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From the Mayor: Budgets, Taxes, and Financial Health PDF Print Email


By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Feb. 21, 2018: Last week, I wrote about longevity and stress reduction. In a complete one-eighty, I am focusing on budgets, taxes, and financial health–proven stress inducers!

Our village budget must be approved and filed with the state by May 1, so the staff, trustees, and I are already culling numbers and making projections as to fluctuations in our big cost drivers.

As background, our last village budget was $9,649,646. At this juncture, we know we have scheduled contractual raises for employees as well as a projected health care cost increase of 5% to a staggering $1,930,000.

In the positive news category, Moody’s has called our current credit position “exceptional.”

Our Aaa rating far surpasses the median rating of Aa3 for U.S. cities. Moody’s cited our “robust” financial position, negligible debt burden, and a mid-range pension liability.

Our cash balance as a percentage of operating revenues (46.9%) exceeds the U.S. median with an impressive increase from 2013 on. Our fund balance as a percentage of operating revenues (47.3%) is notably higher than other Moody’s-rated cities nationwide. Our full value per capita ($477,736) is materially above the U.S. median and again increased significantly from 2013. In addition, our median family income equals 378.7% of the U.S. level. Our village’s total full value ($3.1 billion) is slightly stronger than other Moody’s-rated cities nationwide.

In addition, our debt and pension liabilities are low across the spectrum. The net direct debt to full value (0.6%) is below the U.S. median; the adjusted net pension liability to operating revenue (1.3x) is consistent with the U.S. median.

However, placing the village’s financial position against the backdrop of state and federal financial changes of late paints a much bleaker picture.

Governor Cuomo recently unveiled his projected executive branch budget with a price tag of $168 billion, representing a $4.4 billion deficit, the largest gap in the state budget since 2013.

What is most concerning to local governments is the governor’s refusal to increase direct tax dollar aid to municipalities.

Unchanged for nine straight years, municipalities receive a combined total of $715 million, while corresponding school districts receive $24 billion in taxpayer give back. In fact, the governor’s proposed budget includes a $770 million school aid increase, equating to more than the entire municipal subsidy. Infrastructure funds for road repair and maintenance will also remain flat at $438 million, shared statewide. Currently, of each of your tax dollars sent to Albany, 29 cents comes back to Bronxville.

On the federal level, for each tax dollar New Yorkers send to Washington, we receive 84 cents back. The national average is $1 to the Feds and $1.18 returned back to the home state.

Add to this a record high amount of tax-exempt property in New York representing 30% of the property north of New York City. This translates into a $457 billion tax loss. Approximately 23% of the property in our village is tax exempt.

On the national level, I attended the Conference of Mayors last week, and every tax expert brought in to speak truly had no idea of SALT’s (state and local taxes) impact and validity. Governor Cuomo has offered several methods of mitigating the effects, but they are subject to legislative approval and judicial review and he has joined the governors of Connecticut and New Jersey, the three hardest hit states, in commencing a lawsuit. 

As a small counterbalance, sales tax revenue did increase statewide, up $620,000 to $16.6 billion, and 850,000 jobs were added in the state last year. In a tale of two New Yorks, 90% of those jobs were generated from Rockland County south. The state pension fund is extremely healthy, with only Wisconsin and South Dakota in better relative stead, and last year’s rate of return was 4.12%

All of these trends and indices must be weighed and factored in as we craft our local budget. As an economist at the Mayors Conference recently said, “New York communities cannot have property taxpayers as their biggest exports.” 

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

From the Mayor: Living in Bronxville Will Add to Your Longevity PDF Print Email


By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Feb. 7, 2018:  I often write about the importance of preserving our business district and its small-town atmosphere because of the benefit to our tax base, home values, revenue stream, and village aesthetic.

After listening to a TED talk on aging, I can add that living in and supporting our village will add to your longevity!

As an illustration, citizens in the Sardinian village of Villa Grande have centenarians ten times the number we have in the United States and six times the number in continental Italy, just 200 miles away. After years of research, it was determined that the driving force affecting longevity was not diet quality, level of exercise, or genetics. Rather, no resident lived a solitary life, as they were constantly surrounded by family, friends, shopkeepers, and neighbors, and they constantly intersected in village life. In addition, the topography of Villa Grande itself lent to interconnection, as the population was small, streets narrow, housing was high-density, and there were several village squares – not unlike a description of Bronxville.

A recent study at Brigham Young corroborated the Villa Grande experience on a US level. Their results demonstrated that having close relationships, more than a life without smoking, drinking, or heart disease, is a predictor of longevity. How many people one talks to during the day, both those you are close to and those who are a passing acquaintance, has a direct effect on one’s health.

