The following article was printed in the February 10th, 2017 edition of the Scarsdale Inquirer.
Last week, Hartsdale homeowners gathered in a Manor Woods living room for an information session featuring appearances first by Supervisor Paul Feiner, Councilman Frances Sheehan, and then Edgemont Incorporation Council’s (EIC) Jeff Sherwin and Jon Lewis. The recently formed Hartsdale Neighbors Association (HNA) organized the evening to learn more about the status of Edgemont’s ambition to become a village, the potential impact on Hartsdale, and the Town Board’s plans to deter incorporation, or to respond should it occur.
The potential impact of Edgemont’s incorporation is drawing increased scrutiny and raising concern in neighboring Hartsdale. The daunting challenge to Greenburgh’s “Town Outside Villages” (TOV) posed by incorporation arises from the fact that Edgemont contains over 26% of TOV’s assessable property. Upon incorporation, more than one-quarter of TOV’s budgeted revenue would immediately disappear. Spreadsheets compiled by HNA members with past budgeting experience suggest that Edgemont incorporation will compel the Town Board to impose on remaining TOV homeowners significant property tax increases, major service cuts, or some combination thereof. The Town’s ability to make proportional budget cuts after Edgemont incorporation is complicated by the disparity between Edgemont’s population – just over 17% of the TOV total – and that community’s larger contribution to TOV’s revenue.
The meeting was held “off the record” to encourage candid dialogue, but a few general observations can be made. The Town Board is certain that incorporation is not in the best interests of Edgemont residents and believes that incorporation enthusiasm will wane as more information is disseminated about the potential financial risks and service challenges that the new village and its taxpayers will face. The Edgemont team, on the other hand, is confident that it has addressed the financial issues and the new village will even realize tax savings for its residents when controlling its budget and no longer subsidizing alleged town-wide inefficiencies.
Town officials and EIC representatives acknowledged that the financial impact of Edgemont incorporation on TOV could be mitigated by Edgemont’s need to procure services, primarily police and DPW. The Town of Greenburgh would be a natural partner for the new village and cuts to those essential departments might be limited if agreements could be reached. Edgemont, however, would hold the upper hand in any such negotiations by retaining the flexibility to solicit bids from a number of local authorities.
By the evening’s end, it became clear that Greenburgh was headed into uncharted territory. Hartsdale, Fairview, and the rest of TOV will be transformed by Edgemont’s incorporation. The status quo, preserved since TOV’s enormous growth in the 1950s, will be disrupted following the departure of a substantial portion of TOV’s tax base. Residents will reassess longstanding assumptions about TOV’s budget and question Town Board priorities. One possible outcome is a domino effect: Ardsley school district neighborhoods in TOV could join Ardsley village, and Hartsdale might explore incorporation. TOV voters facing significant town tax hikes and service cuts would likely take a longer look at school district and fire department budgets.
HNA has scheduled a community information meeting regarding the impact of Edgemont incorporation for all interested TOV residents at the Highview School, 200 N. Central Ave., on March 1, 2017 at 7:30 PM. For more information, friend Hartsdale Neighbors on Facebook and visit http://hartsdaleneighbors.org.