Library Unification Effort: Palisades, Tappan & Orangeburg Libraries
For the past 128 years, the Palisades Free Library has been committed to meeting the needs of our ever-changing community through diligent financial stewardship. This patron-responsive focus has guided growth and decision-making to ensure that programs, services, staffing and facilities keep pace with current and anticipated demand. Our library weathered 10 percent funding cuts from the town in 2013 and 2014 through careful fiscal management, cost-sharing with staff on health benefits, and increased funding from the 2017 school district referendum.
To ensure the long-term financial viability of our libraries, the Boards of Trustees from the Palisades Free Library, Tappan Library and Orangeburg Library began exploratory research on forming a special district library in early 2018.
From 2018 through 2019, our library directors and trustees met with the Orangetown Town Supervisor and Supervisor-Elect, Town Board members, New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, New York State Senator David Carlucci, library and civil experts, and attorneys to gather information about redistricting as a single library district.
In May 2019, the three libraries, with funding support from the Town of Orangetown, jointly commissioned a study by Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to determine the financial and service impacts of a proposed unification of the Tappan, Palisades and Orangeburg library districts into a single library district with three branches, a single budget, and a single board of trustees representing Palisades, Tappan, Orangeburg and Sparkill. View the report here.
Two important benefits of the special district model are that it allows taxpayers to vote directly on the annual library budget and enables the unified library to bond, if needed and with voter approval, for capital projects. Under the proposed model, all three libraries would remain open and all current staff would be retained.
Based on the findings of the report and exploratory process, the Palisades, Tappan and Orangeburg libraries’ Boards of Trustees voted in October 2019 to proceed with the formation of a unified special library district. Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress presented its findings to the Orangetown Town Board on December 6, 2019.
Next steps in the redistricting process include the drafting of legislation, Home Rule approval by the Orangetown Town Board, passage of the legislation by the New York State Legislature, and approval by the governor. If legislation is passed and approved, our community--specifically, residents of Palisades, Tappan, Orangeburg and Sparkill--will vote on whether or not to unify.
We are hopeful that unification will provide our libraries with much-needed financial stability so that we may continue to serve as vibrant hubs of learning and enrichment for our communities. Public funding from taxes is currently at 2006 levels for the Palisades Free Library; 2020 will be our fourth consecutive year with a zero percent funding increase from the Town. Without increased funding, our expenses are projected to exceed revenues and deplete reserves within the next five years. We believe that unification as a single district will ensure the long-term preservation of our library.
The Blauvelt Free Library and The Dennis P. McHugh Piermont Public Library (already a special district library in its own right) declined to join the Palisades, Tappan and Orangeburg libraries in the exploratory process and subsequent redistricting effort. However, their directors have been consistently informed of developments.
This past summer, the Tappan, Palisades and Orangeburg libraries, along with the Town of Orangetown, engaged Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to do a forensic financial and organizational investigation of our three libraries. We were hoping they would be able to identify possible cost savings and/or service benefits for our communities by redistricting as a single district. The results of the study support the efforts to move forward as a single district with three branches. With the three library boards and the Town of Orangetown behind the effort, we have begun the process of redistricting. Please know the ultimate decision will rest with the voters of our new local combined district and be done with a well-publicized public referendum vote.
Below you will find a few answers to some frequently asked questions. We will update the information as it becomes available and we progess with the process. The information below was updated on 12/23/2019.
What are the libraries' goals with unification?
Goal 1: To achieve financial stability
- By allowing taxpayers to vote directly on the budget each year, the single library district will be better positioned to engage in long-term financial planning.
- A single library district will enable us to achieve economies of scale in purchasing equipment, materials, and services.
- Consolidation will reduce redundancies in staffing and programming. However, the three libraries have agreed to retain all current staff members; there will be no layoffs due to unification.
- Increase volume and capacity to serve
- Reach more patrons with unified message
- Provide new services and programs
- All residents within the new single district (Orangeburg, Palisades, Sparkill, and Tappan) will have the same tax rate.
- Voters within the new single district will be represented by publicly elected trustees.
- If substanitial capital projects which would require a bond are needed in the future, a public vote must be held for voter approval.
- There will be a new single library district sharing a single budget supporting the three branches (Orangeburg, Palisades, and Tappan).
- Closing/repurposing buildings is not under consideration.
- The new library district will be governed by a publicly elected Board of Trustees and be administered by one executive director.
- The public will have the ability to directly vote on budgets, trustees, and capital construction projects.
The process is anticipated to take up to 24 months. However, the timeline is dependent on many factors not within our control, as many State and local agencies that will need to approve various steps in the creation of the new district. Ultimately, however, voters in the new district will vote whether to approve unification.
To form the new Special District:
- Town of Orangetown must support creating a special district.
- NYS Assembly and Senate must introduce and approve legislation to authorize the election to create a new special district.
- The Governor must sign the approved legislation.
- The residents of the newly approved district must vote on a referendum to approve the creation of the district, elect Board of trustees, and approve the initial budget.
- Only by a successful local referendum will the new Special District be formed.
What were the key results from Pattern for Progress's efficiency study?
The study authors conclued that a unified district would reduce costs, improve services, and help stabilize finances and would confer the following key benefits:
- Greater financial stability and accountability through public budget votes
- Coordination of programming to reduce duplication and improve access
- Coordinated purchasing to reduce duplication and broaden collection
- Unified lending rules and shared lending of ebooks, online resources, and museum passes
- Reduced staff costs through attrition; layoffs are not under consideration
- Administrative efficiency - merge duplicative budget, payroll, accounting, and technology systems for consistency and efficiency
- Better pricing on supplies, contractual services and technology through consolidated purchasing
Tappan Library Board Palisades Library Board Orangeburg Library Board