Studies at the University of Chicago determined that direct human contact caused neurotransmitters in the brain to release dopamine, a natural mood elevator, as well as oxytocin, which lowers the cortisol or stress hormones – simply through eye to eye contact, the brain is also engaged on multiple complex levels.

Sadly, the study hypothesized that social isolation could soon be our number-one health issue, as over one-third of the population polled said they had two or fewer people they could lean on, and one-quarter of those surveyed said they have no one to talk to. This is further magnified by the fact that now one in three Americans over the age of 65 lives alone.

In addition, Americans now spend a staggering 11 hours a day on the computer, on the phone, and/or watching TV, eclipsing the amount of time we dedicate to sleep.

Worldwide, women live on average six to eight years longer than their male counterparts, and studies are linking it to women’s propensity to prioritize their personal friendships.

In nursing home studies, the lowest rates of dementia onset were in the highly socially engaged, and social contact proved better than a pill regime for a group of men recovering from strokes.

In essence, there is a biological imperative to know that we belong somewhere. As Emily Dickinson wrote of loneliness, it’s "the Horror not to be surveyed.”

There is also a growing body of research demonstrating a connection between these human health needs and the designs of towns, and many of the prototypes now envisioned look much like our own village.

How insightful of our forefathers to design Bronxville in the way that they did. Now I would argue it is our duty to capitalize on their forward thinking.

This goal is a major priority of the trustees for 2018 – to revisit our community plan and identify local assets and create a strategic plan based on our unique attributes.

As examples:  The walkability of the village to our schools, houses of worship, transportation, and shopping; the infrastructure of a commercial downtown with space for businesses of every size and consumer need; varied housing stock from studio apartments to multi-bedroom homes in a dense configuration; a significant age diversity from toddlers to a strong, active senior population; an extremely safe living environment, yet so close to a world city; the value residents place on quality of life, aesthetics, and open parkland.

We hope to engage many of you as the process moves forward, but in the interim, meet our shopkeepers, learn the names of the folks making your morning coffee, check in on your neighbor, help a senior, chat with your postman, and talk to the students out for lunch. A true community doesn’t magically appear, rather, it stems from a series of small actions over time.

Your health and the health of the village depend on it!

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

From the Mayor: Village Challenges and Priorities for Coming Year PDF Print Email


By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Jan. 31, 2018:  In my first official village-centric column of the new year, I wanted to share with you what the board of trustees has determined to be priorities for the upcoming year.

Truly, the year promises to be one of the busiest I can recollect, as so many major projects are on the front burner.

As an overview 

Garage for Our Public Works Staff and Equipment:  Built in 1942, and not substantially remodeled since, our current facility has a compromised infrastructure. Leaking in so many spots, the building cannot hold our equipment, necessitating outdoor storage, which halves the life of most of our intricate vehicles. Repairs also have to be made in the freezing cold and on a public street.

Last year, we sought proposals, which resulted in estimates much higher than anticipated, so we are going back to the drawing board. Regardless of the scope, something has to be done to improve working conditions and storage of millions of dollars of equipment.

Update Zoning and Planning Regulations:  In light of changing residential and business realities, our overall zoning and planning regulations must be updated to reflect the current climate.

As an example, due to the popularity of Internet shopping, stores want to operate in the village with a service component or solely as a service, such as exercise studios and restaurants.

On the residential side, teardowns, tree removals, and multiyear construction projects need to be addressed with new rules and regulations. The quality of life of neighbors must have a more central role in our consideration of permits and approvals.

Upgrade to Village Commercial and Residential Lighting:  We currently have the most inefficient lighting system possible, employing 189 Watt incandescent bulbs on most of our streets, near both homes and businesses. We will move slowly, especially in residential areas, as needs are very different depending on street width, topography, and density of homes. Our neighbors in Scarsdale are ahead of us in the process, and we are learning from their rollout. Certainly, aesthetics is a major factor throughout the village. In the business district, other factors must be considered, including insurance and liability issues, traffic flow concerns, and illumination needs when businesses are closed.

Teamsters Labor Negotiations:  Our public works department employees are represented by the Teamsters. We are currently in constructive talks to craft a new agreement going forward. As would be no surprise, health care coverage and contribution rates are the main issues under discussion.

Infrastructure Improvements:  We continue on our aggressive course to repair our 100-plus-year-old infrastructure in a methodical way to avoid patchwork emergency deferred-maintenance issues, which are much more costly. The sewer system is currently our main focus as we enter Phase Two of pipe repair and relining.

