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Briarcliff Residents Double-Taxed for Libraries

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Roughly 2,000 Briarcliff residents have been paying twice for library services for decades and most probably don't know it.

Ossining Public Library Director Jim Farrell hosted a second public meeting Thursday night at the library to discuss the issue of double-taxed library service areas. Farrell explained that with the Ossining Public Library using the Ossining School District as a boundary and the Briarcliff Manor Library using the village boundaries, 1,970 residents help pay the costs for both libraries.

“So they’re paying twice for something that I believe they should only be paying once,” Farrell said Thursday. “It’s a tax burden that I think statewide needs to be looked at.”

Farrell said the Ossining Public Library receives roughly $100 per capita on average from residents in its district with residents in Briarcliff paying roughly an additional $75. Residents falling in the overlap have been paying double since the The Village of Briarcliff Library became a municipal village library in 1964.

A similar situation also affects roughly 300 residents that share boundaries with Yorktown and Ossining. Those residents pay for taxes toward the Ossining Public Library and the John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak. Farrell said he believes most of those residents are not aware they are double-taxed.

“This is a problem affecting more than 80 other communities in the state,” Farrell said. “I think most of them don’t even know it’s happening.”

Farrell said he first became aware of the issue while working with the New York State Education Department in Library Development.

“When I worked there this issue was spoken about but quite honestly nobody paid a lot of attention to it,” Farrell said. “Now that I’m down here, those whispers that I heard up there are coming out to be roars here.”

Farrell said residents must decide on one of several options: Each property owner could choose which library to support, have the entire double-taxed area vote on the issue, restructure the boundaries of the libraries, merge the two libraries into one service area or do nothing and allow the double-taxed areas to continue. There are also dozens of other options yet to be explored.

Briarcliff resident Mirla Morrison said she’s been concerned about the issue for more than 40 years.

“I just think it’s a matter of fairness,” Morrison said, adding that she’s seen few people address the issue before. “I think we need to study them and that’s never really happened here … It’s got to be somehow unconstitutional.”

Residents looking to get involved are asked to go to the Ossining Public Library website as more information is scheduled to be released on the site in the next few days.

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