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Mixed Reaction to Annexation Study in Ossining

Residents on both sides of the issue came forth last night.

Talk about the of Ossining election districts 17 and 20 by the Village of Briarcliff Manor continued last night with a at the Anne M. Dorner Middle School in Ossining.

The presentation took meeting attendees through the process of annexation, the facts and figures, the cost and benefits and asked the question, “Where do we go from here?”

“No one has a copy of this report,” Mr. Zegarelli said, opening the presentation and indicating the printed copies of the power point presentation being sent around the room. “It was unpublished until tonight.”

Contained in the report are population statistics, tax information including the assessed taxable value of the area, services, “special districts” (like sewers), cost differences between what each distract pays now and what each would pay once annexed, tax reductions and finally, the parking rates at both the Ossining and Scarborough railroad station in response to a question from held in the .

According to the presentation, residents of the Ossining districts 17 and 20 could face a tax reduction of 14.39 percent, while Briarcliff residents could face a tax reduction of 6.96 percent if the annexation is successful.

As previously reported, the figures presume the addition of four police officers to the Village of and six employees to the . Under the proposed annexation, the annexed residents would still pay Ossining school taxes as the school districts would not change, nor would the post office.

While residents of the districts 17 and 20 would no longer have to pay the unincorporated tax, they would still have to pay on their debt to the Town of Ossining DPW and Police department debt, lighting district cost, private carter contract costs (until contract expires) and ambulance service (OVAC).

Despite this, members the districts' residents would receive Briarcliff Manor police and coverage, parks and recreation, access to the Briarcliff Manor Public Library and services.

Zegarelli did acknowledge the population figures were based on the 2009 estimates, and given the year end discrepency between Briarcliff Manor and Ossining, they budget numbers aren't completely comparable.

Some community members reacted to these differentials and claimed the numbers analyzed were old and called for another analysis to be done with the current numbers.

One resident said the manager was presenting only half the story he wanted to see the numbers on how this would affect the tax rates of the residents of the Village of Ossining and the Town of Ossining who don’t reside in the two districts in question.

Zegarelli called for Ossining to do its own analysis of the numbers and added, “Briarcliff was going to redo the numbers for 2011.”

Community response to Briarcliff Manor’s annexation presentation were mixed and charged with emotion, with strong opinions being expressed on both sides of the issue.

“We have excellent services,” a man from district 20 said. “We run the risk of being the forced stepchild of Briarcliff.”

To which another district 20 member retorted, “You’re services are going to change anyway. The Village of Ossining is talking about combining services with the Town of Ossining. So we are either going to be the stepchild of Ossining or the stepchild of Briarcliff. Your choice.”

Ossining Mayor William Hanauer replied to the exchange.

“We are in talks with the town outside of a combination of our DPW," he explained. "We just made a large and detailed proposal we are not in negotiations.”

“It’s not that anyone would be anyone’s stepchild, the services would be the same,” Hanauer continued, “There is no such thing as a stepchild. We are all in this together, so let’s figure out how to do this right.”

Ossining Town Supervisor Catherine Borgia expected this issue would be a touchy one with residents.

“I understand there is a lot of emotion on both sides,” she said. “But we should work together. We are all part of a larger community.”

To some community members, like Mindy Lamarre, the big problem wasn’t the services, but the two governments in Ossining.

“I am for it. The problem in Ossining is there are two governments. People in the village can vote for town representatives,” Lamarre said. “For people in town, we can not vote for village representatives. Therefore the Town Board has village residents on it.”

“That is just one issue,” Lamarre continued. “I don’t want to say it’s ‘taxation without representation.’ We have to pay more for parking at the train station. The village allots three spots for village residents to one for town residents…town residents have to pay more for the recreation center. This annexation may not even been happening if there was just one Ossining government.”

Ellen Kahan, who also lives in the area being considered for annexation, echoed Lamarre's sentiment.

“It’s fine [annexation]. It comes down to the money,” she said. “They [Ossining government] don’t care about us. We’re on our own. But, at the end of the day I won’t spend more money…but I will petition it to go to vote. I feel the people’s voices should be heard and I will support this going to vote. But I want to see the numbers.”

Alice Merin, a district 20 member who was at the meeting getting members to sign the annexation petition (20 percent of the districts' residents might sign a petition before it is filed with Briarcliff Manor) is in full support of it.

She said, “We are trying to be the master of our own fate.”

Officials said there is still much to be done before the process moves forward.

“There will be a great deal of public input,” Borgia said. “Many, many more hearings.”

Agreed Zegarelli, “This is just a preliminary of a preliminary."

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