Should The Palisades Library Join With Tappan and Orangeburg To Become A Special District?

Palisades Free Library has completed the first stage of its evaluation toward potentially becoming a Special Library District. There are pros and cons to this possibility.

If passed, this single district would be comprised of three branches: Palisades Library, Tappan Library, and Orangeburg Library. To accomplish this several structural changes would occur:

• Instead of the town allocating tax dollars to each individual library, a situation that has all three libraries begging for funds, all residents of this new Special Library District would vote on the budget.

• Contracts, services and programs would be streamlined within the branches and potentially yield cost savings.

• Residents would vote on a board of seven trustees to represent the district. Ideally each of the three libraries would be represented on the new board, but a balance isn’t guaranteed.

• Full-time and part-time employees would become civil servants.

• Special District libraries can use bonds to raise money for renovations and projects. Currently, as an Association library, Palisades Library can’t do this, and thus capital projects and emergencies erode the small reserve the library must maintain. A reduced reserve fund could result in cuts in services, personnel and work hours.

Another important issue to consider is that all reserves and liabilities would be pooled in a Special District. For example, Orangeburg Library doesn’t own its building, which also happens to be falling apart. As of this writing it’s not entirely clear whether the town or the school owns the property, and it’s uncertain what the future holds for that facility, and what economic effect that may have on the Palisades and Tappan libraries. Additionally, Tappan Library has a mortgage on its building which it pays $77,000 per year to service, and that expense will be shared.

The Efficiency Study for Special Library District consideration was funded by the Town of Orangetown and by all three libraries. It is available online, and at the library.

Legislation has now been drawn up and presented to each of the libraries. If passed by the trustees, it will go to the legislature in Albany where it is anticipated to pass. Then, it must be signed by the governor by December of this year. After the governor signs, it will go to residents for a final vote. Marjorie Galen, president of the board of trustees of Palisades Library, states, “It may not be the perfect solution, but it is the best.”

This is a complex and important community issue, but we all have a voice; ask questions, think about the consequences of this change, and vote when the time comes. It will come down to you.