The collection of $800,000 in delinquent property taxes from residents will result in more than three miles of roads being paved next year in the Town of Yorktown.
Outgoing Supervisor Ilan Gilbert made that announcement during a public hearing last week on the 2020 town budget, where the average homeowner will only see a $2.20 increase in their town taxes and a $3.75 increase in their water rates.
“I think we are leaving the town in sound position as we hand over the reins to the new administration,” said Gilbert, as newly elected Supervisor Matt Slater looked on from the audience. “I am confident and proud that I am leaving the town in better shape than when I found it.”
Gilbert submitted his budget before the October 31 deadline with a tax levy under the state mandated two percent tax cap and increases in the general, highway and library funds of 2.53%. He later added $250,000 from projected sales tax revenue stemming from when Westchester County officials raised the sales tax rate from 7 ½ to 8 ½ percent, and included salary increases for department heads to make Yorktown more competitive with other municipalities.
“All I hear is good news,” Councilman Vishnu Patel said.
Councilwoman Alice Roker said it was vital for Yorktown’s employees to have wages that will help the town retain them for an extended period.
“I think we have some of the smartest department heads around and I think it’s important that their salaries at least keep up with wherever every other salary is going or else we’ll lose them,” she said.
During the hearing, former Supervisor Susan Siegel and Yorktown resident and dentist, Dr. Carl H. Tegtmeier, chairman of the Dental Health Planning & Hospital Dentistry Committee, implored the town board to add $157,000 to the budget to complete a fluoridation project.
Yorktown and Somers residents were notified in 2017 that the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works (NWJWW) would no longer add fluoride to its drinking water produced at the Amawalk Water Treatment Facility.
While nearly 100 percent of Somers’ daily supply comes from Amawalk, approximately 33% of Yorktown’s drinking water comes from that plant, with the remainder provided by the Catskill Water Treatment facility, where the fluoride feed system has been offline since January 2013.
It’s a situation that Tegtmeier and Siegel believe is putting the oral health of the town’s 36,000 residents, particularly children and senior citizens, at serious risk.
“We’re doing damage every day,” said Tegtmeier, who has been urging Yorktown officials to take action on continuing fluoridating water since 2012. “We’ve been kicking this can down the road for seven years.”
Fluoride is a mineral that has been shown to help reduce the formation of dental cavities and tooth decay when added to drinking water at recommended levels. Prescriptions of fluoride supplements can help offset some of the lost fluoride in the water, but that’s only 50% effective, according to Tegtmeier.
In January 2013, following a public hearing at which several area dentists and Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler urged the Yorktown Town Board to continue having fluoride in its water, former Supervisor Michael Grace, Patel and former State Senator Terrence Murphy voted to add fluoride to the water supply, knowing to do so would require upgrades to both plants at an estimated cost of approximately $250,000.
Due to hydraulics associated with Yorktown’s distribution system, NWJWW officials stated they were unable to provide “an optimal level of fluoride” to all residents unless fluoride is added at both facilities, thus the decision was made, with input by the county and state health departments, to temporarily discontinue fluoridation at Amawalk.