The Examiner

Shared Services, Athletic Fields Focus of Joint P’ville Boards Session

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Shared services and improving athletic fields dominated conversation at the Nov. 4 joint meeting of the Pleasantville Board of Education and village board.

District and village officials explored new ways to save money through shared services to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s requirements for a tax refund. Schools and municipalities must submit an efficiency plan by June 1, 2015, that shows a 1 percent savings of their overall budgets for taxpayers to receive a rebate.

For the district, this would mean $340,000 must be saved through new shared service agreements, while the village would be responsible for creating $106,000 in savings.

Officials criticized the governor’s proposal, noting that they have been utilizing a shared service contract for years and may not be granted the tax freeze because the savings might not qualify as new.

“I think it’s important for the community to be very aware of the relationship we have with the village and how important it is to have a joint municipal agreement,” said Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter. “I think it’s a little disingenuous, in a way, that other municipalities that have never thought about this before could quite possibly get the tax credit.”

Village Trustee Jonathan Cunningham said the point of the tax freeze is to force entities to rebuild from the ground up and discover where separate services are redundant. For example, the village and school district both employ workers for fall leaf pick-up.

Cunningham said there is more that can be done if each entity is willing to give up a little control. Both should explore whether a model can be developed that requires fewer equipment purchases and personnel while still delivering adequate services.

“What it always boils down to, to be completely candid, is control, and that’s the issue that inevitably prevents you from going forward … whether you’re talking about doing shared services with the Town of Mount Pleasant or with the county,” Cunningham said. “It’s about [whether] we will get the same level of services when we need it, as opposed to if we had control over it ourselves.”

One of the biggest joint service agreements between the district and the village is the sharing of athletic fields.

Board of Education President Shane McGaffey said both entities will look to identify accounting measures to quantify savings incurred through this agreement to apply toward the tax freeze.

The quality of both the school and village fields has been a concern in recent months.

Mayor Peter Scherer said improvements have been made to Parkway Field, with more clay added to the baseball field and a better understanding of how to maintain the grass.

“The reality is that we’re trying to do the best we can to maintain them … and have boosted our outside services for some extra nutrition for those fields, but the odds of some major changes happening there, given the current budget circumstances, are slim,” Scherer said.

He also explained that the village is expected to receive $340,000 in recreation fees from Toll Brothers, the developer of the proposed condominium project on Washington Avenue. That money will likely help pay for the installation of a permanent bathroom at Parkway Field.

The school district is currently in the midst of upgrading fields at all three schools as well as the high school track following passage of a $3.5 million bond last May. Fox-Alter said once the district gets approval from the state education department, it will seek bids for the project.

Residents last week raised concerns about the district’s decision to install an artificial turf field as part of the project, citing health and safety concerns. They were fearful that the carcinogenic chemicals found in artificial surfaces, which are often made from recycled tires, would be harmful.

“When the kids are playing on these fields and you’re working up a sweat and your lungs are most exposed, that’s when you’re going to ingest the most material,” resident Matt Finkelstein said.

Residents were hoping for fields made of real grass or natural materials. Fox-Alter explained that with the level of activity on the fields, grass would be nearly impossible to maintain. In addition, the cost cannot exceed what was approved in the bond.

District officials said they will explore cost options for various fills that are used in the turf.

“This isn’t just about dollars and cents and this isn’t just about being able to have the most amount of use of fields. My kids, all of our kids, play on these fields, and their safety is our utmost concern,” said McGaffey.





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