Town of Mamaroneck
State of the Town Address
Nancy Seligson, Town Supervisor
January, 8 2014
As per our Town custom, I would like to give a brief summary of the previous year, 2013, and a look forward to the New Year, 2014.
2013 was a busy and productive year for the Town of Mamaroneck. We embarked on recovering after Storm Sandy in our conservation areas by rebuilding bridges and catwalks in the Hommocks Conservation Area and the Colonial Greenway and reconstructing damaged streets and sidewalks. The Town joined with five other Sound Shore municipalities in a first-ever joint road resurfacing contract. The joint contract enabled the Highway Department to repave 21 streets.
In 2013, our sanitation workers collected 8,170 tons of garbage and over 2,700 tons of recycling material. An improving economy meant more construction activity in the Town leading to Town Building Department revenues increasing by 15% in 2013 to total $466,064. The Recreation Department served over 4,300 children in a wide variety of programs ranging from Bubble Babies to Babysitter Training. The Fire Department responded to 1,254 calls. The Ambulance District had 2,663 calls and the Police Department responded to 9,590 incidents.
Ours is a busy and responsive government with 123 employees who provide a high level of daily services throughout the year. The Fire and CSEA unions worked with the Town this year to renew their contracts. In a cooperative and mutually beneficial effort the new contracts include contributions to health insurance costs throughout employment and into retirement for all new employees. This will reduce costs for the Town and was a great step forward in collaborating with our employees in recognizing the value of the benefit and the burden of municipal costs.
We are always looking for ways to control costs and increase revenues for the Town. In the recent past we relied heavily on surplus funds to cushion required budget increases. This year we adopted a formal fund balance management policy to guide the Town in the use and replenishment of surplus funds. Surplus funds are savings or funds for a rainy day. Our target is to have a surplus in each budget fund equal to at least 15% of the appropriations in that fund. As of the end of 2013, I’m proud to say that our largest budget funds have surpluses at or above 15%.
Another increased source of revenue in 2013 was the payment of back taxes. In a new effort, we actively pursued back taxes owed to the Town.
The Town completed the property reassessment project this past year. A reassessment had not been done in the Town since 1968. The reassessment project established a fair and equitable apportionment of property taxes amongst property owners. The project took two years to complete, at a cost of $1.1 million, $200,000 under our original budget for the project, and brought the assessed values of property in the Town to 100% of value. The average assessed value of a home in the Town is now $1.1 million. Residents will see the effect of the new assessed values in their April 2014 tax bills.
To our dismay, the Town of Mamaroneck was included in a list of 7 communities that supposedly had exclusionary zoning as determined by the Federal Housing Settlement with the County. We worked hard to show the Federal Monitor and HUD the true nature of housing in the Town of Mamaroneck. We met with the Federal Monitor in the summer and fall to explain the history and current situation of fair and affordable housing in the Town. We proudly showed them the Hommocks Park Apartments, built by the Town in 1993. We toured them around the dense apartment areas of the Town and explained how the three municipalities of Village of Larchmont, Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Mamaroneck are inter-related and form a regional municipal area. We talked about our robust Section 8 housing program. Most importantly, we passed a new zoning ordinance in 2013 that allows residential and multifamily housing in the business and service business districts in the Town. We also adopted a model housing ordinance requiring new developments to include fair and affordable housing. As a result, the Federal Monitor applauded our “exemplary” steps and in December requested the County Executive to remove the Town from the list of communities with exclusionary zoning. This is a great development for the Town and relives a great pressure.
On the environmental front, the Town completed a greenhouse gas inventory that allows the Town to measure its carbon footprint. You can’t change what you don’t measure. And the measurement showed that the Town of Mamaroneck greenhouse gas emissions decreased 17% from 2007. Now the Town will be able to work more efficiently to reduce energy use, save more money, reduce greenhouse gases and set reduction targets.
We know we have to renovate the Hommocks Ice Rink and the Town Center. Both buildings are over 23 years old and have mechanical system failures. The question in 2013 has been how best to structure those renovations. The Sustainability Collaborative, which is made up of local residents who consult with and assist the Town on environmental initiatives, helped the Town understand and move forward with an Energy Service Contract. This type of project structure guarantees energy savings and allows the Town to work through one general contractor instead of monitoring multiple trades. We will include work on the Fire House and Street Lighting as well.
The Town passed a Complete Streets Resolution, joined the Southern Westchester Energy Consortium and conducted two beach cleanups at the Hommocks Conservation Area and the Premium Marsh.
In the summer of 2013 we all lived through the Weaver Street bridge reconstruction and thankfully it was completed before school reopened. I’m sure most people have noticed that the construction of the Cambium apartment building at Maxwell Ave. and Myrtle Blvd. has begun. It is scheduled to be completed in 2015. Thanks to the efforts of the Town Board, there will be 10 fair and affordable units in the building.
Here are some of the initiatives we look forward to in 2014:
We look forward to beginning the renovations of the Ice Rink, Town Center, Fire House and Street Lighting through the Energy Service Contract. The Town was part of an awarded grant application by Pace University to work with municipalities to update their land use codes with environmental initiatives. We look forward to amending our zoning and building codes through this process to reduce flooding, protect natural areas and save energy in 2014.
We also look forward to implementing staff work plans and strengthening Town identity as part of Strategic Planning efforts begun last year. We plan to redesign the Town website in 2014 and have already held planning meetings for it. The website redesign will be part of an entire review of Town/Public communications. We will look at our email blast and robocall systems. We will look at Facebook and twitter and all media possibilities.
I also look forward to continuing our partnership with the Villages of Mamaroneck and Larchmont and the Mamaroneck School District in 2014. I’m not sure if people are aware that the Town, Villages and School District meet regularly throughout the year to update one another on a variety of issues and look at ways to collaborate on services.
We look forward to more fair and affordable housing opportunities in keeping with the Town’s goals.
Finally, I want to thank my fellow Town Board members for their enthusiastic level of work, dedication to their liaison assignments, cooperative communication and genuine concern for the Town. I also want to thank Steve Altieri and all the staff Department Heads for their great work for the Town. We are lucky to have them.
We accomplished a lot in 2013 and I look forward to more work and accomplishments in 2014.