During the October meeting of the White Plains Common Council, members agreed to go ahead with funding to relocate the White Plains Cable Television Access Commission from rented space in the basement of the Seasons condominium building to the public library on Martine Avenue.
This move will mark the end of a series of capital improvement projects at the library that have made it a state-of-the-art facility, according to Council President John Martin.
The library was known for many years as being innovative when it opened the Trove, the children’s library. Now, the Edge, a teen technology learning and gathering area, the Hub for adults and community gathering, as well as improvements to the gallery space have made the White Plains Library a place where people like to visit and spend time.
Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona noted that the gallery improvements have created a destination for local artists in White Plains, who now have a place where their work can be featured. She also said the addition of the Cable Commission to the library building would likely encourage young people to become involved with film-making and production.
Outside dollars, including government grants will cover about two-thirds of the necessary renovation to move the Cable Commission to its new location.
In May the library opened the Everyday Healthy Café and the Friends Bookstore. Mayor Tom Roach said that answered everyone’s question about “when coffee will be served.” Roach also said that not many years ago with the advent of digital technology, it was considered that books and libraries would go away. “The library is now busier than ever,” he said. “It is important for the library to provide access to everyone.”
Opposing IRS Regulations
At the same meeting, the Council agreed to support a coalition of state and local entities opposing the new $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction imposed by the new federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Prior to this new federal tax law, New Yorkers could deduct their state and local property taxes. In New York State, 35% of taxpayers deduct an average of more than $22,000 every year, with some in Westchester deducting an average of $26,000 a year.
Earlier this year, New York enacted opportunities for charitable contributions to state and local governments to work around the cap, which the IRS has rejected.
Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson said she is proud of the state legislators championing this cause.
“This Council has done its part over past years to stay under the state mandated tax cap and keep property taxes down, relieving the burden for homeowners,” Hunt-Robinson said. “The $10,000 tax cap on individuals for state and local tax deductions is essentially a tax increase.”
Hunt-Robinson further said she considered behavior by the IRS with respect to stopping the workarounds to be “arbitrary and capricious.”
Corporation Counsel and Chief of Staff
The nomination of John Callahan, Corporation Counsel and Chief of Staff for the City of White Plains, to continue forward in that position with a change to his employment status – working, but collecting his pension– was approved.
Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona and Councilman Dennis Krolian both voted against the nomination.
Despite the fact that the two jobs were combined to save the city money during the recent financial crisis, as were a number of other commissioner positions, Lecuona said she had a problem with the same person wearing these two hats, “which are not compatible.”
Krolian said to continue working and collect a pension was “double-dipping.”
Councilman John Kirkpatrick, who supports the nomination, said the action taken to combine the jobs eight years ago was originally meant to be temporary. Over time the advantages became apparent. “New Rochelle is following suit,” he said.
Councilman John Martin noted that Mount Vernon had combined the same two jobs for a while as well.
Discussion focused on the over $40,000 that is saved annually by combining the two jobs as well as the fact that by retiring, yet continuing to work, Callahan would collect his pension and the City would no longer contribute to his retirement fund.
Nadine Hunt-Robinson said she sees no conflict and she supported Callahan and his work ethic for the city. Mayor Roach noted that pension laws are set in Albany.
The Council also agreed to review pension provisions for retired firefighters.
52 N. Broadway Public Hearing Adjourned to Dec. 3
The public hearing in relation to the petition submitted on behalf of WP Development NB, Inc., to amend the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Planned Residential Development Zoning District and amend the Zoning Map classification from RM-1.5 to Planned Residential Development, and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the site at 52 N. Broadway, the former Good Counsel campus, was adjourned to Dec. 3. Mayor Roach said the Council is waiting for the conclusion of the city’s independent evaluation of the site in terms of toxic contamination.