In 2009, Briarcliff Manor's population was just under 8,000. This number could increase by around 1,600, or 22.2 percent, if the village carries out an acquisition of two of Ossining's voting districts, 17 and 20.
While Briarcliff Manor Village Manager Philip Zegarelli said the idea is out in the open, "The Town of Ossining has never received anything formally in writing regarding these plans," asserted Town of Ossining Supervisor Catherine Borgia in an email.
According to Zegarelli, studies examining village's the services and their possible consolidation with the village with the Town and Village of Ossining began a few years ago.
"The Town of Ossining provides services required by NY State to all residents of the Town," said Borgia, explaining, "The Town of Ossining is composed of three parts: the Incorporated Village of Ossining, the Incorporated Village of Briarcliff Manor and the parts of the Town in neither village, commonly referred to as the Unincorporated area...These services are provided to the entire Town of Ossining, including the two villages."
"One of the first things I got involved in with the village was the many studies that were going on with the Town of Ossining, Village of Ossining and Village of Briarcliff Manor," said Zegarelli, who has held the village manager position for about two years.
Specifically, he said, the three municipalities discussed potential consolidation of the police and Department of Public Works services.
"It was very wide open [discussion]," stressed Zegarelli, explaining village leaders explored general questions such as: "Can we share services? Can we merge partially? Can we say, 'you do one thing, we do another?'"
The discussions changed course last year when the Town of Ossining announced they would "put the Town of Ossining police in with the county police" force, said Zegarelli.
"The Town chose to contract for police services with Westchester County because it was the most economical way to provide the excellent police services that residents demand," explained Borgia. "This decision is expected to save taxpayers between $600-900,000 each year."
According to Zegarelli, "When all that occurred, the Village of Briarcliff Manor Mayor, Board and myself were approached by people living in the Town of Ossining, saying, 'We would like you to consider annexing us.' So, the Mayor and the Board in Briarcliff said to me, 'This has got to make both operational and financial sense, not just for the people looking to join, but, does it make sense for Briarcliff to do this?'"
Last summer, Zegarelli said he began putting together a presentation for the Briarcliff's Board of Trustees analyzing the implications an annexation would have on the village, including the impact on personnel, services and equipment. The studies implemented specifically looked at the voting districts 20 and 17 in the Town of Ossining, which are the two districts directly bordering Briarcliff Manor (which is required by state laws for an annexation to occur).
Of the 1,600 or so residents falling in those districts, about half already hold Briarcliff Manor addresses and are serviced by village fire and ambulance services under contract, said Zegarelli.
"I think there are people who have an Ossining address in those two districts who would not have a problem with changing their postal addres to Briarcliff Manor," he added.
Though the matter was first delved into a few years back, Zegarelli said conversation on the topic has resurfaced recently, in the form of Ossining residents inquiring about the annexation process.
"It sort of bubbles up quite often now because there's a lot of talk about whether [moving the police force to the county] was a good deal or a bad deal. I really think the jury is still out," said Zegarelli.
According to Borgia, however, residents had previously appeared supportive of the proposal.
"During the public hearings that were held on the various police options, the residents overwhelmingly favored the proposal to contract for police services with the County. The agreement with the County is currently being implemented with great success," she said. "The Town has no indication that Unincorporated Town residents are not satisfied with the cost or level of Town services provided."
Zegarelli said he believes Ossining residents are attracted to the high level services the Village of Briarcliff Manor is known to provide.
"I think Briarcliff Manor has an excellent reputation as a community, has excellent services that people not only want or desire, but expect," he noted. "I think this is a service community, meaning not only do we provide services, but [residents] are all very civic-minded."
Borgia said the town-provided services including parks and recreation, justice courts, assessments and other administrative duties cost Briarcliff taxpayers "1.9 percent of their total tax bill, or $472.47 of an average $24,867."
Additionally, said Borgia, municipal services provided by the Town including road maintenance, garbage pickup and snow removal to the "unincorporated area" cost an average of $2,266.89 in 2010.
"In Briarcliff, the same municipal services cost the average homeowner $3746.73 in 2010, or almost $1,500 more per household," she said. "In addition, these Town residents saw a tax decrease of 7 percent in the 2011 budget, making the gap even wider."
Therefore, said Borgia, "I'm puzzled about why the residents and businesses would consider adding a layer of government, particularly one that is more expensive, in this time when most people in New York State are trying to reduce their tax burden by reducing layers of government."
"Perhaps residents are under the mistaken belief that they will no longer be in the Ossining School district if they make this switch," she added.
While Briarcliff services including police and DPW would become responsible for the Ossining districts if annexed, school district boundaries would not change.
"The school boundaries stay the same," said Zegarelli. "This is not even on the table for consideration."
Town of Mount Pleasant residents have also approached the village with a similar request, said Zegarelli.
"It's very tentative on the Town of Mount Pleasant side," he said. "We are addressing [Ossinng and Mount Pleasant] in different phases. Ossining is far more advanced than Mount Pleasant."
Moving forward, Zegarelli said it's up to Town of Ossining residents to formally petition for the annexation, which he believes they preparing for. In the meantime, he's working on updating his presentation to eventually reveal for public comment.
"Let's put it this way. We're moving ahead on preparing a public presentation," said Zegarelli. "All indicators are to move ahead with a presentation and let people see what the results are."
According to Borgia, however, the Town of Ossining does not plan to let the districts go without a fight.
"The Village of Briarcliff has said in public and in the press that their ultimate plan is to take these two districts and then break off from the Town of Ossining," she said. "However that process will be long and costly. Given our fiduciary duty to our taxpayers, the Town of Ossining is not likely to let our only commercial district be taken from the municipality without a long and protracted legal battle."