As we enter 2017, I wanted to take a moment to provide a year-end summary about some of the major issues addressed by the town over the past year. Please note a more detailed summary can be found on the town’s website.
Opioid and Heroin Addiction
Opioid and heroin addiction continues to ravage the younger generations of our community, as it has been in suburban towns throughout New York. The disease of addiction has many families in Somers struggling for answers and support. The town has an active group of volunteers and town officials, known as Partners in Prevention, who are committed to building a safer community by efficiently addressing alcohol and drug use, as well as other risk taking behaviors through advocacy, hope and awareness. If you would like to be involved with this group or are seeking more information, please visit their website at somersny.com/Pages/SomersNY_BComm/Substance/index.
The town has also worked closely with the Office of New York State Sen. Terrence Murphy to address the issue of opioid and heroin addiction, and supported the senator’s efforts to pass meaningful legislation at the state level that provides resources to those individuals and families dealing with addiction.
Town Budget and Finances
The town’s budget has once again come in under the New York State tax cap, which for this year limited the amount towns could increase the tax levy to well below 2 percent. The budget also includes funding for the town’s road repaving program which ensures that approximately 118 miles of town roads are maintained and repaved. Furthermore, the town’s strong credit rating of Aa1, previously upgraded in 2014, was reaffirmed by Moody’s Investor Services who specifically noted in their report that: “Positive operating margins are a sign of strong financial management. Advantageously, on average, Somers ran surpluses.” The town board and I will continue our commitment to operating a lean municipal government that delivers essential services while keeping the town’s municipal tax rate as one of the lowest in the region.
Property Tax Implications of IBM and PepsiCo Moves
An interesting phenomenon occurred with the sale of these two properties. The former PepsiCo building sold for well over what was considered market rate, while the IBM facility sold this year for well under market rate. IBM currently contributes about $3 million in total tax revenue to the school district, county, fire district and town. So, we can expect that some type of tax reduction will be sought by the new ownership of IBM, but to what extent may take years to determine.
In the meantime, there are a variety projects throughout town poised to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue in the next few years, ultimately helping to blunt potential tax reductions that are granted. Ultimately, the town’s objective is to have both the former IBM and PepsiCo properties remain strong tax contributors; however, the bottom line is that the town’s tax base is well positioned for whatever the future may hold.
Potential for a New Community Center
The Somers Fire District has offered to donate their firehouse in the Somers hamlet to the town, if their proposed public safety center were to move forward. Some initial ideas for the old firehouse would be to place rubberized surfacing in the fire engine bays to allow for indoor recreational activities and repurpose the building’s rooms to make them compatible for public use by residents of all ages. This work will be funded by a community benefits agreement contributed by developers and possible use of recreation funds.
The town completed the first update of its comprehensive plan since 1994. The plan will serve as guidance for land-use decision throughout town for the next decade. It was developed through community input, an all-volunteer committee, the town’s planner and a professional consultant. The plan can be viewed on the town’s website.
Preservation of Stuart’s Farm
The town partnered with a variety of organizations to purchase the development rights for Stuart’s Farm, Westchester’s oldest working farm, so that it will remain a farm in perpetuity. It is important for the town to balance the strengthening of its tax base with the preservation of its rural characteristics. Ultimately, this is a great investment by the town and its residents as the farm is an economic driver, attracting 20,000 visitors per year, and a piece of the town’s agriculture character/history.
Funding for our Lake Communities
In late 2016, the town was awarded approximately $850,000 to construct storm water retrofits around Lake Shenorock, which will help to improve the lake’s water quality. In addition, the town is moving forward with the creation of a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), which is a comprehensive plan developed by town staff and community members that will address the issues impacting and could potentially open up state funding sources for all of our lake communities, including Lincolndale, Purdys, Deans Bridge and Shenorock. There will be much more to come regarding the LWRP.
The past year has been an eventful one for the town of Somers. Much has been accomplished and there is much more work still to be done. In the year to come my commitments will remain the same: Keep taxes at their lowest levels possible, run an efficient local government that delivers essential services to our residents; strengthen the town’s tax base while creating the necessary infrastructure that increases property values and enhances current and future economic activity; preserve the town’s open space and rural characteristics; and continue to invest in our parks and recreational activities/facilities.
If you should have any questions or comments about the town, please do not hesitate to call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-277-3637.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year, Somers. It is an honor to serve as your supervisor and I look forward to a productive 2017.