20 Aug 2014
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Orangetown Board May Cut Library Budgets

The Orangetown Board approved the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire District Budget for 2013, but could cut budgets for four Orangetown libraries which currently carry very large fund balances.

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The Orangetown Town Board may cut 20% from the library district budgets in Blauvelt, Orangeburg, Palisades and Tappan as part of the 2013 budget.

The primary reason is the large fund balances currently carried by those four libraries. 

"There is no organization more fundamental to community and democracy than the local library," Stewart said Thursday. "Nonetheless, and for reasons dictated in part by an irrational state law that lumps all library budgets together, Orangetown libraries carry an extraordinary level of reserve funds that the town board is taking a hard look at in this difficult budget year for the benefit of all taxpayers."

Tappan Free Library Board President Raleigh Tozer spoke to the board about the potential cut as part of the public budget hearing Wednesday at town hall, which will be continued at the regular town board meeting Nov. 13. 

The initial plan was to make Wednesday the final public hearing on the budget, but with snow making it more difficult for taxpayers to attend, the hearing was kept open. Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart thanked Tozer for responding to a call late Wednesday to address the board.

"The reason (for the large fund balance) is a very specific law which treats the four public libraries in Orangetown as a single unit and requires budget requests jointly," Tozer said. "The effect of that has been the different needs of each of the libraries can't be attended to."

The town has been working to get the state law overturned, which would allow the libraries to budget to their individual needs, sometimes bringing in more money than necessary, which has led to the large fund balances. The current balances for the libraries are all much larger than their proposed 2013 budgets.

According to the town's finance department, the fund balances as of Dec. 31, 2011 were as follows, with the proposed budget for 2013 at a zero percent increase):

  • Blauvelt $2,862,492 (proposed 2013 budget $867,757)
  • Orangeburg $2,114,905 (proposed 2013 budget $602,615)
  • Palisades $748,522 (proposed 2013 budget $462,077)
  • Tappan $2,728,047 (proposed 2013 budget $833,413)

"There is a pile of money sitting there, I assume, in a bank," Orangetown Councilman Denis Troy said. "It's just sitting there, but the libraries still take more of the public's money. I've been fighting this battle for years.

"What I'm proposing right now is 20 percent less than what the libraries are asking for now, which would give us a $500,000 decrease against our cap, which aids the taxpayers. At the same time, you can use your fund balance just as we're using our fund balance."

Tozer said that a cut in the Tappan Library's budget for 2013 due to a plan to renovate and connect a nearby building.

"Nobody wants to hurt the library," Councilman Paul Valentine said. "The problem is, we can't go to the public, your patrons, and give them a 15 percent tax increase. I can't justify laying people off in the town when you have money in the bank.

"We think 20 percent (reduction) is fair. We know you want to do renovations. A lot of people want to do renovations on their houses. If you don't have the money, you can't do it."

"Look at this building," Councilman Tom Diviny said of Orangetown Town Hall. "This building needs to be renovated. We don't have the money to do the renovations to town hall. I can't believe how much fund balance (the libraries have)."

Other Budget Issues

Ed McPherson, currently a code enforcement officer for Orangetown, argued against the elimination of his job, which was among the . 

"I love my job," said McPherson, who turns 70 next month. "I didn't come to Orangetown to work five years and retire."

Troy was on the council when the second code enforcement officer position was added.

"I think it provides a great service to the town," Troy said. "The problem is we're in between a rock and a hard place. We've been put in this position by other factors. We have to look at everything."

John Giardello, director of Orangetown's Building Zoning and Planning Administration and Enforcement, suggested some options to increase revenue rather than cut two positions in his department, including McPherson's. 

Joe Moran, Director of the Department of Environmental Management & Engineering, argued against potential cuts in his department, but those will most likely not be included in the 2013 budget. 

Blauvelt Volunteer Fire District Budget

The board also held a public hearing on the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire District's budget for 2013, which must be approved by the town. Blauvelt Fire Chief David Schnitzer was the only speaker.

"Nothing has changed since our last gathering," Schnitzer said. "We feel like it is as tight as can be."

The board voted 4-0 to approve the $848,350 Blauvelt Fire Company budget for 2013, with Councilman Tom Morr absent.

Editor's note: Fund balances for the libraries provided by the town are as of Dec. 31, 2011. 

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