Support Local Voters' Rights to Determine the Fate of Local Libraries.

Will you stand up for local control of local libraries?

THE TIME IS NOW! Please use the NYLA Online Advocacy Center to quickly and easily speak up for the preservation of the special district model in New York - your voice matters!

As of August 6, 2015 we have less than a week to stand up for the right of local New York voters to determine the fate of their local libraries.

Last year the Governor took an unprecedented step and vetoed the Starr Library of Rhinebeck’s special district legislation.  The veto effectively disenfranchised the voters of Rhinebeck, denying them their democratic right to determine the kind of library they want – the very people who use these library services and pay the tax levy to support this valued community resource.

Given that the Governor has previously signed legislation allowing local voters the right to create a special public library district, this veto represented fundamental opposition on the part of the Governor to the formation of new Special Public Library Districts. This opposition could leave the pathway for the creation of new special public library districts blocked, a severe blow to the sustainable funding landscape for public libraries in New York.

The Starr Library board, with the help of Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Senator Sue Serino reintroduced their special district legislation. The Seymour Library also had special district legislation introduced this session (A.1273 and A.7735-A) – both passed through the legislature with near unanimous support and have been called up to the Governor’s desk. We have less than a week to influence the Governor’s next action.

Will you speak up on behalf of local voter rights? Will you help preserve the special district option for New York’s Libraries? Will you help the Governor understand that special district option is necessary to preserve essential library services in New York?

The special district option:

1) Increases transparency of a public library through local control of the election of trustees and a public vote on the library’s tax levy;

2) Increases accountability of the library in their transition from association to a special district public library; and

3) Is the #1 recommendation in the Regents Advisory Council’s Vision 2020 Plan as a strategic direction for New York’s public libraries.

THE TIME IS NOW! Please use the NYLA Online Advocacy Center to easily speak up for the preservation of the special district model in New York, your voice matters.

 

Special Legislative Library Districts and Governor Cuomo's Veto

Below is an OpEd column that ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal on Sunday, December 7, 2014, in response to Governor Cuomo’s veto of a bill that would have authorized a public vote on the formation of the Starr Library District in Rhinebeck, NY.

On Friday, November 21, Governor Cuomo exercised his veto authority on forty bills that passed the Legislature during the last session. One of those bills, A09847-A Cahill/S07259-A Gipson, sought to authorize the voters of the town of Rhinebeck to create the Starr public library district. This particular veto demonstrates the Governor’s lack of understanding of the structure of and mechanisms for forming library districts.

In his veto, the Governor states:  “While I appreciate the Legislature's desire to assist in the maintenance and growth of a public library, I am concerned that this bill would establish yet another level of local government. At a time when taxpayers are being overwhelmed with out-of-control property taxes, this bill has the potential to add to this onerous burden and add further to the plethora of levels of local government.” (Veto #509)

This position harkens back to the Governor's 2014 State of the State address, in which he lumps library districts in with many other types of taxing jurisdictions. He remarked: “So why are our property taxes so high? Because we have too many local governments and we have had them for too long. 10,500 local governments, these are towns, villages, fire district, water district, library, sewage district, one district just to count the other districts in case you missed a district. We have a proliferation of government that is exceedingly expensive and costly.”

The problem with this argument is simple:  Library districts do not operate like any of the local taxing entities Cuomo cites.  Unlike fire, water or sewer districts, local citizens vote directly on the taxes levied by their library district, approving or rejecting those taxes at the ballot box.  The establishment of library districts puts control over spending on library budgets directly into the hands of the voters.

Communities support their libraries and value the access and services they provide.  When given the opportunity to vote on local library funding, local voters statewide have approved those budgets over 96% of the time over the last three years.

What’s more, the Cahill/Gipson bill didn’t even unilaterally establish the new library district. To the contrary, the bill simply allowed the matter to be put before Rhinebeck’s voters—the very same voters who would be responsible for the taxes that a newly formed library district would levy. And yet Governor Cuomo found it preferable to make that decision for those local voters, denying them the opportunity to vote on whether to improve their library services through the creation of a district.

The Governor’s veto purports to prevent the imposition of another onerous burden on local taxpayers.  This too is wrong-minded.  Libraries have long been models of efficiency and deliver value to patrons several times over. Through the shared services provided by New York’s libraries, card holders receive access to materials and services that save them $1B annually.

At a time when demand for library services is increasing, and libraries are providing critical access to the Internet and technology, it is unacceptable that Governor Cuomo has refused to allow Rhinebeck voters the chance to determine the value of their local library and how to fund it.

Jeremy Johannesen
Executive Director
New York Library Association
 


Reference Information on Public Library Districts*

A Public Library District is a library that enables voters to approve the library budget and elect the library trustees. Libraries can choose from a number of models:

  • School District Public Library – serves residents of a single school district
  • Special Legislative District Public Library – state legislation authorizes local election to create a district
  • Association Library District – private entity

Special Legislative District Public Library

The vote to create a Special Legislative District Public Library is authorized by State legislation. A State Legislator introduces a bill specifying the service area of the library and authorizing a public vote to create the library, elect trustees, and establish a budget. Once the State legislation is passed, an election is scheduled within the municipality to select trustees and approve the initial library budget. Click here for sample legislation. The municipality collects taxes on behalf of the library and turns the funds over to the library board, which is completely autonomous. If the new Special Legislative District Public Library is replacing an existing library, the existing library transfers assets to the new library and surrenders its charter to the Board of Regents.

Click here for more information on Special Legislative District Public Libraries (from Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a "how-to" guide).

* Taken from Public Library Districts: An Introduction

Regents Advisory Council on Libraries': Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision and Plan for Library Service in New York State; recommends that public libraries seek district status.  This opinion of the RAC was also included in their 2000 Report

Reference from the NYS Library, Division of Library Development:
Public Library Districts: An Introduction
Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a "how-to" guide
Public Library Districts and their Funding Options
What is a Public Library District?
Types of Public Libraries: A Comparison
Why Create Districts
New Public Library Districts 1999-Present
Where to Start: Creating a Public Library District
Helpful Information
Special Legislative District Public Library Model
Sample Legislation
Steps for Creating a Special Legislative District Public Library
Home Rule Message
After the Vote
Sample Charter
Civil Service Law
General Municipal Law
Collecting Taxes
Registering a Public Library in New York State

Additional Resources
Report of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness (April 2008)
Office of the State Comptroller - Real Property Tax Cap Information