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Greenburgh Studies Future of its Library Funding

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Some Greenburgh Town Board members feel the long-term solution to the Greenburgh Public Library's financial woes could be changing the way it's funded.

During an outreach meeting earlier this week with about a dozen residents at Virginia Road Elementary School, Council member Kevin Morgan and Supervisor Paul Feiner responded to questions about cuts to the library budget by maintaining the popular and heavily used library may be better off in the future directly presenting its annual spending plan to voters.

"At some point that may become a reality," Morgan said. "The library is important but if they become an independent library perhaps they could raise more funds."

Faced with a state imposed 2 percent tax increase cap, Feiner said all town departments were forced to cut expenses. The library was anticipating a $320,000 decrease but the town board slashed an additional $250,000 in mid-December.

"The library was one the departments like everybody else that had to make cuts," Feiner explained. "We're not anti-library. We're trying to live within the tax cap. Everyone on the board appreciates what the library does. It's a terrific library. We're trying our best to work cooperatively. Maybe this will turn out to be a win-win. Maybe changing the way the library gets its funding will make it a stronger library."

"We hate cutting the library," Morgan said. "We didn't want to do it but we have to be fiscally responsible."

The library serves approximately 44,000 individuals annually, about half of which Feiner said don't live in Greenburgh. It is one of 38 libraries in the Westchester Library System.

Library Director Eugenie Contrata said the library had to lay off three part-time employees and eliminate the budgets for books, DVDs, music, CDs, audio books and an online, live tutoring service for high school students.

When asked about becoming a library district, which would require legislation approved by the New York State Legislature, Contrata said it is an option that a long-term planning committee established by the library board just started studying.

"I can't imagine anyone would oppose it if the library board asked for it," said Contrata, who has been director since 2006.

Feiner has initiated an effort to find ways to privately raise funds for the library, noting in recent years Irvington and Dobbs Ferry were successful reaching out to the public for financial assistance for their libraries.

"The Greenburgh Library should really try raising some private dollars," he said. A community fundraising letter is planned to be sent out in April.

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