Continuing our coverage of the Town of Eastchester (TOE) political candidates for this November’s elections, Patch recently sat down with the third of four candidates contending for the two Town Councilman positions, John Filiberti.
Filiberti has a significant amount of local politics experience under his belt, as he currently serves as the chair (since 2007) and district leader (since 1988) of the Eastchester Democratic Committee. Filiberti has also served as a legislative aide to a number of county legislators, including Vito Pinto (2007-2010) and Judy Myers (2010-Present).
Filiberti has also been involved with the Eastchester Board of Education in the past, serving as an elected trustee (3 terms) from 1998 – 2007, and was Board President 2005 – 2006. Filiberti is currently a member of the Tower Club Condominium Board of Managers in Tuckahoe, and the Order Sons of Italy in America - Giuseppe Garibaldi Lodge. Filiberti currently works as a realtor, as well as a small business consultant and software trainer and QuickBooks instructor at Pace University.
Here is what Filiberti had to say when Patch caught up with him to discuss the upcoming elections:
Patch-1: What do you see as the single most critical issue facing the Town of Eastchester Board in the coming years of the term for which you are running?
John Filiberti: The budget. Improving services while controlling costs. Finding ways to reduce expenses and to increase revenues in ways that don’t fall directly onto the property taxpayer. I believe that by improving the use of technology in the town, we can provide our residents with better service at a lower cost and provide them with more information on how the town is being run. This ensures that people understand how work is being done, how projects are being planned, and how their money is being spent.
Patch-2: If you were to be elected this fall, you would be joining an all-Republican Town of Eastchester Board. What are your feelings on this and what do you believe you can bring to the Town Board that has not been there in previous years?
Filiberti: Regardless of the outcome in November, the Town Board will remain controlled by a Republican majority. If that concerned me, I would not be running. I have served with many Eastchester residents on various boards or organizations over the years. My goal is always to discuss issues and reach consensus that moves the team forward. The current makeup of the Town Board has reduced discussion and that has not benefited our community. The supervisor has hand-picked every member of the Town Board and that type of relationship tends to limit a person’s ability to constructively challenge policies and procedures that come up for discussion.
Patch-3: A lot has happened on a national scale in the last couple of months in terms of politics and the economy, including the passing of the Debt Ceiling Act and the signing of the 2% property tax cap bill by Governor Andrew Cuomo. On a local level, what do these things mean for community members? What challenges should they expect to face, and how will you work to alleviate the burden put on them during these difficult times?
Filiberti: At the town level, I am much more concerned about the recently passed property tax cap bill. It simply doesn’t address the real problems that school districts and local municipalities face – unfunded mandates and skyrocketing pension and health care costs. By passing a tax cap without first dealing with these priorities, our state representatives have started a process that will lead to a steady decline in our public school environment and force our county and local municipalities to eventually cut essential services.
Recently, school districts were advised that their pension costs would increase by 29 percent this school year. I would expect a similar memo to go to local municipalities soon. Combine this with the new requirement of a 2% tax cap and many schools and local governments will have no choice but to reduce services and staff. There is no doubt in my mind that once this process starts to play out that this will quickly and quite negatively impact property values. Westchester residents need to let their state representatives know that if they really want to help local property taxpayers, they can start by not requiring counties like Westchester to pick up the tab for Medicaid. New York is one of only two states that require counties to cover a percentage of Medicaid costs and it is estimated that those costs account for over 40% of our county property tax bill.
Patch-4: For someone who is unfamiliar with the Town of Eastchester and its partnership with the Villages of Bronxville Tuckahoe, how would you describe the relationship between the three municipalities? Do you feel more could be done in partnership between the three communities to benefit residents?
Filiberti: Eastchester is a wonderful town and I’ve been fortunate enough to live in both Tuckahoe (1988 – 1993) and Eastchester (1993 – present). In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about partnerships and shared services but there has been very little data provided to residents on how shared services might affect them. For example, there are three school districts, three police departments, three highway departments, three building departments, three Receiver of Taxes, etc. etc. Now, it is easy to say that we can merge everything and save money – but I think most residents will want to have more information before blindly agreeing to merge a department, office or position. I would like to see an independent detailed analysis that explains the positives and negatives of any potential consolidation. Communities in Westchester pride themselves on local control and before any of that local control is relinquished, residents must demand to know what they will lose and what they will gain. Only then can residents intelligently vote on how they may want to proceed.
Personally, without the benefit of truly knowing how a potential consolidation might work, I would err on the side of maintaining local control. You always have the ability to consolidate, but once you do consolidate something, it becomes much more difficult to undo if you decide it wasn’t the right decision. Residents have become very comfortable with their schools, police and highway workers. If they determine that they would prefer to pay a little more to keep them, that is their right.
Patch-5: What have you learned in your experiences as Chair of the Eastchester Democratic Committee and Eastchester School Board President that you think makes you the right candidate for the position of Town Councilman? Do you think your experience as Chair of the Eastchester Democratic Committee could hurt you come election time?
Filiberti: Anyone who knows me knows that I always try to find a way to positively affect change. Elected to the first of three consecutive three-year terms on the Eastchester Board of Education, I served as President in 2005 and was the Chair of the District’s Technology Information Committee until stepping down in 2007. During that time I worked very hard to bring cost-effective technology to Eastchester’s students. As a result, educational offerings were enhanced by technology at every grade level – including a successful build out of the district’s computer network; expanding the district’s learning opportunities through video conferencing; and establishing Eastchester as one of the first districts in Westchester County to have a Smart Board in almost every classroom. That was done by defining a goal and having all fellow board members, administrators and teachers becoming supporters of the mission. I believe that I can utilize my skills in a similar fashion to help the town better use technology. This will help to reduce costs, but more importantly to become more transparent and to provide residents with as much information about the workings of the Town as possible. Budgets, contracts and expenditures should all be online. If all of our residents had access to this type of information I believe we could obtain some great ideas from our residents on areas where we may be able to do a better or more effective job.
With regard to my years as a member of the Eastchester Democratic Committee and most recently as chair, I do not believe my service there will hurt me. My goal as chair has been to build up the Democratic Committee and not to knock down the Republican Committee. I have run the committee that way for the past four years. Now that I am a candidate for Town Board, I have asked my Vice Chair to lead the committee through the election. If elected in November, I will resign as Chair.
I have always believed that local municipalities are better served when more people are involved and no one feels disenfranchised. Open and transparent government is always the best approach and I would promote the involvement of as many residents as possible.
Make sure to check back with Patch tomorrow for the last TOE Councilman candidate interview, featuring Joe Dooley (R). Click on the name of the following candidates for their interview: , . Town of Eastchester Councilmen are elected to 4-year terms and are paid a salary of approximately $16,000.