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Briarcliff Village Board OKs Therapy Agreement

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Briarcliff Manor is set to continue an agreement between the village and a therapeutic recreational program that works with disabled residents.

In a 4-1 decision Wednesday night, Mayor William Vescio cast the sole dissenting vote to authorize Village Manager Philip Zegarelli to sign an interagency agreement between the village and North East Westchester Special Recreation.  But it wasn’t the services that Vescio said he took issue with, he said it was the method of the program being handed down from the state.

“This is nothing more than a mandated subsidizing of facilities that the state should be paying for,” Vescio said during the village board meeting Wednesday night. “It’s an unfunded mandate that we’re asking our taxpayers to pay for, that should be paid for through the state.”

Trustee Lori Sullivan agreed the state should cover the cost, though, she ultimately voted in favor of signing the agreement.

“The properties are tax exempt and that’s the main issue,” Sullivan said. “We’re not against providing the services but these are tax exempt properties that we all as tax paying residents have to fund because the state won’t provide the service. I feel we’re put in a position where we have no choice.”

Zegarelli said Friday that “all persons who reside in the Village of Briarcliff Manor and need/desire the special services that North East provides are eligible to participate in their programs.” Zegarelli added there are 23 participants from Briarcliff Manor and 17 of those 23 live in group homes on Route 9 and Macy Road, which are “largely tax exempt.” The other six participants live in single family homes, Zegarelli said.

Deputy Mayor David Venditti said he agreed with Sullivan and Vescio on their issues with funding the program.

“Listen, the services are great,” he said Wednesday. “It’s only an issue that we always fight about as to who has to pay for them. These people need the services.”

Briarcliff Manor is one of 12 municipalities in Westchester County that supplies North East Special Recreation with municipal matches.  The village said it will pay the group $7,269.17 for 2012.  Of the 12 municipalities set to use the program, Mount Pleasant is the municipality scheduled to pay the most – $22,046.56 – and North Salem is set to pay the least – $4,646.23 – for matching funding this year.

Vescio requested Wednesday that Zegarelli send a follow-up letter with state officials protesting the “unfunded mandate.”  Zegarelli said he would comply, but that a similar letter sent to the state last year did not receive a very vocal response.

“It was truly the sounds of silence,” Zegarelli said.

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