Midland Avenue/Pondfield Road Intersection:  We continue to seek a light/walk configuration that will improve pedestrian flow, in particular, as we encourage residents to embrace a more walking environment. In recent years, more stringent state rules apply when an intersection is reconfigured (witness what we were required to do near St. Joseph’s Church), and we are conscious of the unobstructed beauty of the village’s crossroads at Pondfield and Midland. Currently, we are reviewing many options, aware that an improvement is warranted.

Budget:  Starting in early February, the trustees, staff, and I begin a very comprehensive review of our spending in anticipation of a new budget being crafted and adopted by May 1, 2018. 

Municipal expenditures are 19% of every village tax dollar. Given the recently passed tax laws, we are acutely aware of the added burden placed on Westchester County residents in particular.

Kensington Road Improvements:  As the Villa BXV project nears successful completion, we are looking toward upgrading the nearby Bacon Woods Park, sidewalks, and intersections that were left in limbo as we awaited positive development on the long unattractive Kensington parking lot. The village owns Bacon Woods, a hidden gem that is a 1.6-plus-acre park straddling Kensington and Sagamore Roads, which warrants upgrading and refurbishing.

Business District Revitalization:  Extremely important to the value of everything in the village, we continue to work with our chamber of commerce, standing committees, merchants, and landlords to not only fill the vacant storefronts but ensure that we have the optimal mix of businesses to promote stability and profit.

Parking Opportunities:  We are actively working with various property owners and village entities to increase our inventory through village ownership and/or public/private partnerships.

Smaller in Scope but Equally Important: 

  • Constant refurbishing and maintenance of the condition and attractiveness of village public spaces

  • Village Hall

    • Improvement of our website

    • Startup of the community garden

    • Repairs to the library’s HVAC system

    • Upgrades to court security, phone system, parking software, records retrieval, and cameras

    • Improvement of our green efforts re composting and recycling volume

    • Replacement of street trees lost over the years to age, storm, and disease

Our overarching goal is to make the village the most efficiently run, fiscally responsible, attractive, and inviting place to live. 

As most residents did, we came to the village for the excellence of the public school system. The task of the municipal government is to offer enough services and amenities within a very small budget for you to want to make the village home long after the children are off to college. 

For long-term sustainability, it is imperative that we keep a healthy balance between school and non-school families and encourage lifetime investment in our community. 

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases and articles from local institutions and legislators. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements in those press releases and articles and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

From the Mayor: Laws Passed in Other States in 2017 PDF Print Email


By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Jan. 17, 2018:  In last week’s column, I highlighted some of the 500-plus laws passed in the last session of the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

I thought it further useful to research what was passed in other states in 2017, as they often share a commonality of purpose or act as a forecast as to what may affect New Yorkers going forward.

Nationally, the themes centered on very specific societal issues: opioid addiction--both stricter laws and medical assistance--human trafficking, the legalization of marijuana, EpiPen usage in public facilities, and gun control. Literally dozens of states enacted legislation pertaining to all of the above subjects. In addition, the minimum wage was raised in 14 states, and soda taxes are clearly gaining traction.

Closer to home, New Jersey and Connecticut covered most of the above topics, but the New Jersey Legislature focused on reducing the tax burden as it competes with New York for one of the most expensive places to live. To that end, the sales tax was lowered to 6.875 from 7%; the amount of retirement income excluded from state income taxes will increase fivefold; and the estate tax exemption now rises to $2million.

Connecticut added two potentially groundbreaking pieces of legislation that I believe will be copied in other states going forward: Employers are now not allowed to ask a job applicant if they have prior arrests or convictions on an initial job application, and most insurance policies will be required to cover 3D and more advanced mammogram procedures.

Our neighbors in Vermont are trying to come to terms with their particularly acute opioid epidemic by passing some very strict drug laws. As an example, anyone convicted of selling fentanyl can now receive a prison term of 20 years and a million-dollar fine.

A Vermont law that I think should be nationwide is the requirement that anyone seeking public office or a high-level government staff position must disclose all business ownerships and sources of income above $5,000. In addition, officeholders may not become lobbyists immediately upon leaving office.

In a portend of things to come, the Utah Legislature added a 4.7% sales tax on all Amazon purchases since they are losing $200 million-plus every year in this revenue stream. In the same vein, California now grants lower-level felons the right to vote, and no one under the age of 18 can be charged with prostitution.

I would be remiss if I did not mention other new California initiatives, as their legislature was the most pro-life, passing almost 900 new laws. 

  • Victims cannot ever consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication. 

  • All single-user toilets must be gender neutral. 

  • Terminally ill patients can choose to end their lives using experimental drugs not receiving full FDA approval. Health plans may cover their costs, and physicians who recommend them are exempt from any disciplinary actions. 

