Hard times strain library

Kinderhook Library asks voters for help on November 2 ballot

KINDERHOOK – Lot’s of businesses, government agencies and institutions are hunkering down as the effects of the recession drag on. But the Kinderhook Memorial Library, faced with increased demand and higher costs, has taken the opposite approach. Referendums on the ballots this November in the Towns of Kinderhook and Stuyvesant ask voters to approve increasing local support for the library, which serves both towns.

In Kinderhook, the increase would be $37,000, raising the total town support for the library from $140,000 to $177,000. In Stuyvesant, a smaller town, the library is asking for an additional $5,000 annually, raising the total contribution from that town to $25,000 a year. In both cases the increase is around 25%.

Direct support for the library from town taxes can only be increased with public approval at a general election, and library officials say the last time the library requested an increase in funding was two years ago. The total being sought, $42,000, is the same amount approved in the previous referendum.

Approval of the Kinderhook proposition would mean an increase of 3.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on properties in the town, with the rate going from 19.9 cents to 23.4 cents per $1,000.

In Stuyvesant, approval means an increase in the tax rate of 2.1 cents per thousand, with the rate rising from the current 8.3 cents to 10.4 cents per $1,000.

Library Board President Gary Spielmann said that a Town of Kinderhook homeowner whose property is assessed at $250,000 would see an annual increase of approximately $9. The tax increase would be approximately $5 for a house of the same assessed value in the Town of Stuyvesant.

“We have legitimate need for what we want to do, and we can’t do that without the votes,” said Mr. Spielmann. He and board members Dorothy Balko and Karen Vecellio, along with Library Director Julie Johnson met with The Columbia Paper Monday, October 18 to talk about the November vote.

The board, with much input from the community, created a five-year plan that will take the institution on Hudson Street to the year 2014. Mr. Spielmann said part of the plan is placing a referendum on the ballot every two years. The last referendum, in 2008, passed by a 2-to-1 margin, Mr. Spielmann said.

If the new referendum passes, it will cover the next two years of operation for the library, 2011 and 2012. Mr. Spielmann said that the board collected 305 signatures to the place measure on the ballot in Kinderhook and 94 to place the companion resolution before the voters in Stuyvesant this year.

The funds will help support upkeep of the 75-year-old library building. Ms. Balko talked about a $7,000 project last year to replace gutters and repair trim on the back of the building, saying of the need for funds: “It’s that kind of thing and it’s constant.”

The library also wants hire a part-time technical librarian to help maintain the library’s computers and offer regular computer classes for children and adults. Part of the five-year plan also includes hiring an office manager. The library currently has a staff of six and has steadily increased its hours following voters approved of the last two funding propositions.

The library is also facing the effect of cuts in funding at the state level. The Kinderhook Library is part of the Mid-Hudson Library System, which provides the know-how to support the library files that handle the automated circulation system, said Ms. Johnson. The system also connects the library to the five-county inter-library loan system and coordinates the exchange of library materials with other libraries.

Ms. Johnson said that the state is cutting funding to Mid-Hudson and the other 23 library systems around the state, which means that local libraries will have to pay more for the services they receive from the system. Right now the Kinderhook Library pays about $4,000 a year for those services, but that amount is expected to grow to $10,000 by 2012.

“They are really being slashed,” Ms. Johnson said of the system’s budget. She added that the library feels the strain when the Mid-Hudson System is stretched because, “They do a lot for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves.”

“We like the library to be the heart of the community,” said Mr. Spielmann. He said the library offers over 300 programs a year for the community, many of them free to the public.

The Kinderhook Library is not the only library in the Town of Kinderhook, but the other one, the Valatie Free Library, is not participating in of this referendum. Mr. Spielmann said that Kinderhook has worked with the Valatie Library on other referendums and that the Kinderhook board reached out to its counterparts in Valatie on this one.

The referendum will appear on the back of the new ballot form that will be used November 2, a change that results from the switch to the optical scan voting machines now required for all polling places starting with this November’s election. The board has been trying to get the word out in its newsletter and by having an information session at the library about the new voting machines and ballots. Members are reminding people to turn over the ballot to vote for the referendum.

The board also board also plans a German-style celebration this weekend to raise money for the library and get the word out about the budget. Oktoberfest will be an afternoon celebration of Books, Brats and Brews on Saturday October 23. For more information go to the library’s website at oklibrary.org.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

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