KINDERHOOK–The Board of Trustees of the Kinderhook Memorial Library hopes to place a referendum of the November ballot in the Towns of Kinderhook and Stuyvesant to increase the library’s budget.
In order to get on the ballot in the general election, the library has to collect signatures from registered voters in each town equal to at least 10% of the people who voted in the last election for governor. A library board member said this week that the library was nearing that goal.
If the petition drive is successful, voters will then have a chance to determine the fate of the proposal. In Stuyvesant, the library is asking for an additional $5,000 annually, raising the total contribution from that town to $25,000 a year. In Kinderhook, the increase would be $37,000, raising the total town support for the library from $140,000 to $177,000. In both cases the increase is around 25%.
The last time the library requested an increase in funding was two years ago, according to library officials.
The propositions, if approved by voters, would increase of the portion of the library budget raised by taxes to about $202,000.
The Friends of the Library, an all-volunteer committee that has been helping raise awareness and funds for the library since 2005, is planning outreach activities to inform the voting public about the new funding proposal. One place that may happen is the group’s biannual book sale September 18 at the library.
The library’s current $192,000 operating budget includes the $140,000 raised from taxes in Kinderhook, the $20,000 from Stuyvesant plus $5,909 from the county. The rest of the libraries revenues come from donations, fines and fees.
Adopting the new proposal in Kinderhook would mean a tax increase of $3.59 for each $100,000 of assessed value of properties in the town. In Stuyvesant, the proposed increase would raise property taxes by $2.10 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
“If we want to keep services at the current level, it means that we must ask for the small increases,” Kinderhook Memorial Library Board Trustee Dot Balko said in a recent email. She said by phone this week that volunteers would continue to collect signatures for the petitions would continue until September 13, although she at this point “We’re almost there,” in terms of the number needed. She also emphasized that signing a petition to place the proposition on the ballot does not mean a voter must vote for the measure in November; it only means that voters will have an opportunity to decide on whether to increase speding on library services.
Ms. Balko and members of the Friends of the Library met in mid-August to discuss the many outreach programs they organize through the library, including the possibility of events at the old railroad station in Stuyvesant.
“We want the people of Stuyvesant to know that it’s their library too,” said Bonnie Shannon, chair of the Friends of the Library group.
Supporters also plan to host an Oktoberfest in October 23 to get out information about the vote. And members of the Friends group are busy collecting donations for their Saturday September 18 book sale. The two book sales, in June and September, bring in about $7,000.
The Friends have 120 members and a budget of about $10,000. Last year they gave $4,000 directly to the library and $1,000 to the director of the library to use for special programs.
“I think it’s telling that we are able to raise that kind of money,” said Ms. Balko of the Friends’ budget. As they prepare to reach out the community about petition, Ms. Shannon said that people turn to the public library in difficult economic times. “The Friends and the library provide when times are hard,” she said.
The library offers Internet access to the public at no charge to the users and provides reference materials for job seekers. There are free story times for children and programs for teenagers. Ms. Shannon believes that more people borrow DVDs from the public library than get them from the commercial distributor Netflix, thanks to the fact that the films from library doesn’t charge for the films it supplies.
“Everything is just costing more,” said Ms. Balko of the proposed increase in library budget.
The Friends group has plans for more fundraising and is always looking for new members. Ms. Shannon said the group started with five people; now the group supports half a dozen programs at the library aimed at everyone from preschoolers to seniors. Members of the Friends group have been involved with two previous funding petition drives and have lobbied in Albany for state funds for libraries.
The Friends of the Library will hold its annual meeting on September 26.
For more information about the library go to www.kinderhooklibrary.org.