Duplication of Services, Can Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown Continue to Afford Them?

The vexation of taxation is given lip service year round and becomes profane this time of the year when the first of three (County & Town, Village and School) tax bills come due. The cumulative increase in taxes for 2007/2008 will be an estimated average of 18% for Tarrytown taxpayers and an average increase of 19.3% to 20.8% for Sleepy Hollow residents (depending on whether they own single family homes or multi-family homes with 3 units or more).

Suffice it to say that the average taxpayer in either Village did not experience a salary increase in the 20% range over the past year. With taxes simply and effectively putting a strain on homeowners (young and old alike) along with business owners, grousing about things has not been nor will it ever be a part of the solution. In the Village of Sleepy Hollow, local government has heard its share of complaints from residents concerning Village taxes. Regardless of its name change, Sleepy Hollow (formerly North Tarrytown) and Tarrytown are and have been "joined at the hip" for a long time. The two have shared the same school system for over 50 years and they also share the Warner Library.

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Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown water filtration plants are 60 feet apart.

Most recently they have shared one common summer camp for local children. They also get their drinking water out of the same pipe so to speak. In fact, their close proximity and similarities in population make Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown prime candidates for cooperation over competition.

For the past several years Mayor Philip Zegarelli has been studying ways in which the residents of Sleepy Hollow would benefit from consolidation of services with neighboring Tarrytown. He has been in contact with Tarrytown’s Mayor, and Mr. Zegarelli sees potential for consolidation of services between the two Villages as both necessary and achievable. He has broken down the departments that could be shared by both Villages and a time frame for consolidation to take place that translates to "Today, Tomorrow and the Future."

Under the heading "Today" which could be achieved within the next 12 months, Mayor Zegarelli gave the consolidation of the Water Departments as an example. Both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow test the same water from the Catskill Region that is supplied through the same pipe, owned by the City of New York. The two testing stations located at the Tarrytown Lakes are a mere fifty feet apart.

Looking ahead 2 years to the heading "Tomorrow" the consolidation of Tarrytown’s and Sleepy Hollow’s Department of Public Works could be achieved. Both Departments are in close proximity to each other and both use relatively the same equipment. Any new equipment needed by one Village or the other could be shared as has been the case with road surfacing equipment in the past. Consolidation of the Fire Departments is also another consideration. Tarrytown has 6 pieces of equipment and 5 firehouses (two of which are being built) while Sleepy Hollow has 5 pieces of equipment and is planning an additional new firehouse with dormitories at the General Motors site. "We are putting in dormitories in the eventuality that this Village needs a paid component to its Fire Department," Mr. Zegarelli said. With volunteer levels decreasing and more and more residents questioning the constant increase in new structures, fire apparatus and equipment, consolidation between the Villages seems destined for strong consideration.

Moving into the "Future" which is two years and beyond, the Court System within the two Villages can be looked at for consolidation. With four judges and duplicate staffs basically serving the same population, both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow would have to revise their Village Charters and hold a referendum in order for consolidation to take place. The same holds true for the two Police Departments.

The boldest move in the future for Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown is seen as the possible creation of a new township, with Sleepy Hollow seceding from Mount Pleasant and Tarrytown from Greenburgh. Both Villages could then benefit from tax equalization, have one municipal building and staff rather than two, and most importantly, chart their growth together. One thing is for certain, the ideas for change are out there. Taxing times demand courageous efforts.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento