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Town Council Candidates Debate in Familiar Setting

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- By the time the three candidates for town council made their way to the debate stage in the Town Center Courtroom Wednesday, the packed audience had dwindled, along with the tension in the room.

Starkly opposed to the previous debates between candidates for District 7 county legislator, village mayor and village trustee, the town council candidates addressed only the issues instead of each other, something Deborah Reisner, president of the Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester League of Women Voters was hoping for.

"Let's dial down the rhetoric and dial up the substance," said Reisner, whose branch, in conjunction with the Larchmont-Mamaroneck LWV, hosted the Candidate Forum.

Talk of taxes dominated the debate, including the first question asking how the candidates would operate under the two-percent property tax cap, which four-term councilwoman Phyllis Wittner (D) said was a misnomer.

"First, it's important to clarify that the tax cap applies to the tax levy, not the amount that each tax payer pays. The state imposed the tax cap, but didn't remove any of the mandates that they passed down to us for health care, pensions - the largest items in the budget."

Like most of the questions asked, Wittner and Katz's (D) responses overlapped each other. "The town didn't need a two percent tax cap to be reminded of its fiscal responsibilities," Katz said.

Marcus said he would adhere to the tax cap if elected because, he said, it was passed for a reason. "Obviously the taxes in Westchester speficially are way out out of line with what the rest of the county experiences, and the tax cap addresses that," he said.

With the tax cap in mind, both parties expressed an intent to maintain the level of service residents have come to expect. On the issue of consolidating service between municipalities, Marcus felt such steps could result in cost savings that would allow other services to continue.

The Democratic candidates argued that the town wan't yet ready to consolidate services between municipalities, but rather continue shared services similar to the Volunteer Ambulance Corp of Mamaroneck and Larchmont and the Joint Sanitation Committee.

"When we talk about consolidation what we really need to look at shared services. This is generally where most of the savings can come in," Katz said.

Following this debate, Nancy Seligson (D), running unopposed for Town Superivsor, was given the opportunity to make a presentations on her candidacy within the same moderator format.

For more information on the tax cap issue, click here. :

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