EDITORIAL: Why vote for library tax?

WHOOPEEE! ANCRAM VOTERS have the opportunity November 4 to decide whether to increase their taxes. Given the chance to save a few bucks, what taxpayer wouldn’t vote No? Makes you wonder, then, why anyone would go to the trouble of placing such a loser proposition on the ballot, unless it’s for something really important like, say, library services.
Proposition No. 4 on the Ancram ballot reads: “Shall the annual contribution of the town of Ancram for the operating budget of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library be thirty thousand dollars ($30,000)?

The oddest thing about the proposal is that it means what it says. No gimmicks. It took a petition drive by town voters just to put this question on the ballot. If it does win approval by a majority of Ancram residents at next month’s election, there will be no automatic increases in the future–the funding stays at that approved amount, not a penny more until new petitions are circulated and new funding is approved at a general election.

The Roe Jan Community Library on Route 22 near the Copake-Hillsdale line is about five years old. Before that there was the Hillsdale Library in the hamlet. The state decided long ago that this library should serve all the people of Hillsdale, Copake and Ancram. Voters in Copake and Hillsdale have already agreed to tax themselves to pay for running the library. But Ancram voters have so far rejected that approach and left it up to the Town Board to determine how much to donate annually the Roe Jan Library.

Ancram is the smallest of these three towns, but the amount the town currently contributes doesn’t come close to Ancram’s fair share of the costs. Some Ancram folks have questioned why the region needed a new library. There are lots of practical reasons, but the best evidence is that more people use the new library than ever used the old one. And the number of Ancram residents taking out Roe Jan Library cards has increased 600% since the new library opened.

One misplaced concern in Ancram involves paying for construction of the library. To be clear, none of the Ancram funding will pay that debt. Zilch.
All the money will help keep the doors open, the lights on and services available to a public that eagerly wants them.
Though the Roe Jan Library steadily attracts more users from Ancram as people discover all that it has to offer, some Ancram residents prefer to use the Pine Plains or Millerton libraries in Dutchess County. They ask why their taxes should support the Roe Jan Library when they don’t use it.

The answer lies in how library service in the state is set up. Ancram residents can use the Roe Jan, Pine Plains and Millerton libraries plus more than 60 others across 5 counties that are members of the Mid-Hudson Library System. The system unites them by providing all sorts of services that small local libraries never could offer, including access to a couple of million books, movies and other materials, which you can order at the libraries or online. And if you don’t have a computer or don’t want one, somebody at the library, most likely a volunteer, will help you find what you want.

The system is a regional cooperative that provides this menu of essential library services mostly behind the scenes. The fate of the system depends on the willingness of taxpayers to act responsibly and fund the library in their own local service area. By strengthening their local library taxpayers contribute to the vitality of the whole system and each of its member libraries. The fairest, most effective way for Ancram voters to sustain whatever library they use is to support the library proposition.

Some taxpaying voters in Ancram might never use a public library. They, too, have a stake in this election. For them, as for library users, this vote is about more than library service. It boils down to whether Ancram voters believe their town should be a partner with its neighbors in shaping the future of the region. The towns that shoulder the investment in the Roe Jan Community Library now will shape the character of the community for years to come.

For more on library programs call 518 325-4101, visit www.roejanlibrary.org or, better yet, visit the library at 9091 Route 22 (a mile south of the intersection with Route 23). And on November 4 please vote Yes on Proposition 4.

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