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Three Questions For North Salem Board Candidate White

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Election Day is on November 8 this year. In North Salem, there are four contenders for the two open Town Board seats. They are incumbent Amy Rosmarin (D-IN-Ind), Bruce Buchholtz (R-C), William Monti (R) and John White (IN).

The Daily North Salem has asked each of the Town Board candidates to provide a brief biography and answer the same three questions. Responses from each candidate will be published over the next week. John White's biography and responses follow.

John White is a 36-year resident of North Salem. He earned a BBA and an MBA at Pace University and has continued to take courses there at the doctorate level in both Finance and Economics.

After a 37-year career with Verizon Communications, he founded his own company, 8 Degree Research & Consulting . The company assists several Fortune 500 companies in the development, production, and deployment of new technologies.

He is a member of the North Salem Lions, currently serving as Treasurer.  He is also a member of the North Salem Improvement Society and the North Salem Historical Society.

White recently completed a five year appointment as chairman of the North Salem School District Fiscal Planning Committee, and is currently serving as chairman of the Town of North Salem’s Comprehensive Plan Committee.  He is a former member of the North Salem Town Board, and has served on the Town’s Ethics Committee.

At the county level he has served as vice president of the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation, and as vice chairman addressing Governmental Services on the original Westchester 2000 Task Force. Last October, White was appointed by County Executive Astorino to be a member of the Westchester County Housing Opportunity Commission, representing the North County Watershed region.

In his spare time he enjoys motorcycling, and photographing his favorite subjects, the beauty of Northern Westchester, and his two grandchildren.

1. What is your position on the Westchester Affordable Housing Settlement and how it will affect North Salem?

In 2009 Westchester County reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  This agreement required that Westchester County create 750 new units of affordable housing, with a focus on increasing diversity in 31 communities over a seven-year period.

This settlement affects our town in several ways. One significant piece of the plan requires North Salem to adopt the model ordinance developed by Westchester County and approved by HUD.  North Salem’s current affordable housing ordinance is in close alignment with the model, and we can bring it into full compliance with only a few changes.

One change will be the replacement of the town’s income level criteria. The selection of applicants for new affordable housing units will now have to qualify using income levels established by HUD.  The second change will require us to remove from our existing ordinance, all preferences for candidate selection (local volunteers, civic employees, etc.).

At this time there are still a few important elements in the County’s implementation plan that have yet to be approved by HUD.  We need to work closely with Executive Rob Astorino and Westchester County in their efforts to reach a fair, equitable, and reasonable outcome.

In October 2010 I was appointed by County Executive Rob Astorino to be on the Westchester Housing Opportunities Commission. I represent North Salem and eleven other towns in Northern Westchester that are affected by the settlement.

2. How would you feel about a “Property Transfer Tax” in North Salem?

We have no property transfer tax in North Salem and if one were proposed, I would not support it.

As Chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee we discussed and debated hundreds of topics.  The property tax came up as one potential option the town could use to fund the preservation of open space, and protect our important natural resources.

The committee’s  2009 survey clearly showed that while the community enjoyed and supported our rural character, it did not support a transfer tax.

When the draft Comprehensive Plan was presented to the Town Board, the transfer tax was not recommended.  I’ve been asked many times why the plan contained any reference to this tax at all, and why it wasn’t deleted from the draft document.  To be clear:  the Comprehensive Plan Committee is only an advisory body to the Town Board.   All options discussed or debated, recommended or not, had to be included for their review.  The Town Board has unanimously agreed to eliminate this option in their final document.

My opponents knew I was against this tax from its inception.  I’m baffled why this issue keeps coming up.  I wish they had attended even one of the 40 open Comprehensive Plan Committee meetings, presentations, or workshops.

3. How do you think Governor Cuomo’s 2% tax cap on town and school district budgets will affect North Salem?

Albany is now mandating new rules for town budgeting.  The 2% tax cap sounds good on the surface, but it isn’t simple, and it definitely isn’t a magic bullet.

It sounds good because the voters are fed up with high taxes and see the cap as a yardstick to measure fiscal responsibility.

However, it’s misleading to believe these new rules will actually cap our tax increases at 2%.  As it stands now, a major portion of the increase in pension costs, in both the town and school budgets, have been excluded from the calculations.

As you know, our budgets are funded through property taxes (tax levy) and sales taxes, along with state and federal aid.  The new rules affect only the property tax levy.  If state aid or sales tax revenue is reduced in any way it will exacerbate the pressure in bringing home affordable budgets with tax levies of under 2%.  For example if the school budget had a 0% increase, but lost significant state aid, the tax levy could exceed the mandated 2%.  New rules would then require a 60% majority to pass it.

Regardless of the rules, we need to look forward, and work together to find new solutions to help minimize our tax increases during these difficult times.

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