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Villages opt out of mediation
Release Date: January 16, 2006

                                         VILLAGE OFFICIALS COMMITTEE


Members of the Town Board:


            When we wrote to you in October, we informed you that the primary purpose of the Village Officials Committee was to formulate legislative changes that will eliminate the unfair allocations now required in the budgeting process (both to residents of unincorporated Greenburgh and the villages), and to take appropriate action to have them implemented.  To achieve that goal it is necessary to undertake a serious study of the current legal structure, the workings of the budget, and public policies and political considerations that affect the budget.  Such a study would take time and would require the participation of officials and knowledgeable and objective residents, including consultation with persons having expertise in various relevant professions.


            Additionally, the VOC set out to formulate a complementary response to the judicial ruling in the Taxter Ridge case.  As we have informed you, the members of the VOC believe that the case was incorrectly decided and should be appealed.  We have repeatedly urged you to take that step, and we remain convinced that the specific legal issues raised in this case should be adjudicated by a higher court.


            But rather than moving forward on these two fronts, you suggested mediation, and though we advised you several times that mediation was unworkable in this context, you hired Judge Fredman as a mediator.  At the Supervisor’s request, and out of respect for Judge Fredman, several members of the VOC met with Judge Fredman, and that meeting strengthened our view that mediation was inappropriate and unworkable.   We are not dealing with a private dispute, but with a public policy issue of state-wide significance.  At Judge Fredman’s request -- again out of respect for him -- one of the VOC members met with Bob Bernstein.  That meeting made it even clearer to us that mediation was out of the question.  Finally, the response to our inquiry about what the Town Board thinks can be mediated served only to demonstrate that there can be no consensus reached on mediation.


            Accordingly, so that there is no further question, we must inform you that we cannot agree to or engage in any mediation, because it cannot achieve any useful goal.  The Taxter Ridge decision cannot be mediated, nor can mediation be a substitute for the serious study of the legal structure for town/village budgeting and methods of achieving budget fairness.


            It had been our view that the best method for achieving tax fairness within the town is to appoint a joint town and village task force, to do the study described above, and to make recommendations to the town and village governments, which can then make joint recommendations to the New York State Legislature.  Such a course would have a good likelihood of producing appropriate changes in the law. We have now been advised that the court has granted additional time to appeal until February 10.  It is our position that it is long past time for the Taxter Ridge decision to be appealed. Accordingly, if the appeal is not perfected by January 31, 2005, we must conclude that cooperative action is not possible and we will support legal action to be taken on behalf of village residents to remedy the improper allocation of revenues and expenses in the Greenburgh budget, as well as to ensure the proper application of the Finneran Law.


            If you wish to communicate with us, please respond to this email address and your response will be distributed to the entire committee.


The Village Officials Committee


Jay Leon, Ardsley Mayor

Michael Kolesar, Ardsley Trustee

Joseph Bova, Dobbs Ferry Mayor

Linda Leone, Dobbs Ferry Trustee

Robert Williams, Elmsford Mayor

Anne Povella, Elmsford Trustee

Lee Kinnally, Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor

Peter Swiderski, Hastings-on-Hudson Trustee

Dennis Flood. Irvington Mayor

Richard Livingston, Irvington Trustee

Drew Fixell, Tarrytown Mayor

Thomas Basher, Tarrytown Trustee

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