Roe Jan Library seeks ballot support in Ancram

ANCRAM—Roeliff Jansen Library volunteers are out seeking signatures on petitions to allow residents to vote on “a consistent level of funding for the library under Chapter 414 of New York State Law.”

News that the referendum will likely be on the November 5 ballot in the three towns the library is chartered to serve—Hillsdale, Copake and Ancram—came up at the June 20 Ancram Town Board meeting.

Chapter 414 “enables libraries of any type to put their budget up for a public vote, held on Election Day, to establish the municipal budget appropriation for the library.

“Should the vote pass, the municipality will fund the library at the approved level,” according to the New York State Library website:

Though both Copake and Hillsdale residents voted in Chapter 414 referendums to fund the library in 2004, Ancram voters have never voted on the issue. Ancram currently makes an annual voluntary payment to the library of $5,000. Should Ancram voters approve library funding in November, the town’s share of the funding will be $30,000 annually raised through property taxes. While the Roe Jan Library on Route 22, just north of the former Roe Jan School in Copake, is chartered by the state to serve Ancram, in the past some residents have voiced opposition to funding it, arguing that they use the libraries in Pine Plains or Millerton, both in Dutchess County, which they say are closer.

Approval of a referendum to fund the library would be “a big change for Ancram,” said Library Board of Trustees President Howard Van Lenten in a phone call this week.

In 2004, the library asked Hillsdale and Copake voters to allocate $9.50/$100,000 assessed value annually to fund the library. Voter approval in those towns resulted in $37,000 annually from Copake and $24,000 annually from Hillsdale.

But things have changed in nine years.

“Because of increases in property values since then, the effective cost to property owners has gone down to $6 per $100,000,” Mr. Van Lenten said in a follow-up email.

“Inflation also takes its toll. The $24,000 a year that Hillsdale voters appropriated in 2004 is worth only $18,480 in today’s dollars—23% less,” he continued.

What the library is asking for this year is that based on current property values funding be restored to the original $9.50/$100,000 level, which translates to a $55,000 annual allocation from Copake, a $42,500 annual allocation from Hillsdale and a $30,000 annual allocation from Ancram.

That amounts to 3 cents per day on a property valued at $100,000 in all three towns. In Copake and Hillsdale, the annual increase would be $3.50 or the cost of a gallon of regular gas, according to Mr. Van Lenten’s figures.

Mr. Van Lenten wrote that Library Trustees voted to ask local taxpayers to approve additional funding for the library, saying, “We need to reduce our reliance on voluntary, individual donations to fund the library.”

He said that other libraries in the Mid-Hudson region and around the county receive 75 to 85% of their support from local taxes, while the Roe Jan Library gets only 34% of its operating income from local taxes. The rest comes from individual donations, fund raising events, and occasional grants. Those income sources are unpredictable and unreliable, he said. “It’s not a long-term solution for the financial stability of any not-for-profit, and it’s not fair: we are a community-wide resource and like schools and fire departments and rescue squads, I believe we have earned community-wide support,” Mr. Van Lenten said by email.

“We want to give the voters the opportunity to tax themselves for a service they value,” he said.

In other business at the June 20 Ancram Town Board meeting, the board reconvened the public hearing on new ridgeline protection regulations prior to the meeting, with new voices weighing in on the controversial issue that has been under discussion for months. At the hearing, the Town Board heard from Leah and Bob Wilcox, ZBA chair and town justice respectively, whose Roche Drive property is protected under an easement with the Columbia Land Conservancy. The easement dictates where on the property building is allowed to occur and it seems that the only permissible location or “building envelope” is in a high field considered a ridgeline that needs protection under the new town zoning regulation. Though the Wilcoxes have received assurances that they could work with the Planning Board to build on their property, they want professional advice and asked the Town Board to postpone enactment of the regulation until they get it.

Jeff Pulver of Pleasant View Farm on Winchell Mountain delivered a lengthy statement criticizing the ridgeline protection regulation, noting its authors “have no contact with reality.”

The Town Board subsequently postponed a vote on the matter and adjourned the public hearing until next month. The next board meeting is July 18 at 7 p.m., preceded by a public hearing on whether the highway superintendent should be appointed or elected.

To contact Diane Valden email .


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