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May 1, 2014

Supporters optimistic as library vote looms

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Voters in the Cooperstown Central School District will have the opportunity to change the way the Village Library of Cooperstown and the Kinney Memorial Library in Hartwick are funded on May 20.

“We feel once people have the information they’re likely to vote for it,” said Peg Odell, a volunteer with the Friends of the Village Library.

The Cooperstown library is funded by the municipalities of the village of Cooperstown, the towns of Otsego and Middlefield and the Cooperstown Central School. However, while village residents make up about 34 percent of the library’s card holders, the village provides 74 percent of the funds for its operation, in addition to providing the building, utilities, treasury and accounting services and custodial services for the library.

Kim Jastremski, president of the library board, said that this discrepancy has become a concern for the village government.

“We’ve been in discussion with the village for several years,” said Jastremski, who said that the situation is not viewed as sustainable.

The Kinney Memorial Library is funded entirely by the town of Hartwick. However, Jastremski notes, that the funding source puts it into competition with other budget items annually in Hartwick. 

“That is not a reliable source of funding,” said Jastremski.

Jastremski said that she doesn’t know if the Kinney Memorial Library has been subject to recent budget cuts, but that the village library has not. However, she said that she has been informed by the village that cuts will be coming if the current funding regime is not changed.

“We have been informed by the village that cuts are pending,” said Jastremski.

Jastremski said that the two library boards explored a variety of options, before deciding on their current course of action: Putting the library budget on the May 20 school-budget ballot. While 25 signatures were required to put the budget resolution on the ballot, Jastremski said that the libraries collected 290.

The resolution would authorize the school board to collect $180,452 in property taxes to fund the two libraries. Jastremski said that this works out to about $20 dollars per household per year.

“For most people this tax will be about the price of a hardcover book,” said Jastremski.

Of this money, $115,452 would go to the Village Library of Cooperstown, while $65,000 would be allocated to The Kinney Memorial Library. If the resolution is passed, this levy would be collected every year and remain unchanged, unless a future vote of the Cooperstown Central School District is held to alter it.

This funding method for libraries is recommended by the New York State Department of Education and in 2012, 227 communities voted to adopt it.

Jastremski said that, if the resolution passes, the library will not put a budget increase on next year’s ballot, although there are tentative plans to do so in 2016.

“We don’t want the public to forget this is an important part of our community,” said Jastremski.

Jastremski said that the response to the campaign so far has been a good one.

“I think that most people once they understand the current situation … are very positive about it,” said Jastremski. “It hasn’t been a matter of selling the libraries.”

She also said that the village library has worked out a four-year-agreement with the Village of Cooperstown for the village to to continue providing the utilities, building, treasury/accounting services and custodial services to the library as they have in the past. This period will be used by the two sides to come up with a new arrangement.

Jastremski said that the Cooperstown trustees have been great to work with, and are supportive of the resolution.

“They are very much in favor of our decision,” said Jastremski.

A forum explaining the budget resolution will be held on May 4 at 1:30 p.m. in the Village Meeting Room on 22 Main St. in Cooperstown. Members of the both library boards will be on hand to answer questions about the proposal. 

Additionally, Jeff Reynolds, a representative of the Waterville Public Library will also be in attendance. The Waterville Public Library has been funded by the proposed funding mechanism for years.

“He’ll help us answer questions about how this works down the road,” said Jastremski.

The forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters.

Jastremski expressed optimism about the resolution’s success, saying that much of the work leading up to the vote will revolve around educating voters.

“I feel very confident that it will pass,” said Jastremski, who nevertheless warned about the consequences of failure. “If this doesn’t pass, the services (at the Village Library of Cooperstown) will not continue at the level that they have.”