One of the things that has always intrigued me since moving to Briarcliff is the peculiar way in which locals make personal introductions.
Whether it takes place at a backyard barbeque, grocery store or soccer field, a personal introduction between local residents usually includes the individual’s name, village or town, school district, and even the location of postal delivery, if the resident’s post office does not logically align geographically with any of the previously disclosed information.
Anywhere else in the world this disclosure of personal information on first meeting would seem odd or even socially awkward, except of course…here in Westchester. By gently informing a new acquaintance of one’s residence and location within multiple tax districts, a mild but acceptable declaration of identity is made. Once the “tax tribe” is disclosed it is not unusual, for a local introduction to become a conversation…about high property taxes.
Sobering is the fact that with 4000 taxation districts, taxpayers in New York State are smothered with more layers of government than sustainable – and our towns and villages here in Westchester County are stacked high.
While reducing services is a near-term option for some suburban communities, it does not resolve long-term financial issues plaguing our state and its municipalities, including rising pension contributions and increased funding of health care obligations for government employees. With the prospect of further budget cuts and reductions in services untenable by local residents who demand services, the prospect of combining forces with the municipal neighbor next door has suddenly become…enticing.
Nothing new here; governments have shared services through Inter-Municipal Agreements (IMAs) for a long time now. However, recent proposals are taking a new form: annexation, consolidations and yes, true changes to our local government structure that may eventually change your personal introduction tag. With little or no precedent, the idea to transform a town/village or annexed community is evolving and gaining momentum.
Recently, a group of residents within the town of Ossining’s Unincorporated Areas (Districts 17 & 20) petitioned the Village of Briarcliff to conduct an annexation study. The primary focus is to improve economies of scale between the two areas through reduction of government administrative costs and redundant services. While the study is in its preliminary stages, it opens the door to dialogue and creating many opportunities to share services even if annexation is not fully realized. Other options exist and are under consideration by officials.
In the weeks and months ahead, community residents will be invited to attend informational sessions to learn more about government consolidation and how these processes may occur, procedurally. As with any change, anxiety can be reduced by fully understanding the process and analyzing all the information that is available. Subscribe to local government websites to stay informed and educated on each development – every issue and decision will be explored and discussed. Most importantly, keep an open mind and a long-term perspective.
In the long run, the net result will be a more efficient, effective and affordable local government for all of us.
[blockquote class=blue]Kim Izzarelli is a resident of the Village of Briarcliff and a candidate for Ossining Town Council.[/blockquote]