CLINTON — With funding from the town being frozen at 2010 levels, Kirkland Town Library officials said more money is needed to keep its collection, programs and community services sustainable for the future.
At Tuesday's regularly scheduled Clinton Central School Board of Education meeting, Kirkland Town Library Director Anne Debraggio, along with Board of Trustees Treasurer Dan Gale and other members of the board, requested to the school board that a special proposition be included on the ballot for the 2019-20 school budget vote on Tuesday, May 21, asking for taxes to be collected from community members in support of the library. The proposition would be separate from the school budget vote and not be associated with the school district's proposed spending plan.
According to Debraggio and resources provided at Tuesday's meeting, Kirkland Town Library's total amount of local public sources is $213,547, with a Legal Service Area population of 10,315. While compared to other area libraries, the Frank J. Baslow Library in Herkimer serves a population of 10,060 and receives $284,610 in public sources; and Hamilton Public Library only serves a population of 4,239 and also receives more public funding than Kirkland — $241,604.
Although Kirkland Town Library receives $213,547 in public funding, its actual total operating expenditures is $291,163.
"We want to ensure that the town will always have a library," said Debraggio, further stating that KTL has always had a good connection with its school district and community, serving all age groups — the "only place that caters to" toddlers, teens, middle-agers and seniors.
The director explained that funding for the library has come from the town.
"However, expenditures continue to increase, and we have had to continually work to do more with less — which is not sustainable," she said.
"We need to ensure that sufficient funds are available to maintain the library building and support the collection, programs and services our community needs now and in the future."
Town funding is two-thirds of the library's operating budget for the year, "but we can't run on good luck," Debraggio said. "We haven't seen an increase since 2010, and we need a reliable source of funding to make sure our programs continue."
Treasurer Gale said the library has been warned by town officials that it may receive an actual reduction in funding from the town starting in the 2020 budget.
"The town let us know that these levels can't continue," which has prompted the library "to find sustainable funding," Gale said.
Gale further explained that state Education Law allows all public libraries the ability to place a funding proposition on a school district ballot.
"Under that law, the amount collected by the library will continue from year-to-year until the library board requests another proposition to increase" the levy, he said.
Other "rationale" for for the initiative to be on the school district ballot, listed by the library, was the state "established the school district and chartered the library to serve the educational interests of the Town of Kirkland. The school district budget is determined by members of the community, and we believe strongly that the KTL budget should be as well. The library is a community resource accessible to all, so it is appropriate that the community has a direct voice in determining its funding," read a statement provided to Board of Education members and district officials.
According to officials, the library's current funding is as follows: $196,800 from the Town of Kirkland, or 67.2 percent; $13,500 from Oneida County, or 4.6 percent; $73,500 from fund-raising, or 25.1 percent; and the rest comes from the state and miscellaneous sources at 0.9 percent and 2.2 percent of the budget respectively.
KTL has requested support from the Town of Kirkland since at least 1907 when its first request was for $100, Debraggio said.
"We are grateful because their support helped grow the library," the statement said. "Our support from the town was increased 1.35 percent in 2004, 3 percent in 2008 and 1.9 percent in 2010. Given the tax cap, future increases for the library are highly doubtful. It's time now for the library to stand on its own and be responsible for its future."
The KTL expenses for 2019 are as follows: $123,818 for collections; $53,450 for adult services; $53,246 for youth services; $50,491 for the facility; $41,944 for administration/operations; and $28,923 for technology and equipment. As for recent construction projects, 80 percent of the funding to maintain the building came from external sources, library officials said. Such sources included the the New York State Construction
Grant, the Hamilton College Town Gown Fund and the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties.
In addition to funding basic operating costs, "this level of funding will allow us to better address the expressed needs and desires of our community. For example, opening earlier would allow people to stop on their way to work to pick up materials. Sunday afternoon hours during the winter would combat winter blues and increase the time that families can visit the library together," the library statement read. "We would build on our current programming levels and offer even more timely and relevant programs for children, teens and adults. More materials could be added to the collection to meet the interests and demands of patrons."
It further stated that the library board has studied the amount of money that would be needed to maintain and improve its collection, staffing, programming and services, and building and grounds.
KTL's proposed 2020 budget is as follows: $130,900 for collections; $67,077 for adult services; $67,858 for youth services; $66,147 for the facility; $51,889 for administration/operations; and $38,914 for technology and equipment, a total of $324,784.
"Approving this budget means we can do more to provide opportunities for members in our community to learn about and use existing technologies," read the statement. "We can better assist our school system with offerings that help every child entering school with the requisite developmental skills that nurture lifelong enjoyment of reading and that allow our teens to explore diverse interests. Every voter could weigh in on the library budget, and by doing so, demonstrate their support of the library's goals and initiatives."
The library assessment would show on community members' school district tax bills. Darby O'Brien, Board of Trustees member and former director of Utica Public Library, said Jervis Public Library in Rome collects funding in this fashion, as does libraries across the state.
New York "wants area libraries to go by this process," O'Brien said. "It's been encouraging school districts to do this over the last 15 years."
Increases in library funding would not be automatic, officials said. Any time the library requested an increase in the amount of funding collected from the community, it would need to present a proposition for public vote by school district residents. Library Board of Trustees members work with the library director to decide how funding would be used.
Gale said in 2020, the estimated library tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, would be 86 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, or assessed home value. For example, a home assessed at $100,000 would pay $1.65 per week, or about 24 cents a day.
The language of the proposed proposition to be included on the school district ballot would read as follows: "Resolved that the Board of Education of the Clinton Central School District is hereby authorized to levy taxes annually in the amount of $324,784, which will be distributed to the Kirkland Town Library to provide public library services to school district residents."
If the proposition fails, library officials said they would need to approach the Town of Kirkland and request that the town continue its support under the library's existing contract "and would have to make difficult decisions on eliminating items from the 2020 budget," the statement said.
The vote on the proposition would take place at the same time as the proposed 2019-20 school budget, from noon to 8 p.m. May 21 at the CCS Theater Lobby.
"I would like to show our appreciation to the library and its staff," said Dr. Shaun Carney, middle school principal, following the library's remarks. "There's been many occasions where they've helped our students with building-wide projects. We have had several children and families go through the library."
For more information about the proposed proposition or the library's proposed 2020 budget, contact Debraggio at 315-853-2038 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
, or Board of Trustees President Michael Van Strander at email@example.com