  • Parents must be notified by any sports league if their child’s head was hit, and all coaches and sports administrators must receive concussion training and abide by new protocols when assessing head injuries. 

  • The term Redskins cannot be used by any public school sports team or as a mascot.

  • Gun magazines of more than ten bullets are now strictly banned.

Illinois, in the first of its kind, enacted a law requiring cosmetologists to undergo training to recognize physical signs of sexual and domestic violence.

Finally, every year, the states do not disappoint and enact laws that are esoteric, fun, a little zany, or just plain head-scratchers.

  • In California, barbershops and hair salons may serve free beer and wine to customers until 10:00 pm (I couldn't find a prohibition on start time!?)

  • North Carolina did not overturn the ban on restricting bingo games to five hours.

  • Golf carts may now be driven in Ohio on all roads with a speed limit up to 35 mph. This law would permit them on every street in Bronxville!

  • In Utah, marriage is against the law between cousins only if you are younger than 65 years old.

  • Oregon has banned the use of sky lanterns, but not fireworks, due to the potential for fire.

  • In one of the last states in the Union, Pennsylvania now allows one to buy a six-pack of beer, but not a case, in a grocery store instead of the state-run package store.

  • In an effort to be more green?? California now allows burials only 3.5 feet deep vs the traditional five-foot requirement.

And I end with my favorite, from California – In an effort to reduce the amount of gas from cows, Senate Bill #1383 approved a system of tubes and attached backpacks to filter and capture the gas – a dreadful visual indeed!!

From the Mayor: Some Substantive Bills Enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2017 PDF Print Email


By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Jan. 10, 2018:  January signals the enactment of many laws passed by the New York State Legislature in its 2017 session.

Over 500 bills were signed into law with a goodly number having an effect on village residents.

When seeing 500 new laws passed, I think of the quote on less government that I often refer to, reputedly expressed by Mark Twain, that “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” California beat us by a country mile with over 900 new laws enacted. Many were very substantive and directed to issues of great impact, including opioid addiction, domestic violence, and cancer screening.

The following is a brief description of some of the more substantive bills enacted.


  • Insurers are now mandated to cover the cost of the anti-overdose drug naloxone and cover treatment of substance abuse without a preauthorization requirement.

  • Doctors can now prescribe new and often more costly drugs for serious illnesses without first waiting for the less expensive alternatives to “fail” per most insurance company protocols.

  • Individuals with emotional/drug-related problems may be committed for 72 hours for medical observation vs 24 hours.

  • County health departments now must report and make public opiate overdose data as well as the quantity of Narcan purchased and used.

  • There is now a requirement to post a human trafficking help hotline number at highway rest stops, airports, bus stations, emergency rooms, and adult entertainment establishments. (Currently, over 10 million people are being trafficked worldwide, 1 million of whom are children.)

  • The age of consent for marriage has been raised from 14 to 17.

  • Local courts in locations where a victim of domestic violence is registered to vote are authorized to issue an order to keep such information confidential and not subject to public disclosure.

  • Municipal employees are granted up to four hours of paid leave annually for cancer screening.

  • Certain restaurants, organizations, and arenas may stock epi-pens and use if administered by trained personnel.

  • Laboratories now have an affirmative duty to seek homes for animals used in research.

  • The time has been extended for filing 9/11 illness claims.


  • Motor vehicles must now pull over for EMTs and volunteer firefighters who display blue or green flashing light protocol.

  • Tinted windows restricting more than 30% of light transmitted through a windshield will now fail vehicle inspections.

  • Courts can now charge individuals involved in alcohol-related boating accidents with repeat offender status if the driver had any prior DUIs or DWIs in any vehicle type.

  • Given that 25% of inmates in New York prisons are of Hispanic descent and 10% are foreign-born, translators will now be offered at all parole hearings.


  • There is a generous tax credit for hiring veterans.

  • Uber and Lyft are not granted licenses to operate upstate.

  • The Board of Regents must now provide notice of its meetings at least seven days in advance.

  • State agencies must post proposed or revised regulations on their websites.

  • Homeowners who have graduated from a disaster preparedness course are eligible to receive insurance reduction.

The Unusual

  • Pets are allowed to be buried with their owners in certain cemeteries. (Seventy-three million American households have pets.)

  • Daily sports fantasy games have been reinstated, as they were ruled games of skill vs illegal gambling.

  • Funeral homes will now be eligible to serve beverages and “light fare” food.

  • Craft beer makers receive a tax benefit for every bottle brewed.

Stay tuned as the 2018 session begins! 

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