I made in my previous post. Namely that the risk of the revenues not exceeding the expenses of new students (in the development itself or in houses vacated in town as a result of the development) should be borne by the developer not the district taxpayers. Also that the projected declining enrollment of the district is an asset of the district in the form of lower costs to the taxpayers and should not be given away or traded off by anyone other than the BoE or the district taxpayers themselves.

I offered 4 solutions (I added one to the list in previous post) They were to tax all residential development as fee simple, to do a town wide revaluation and invoke the Homestead Act, not approve any change in the residential zoning, or to require the developer to post a bond in escrow that would be used to offset any additional expenses above tax revenues by the district. It is also important to recognize that the CCSD taxpayer may be better off losing the current taxes paid rather than taking a larger loss if the new additional taxes do not support the new students. The lesser of two evils.

Three, I think that the Town Board genuinely wanted to hear our concerns and will take them into serious consideration. Although most of what we said was already said in the DEIS submission of the School Board and other earlier submissions or at earlier meetings, we were able to reiterate the importance of our issues. I also want to believe that the Town Board respects and appreciates the turnout as a statement itself.

I also asked what the Town stood to gain from approving the project. You will need to view a videotape of the meeting or read a transcript to be able to get the answer. Most of the response was a discussion of the legal issues (which are a legitimate genuine concern). I am unable to simply list the benefits as they were not presented to us in that form. Quite frankly, I am not sure I understood what they were if there were any above the 6.5 acres of land that the Town would have to pay to improve.

(Gregg Bresner, Alyson Kiesel and Randy Katchis also voiced their significant concerns. It is not my place to detail them here, but they either reiterated or expanded upon my comments. None were in opposition to my comments. I had the benefit(?) of going first after Janet Benton as President or I would have been echoing theirs.)

The School Board then moved to the High School to have its regularly scheduled meeting. That meeting had some serious issues discussed too. I will make a separate post on the issues from that meeting.

Relevant to this post, at the regular School Board meeting we spoke about the next steps as a School Board to take with respect to giving the Town more information and a submission to the FEIS. I will go into more detail in a later post, but there was general agreement to consider engaging an expert to help with projections specific to Chappaqua and this market as well as to write a submission to the FEIS. In that submission we expect to use data from the expert, to reiterate what we said tonight and to add other data and information as requested by the Town.

I strongly suggest that our submission to the DEIS be re-examined as it is clear in its concerns.



No comments:

Post a Comment