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The Times
  • Voters to decide library funding

  • Services at Frank J. Basloe Library could increase or decrease over the next year.

    The decision is up to Herkimer Central School District voters.

    The library’s board of trustees conducted an information session Tuesday evening in the library’s Washburn Room to offer an explanation of the proposition that will appear on the ballot for the May 21 school budget vote.

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  • Services at Frank J. Basloe Library could increase or decrease over the next year.
    The decision is up to Herkimer Central School District voters.
    The library’s board of trustees conducted an information session Tuesday evening in the library’s Washburn Room to offer an explanation of the proposition that will appear on the ballot for the May 21 school budget vote.
    Voters will be asked to cast their ballots on whether or not to change the library’s governance and funding structure from a municipal library to a school district public library. The name indicates the library’s service area would be the same as that of the school district.
    The library board has been looking at making changes since the village of Herkimer, its primary funding source, reduced its funding significantly in spring 2011. The village board asked the library to look at alternate funding sources and board members attended a workshop offered by the Mid-York Library System, according to board Chairwoman Michelle Andersen.
    The board discussed the idea of changing from a municipal to a school district public library, but “the merger was looming and we had to wait to see how that would pan out,” she said.
    Herkimer voters rejected a proposal to merge with the Ilion and Mohawk school districts and that gave the library board the opportunity to move forward with the redistricting plan.
    Board members pointed out the village provides the majority of the library’s funding, and funding from that source has gone from a high of $176,189 in 2008 - 2009 to a low of $102,895 in 2012 - 2013. The library also receives funds from the town, county and state, and funds collected through a school district ballot.
    Another decrease in village funding is expected this year, according to Librarian Lesley Paul.
    “As our consultant pointed out, we live in a 2 percent tax cap world,” said Andersen. “When municipalities are looking for places to cut, libraries are categorized as ‘non-essential services.’ That’s obviously not how we feel.” She said any time she has moved into a community, one of the first places she visits is the local library.
    “It’s a good indicator of the health of the community,” she said.
    Board member Charles Collins said many people don’t know how the library is funded. They assume there is a “Basloe trust” because the name “Basloe” appears on the building. The Basloe family made a substantial contribution at the time the library was moved from the old building to the new, he said, but there is no ongoing support from that source.
    Plenty of people use the library. Total visits went from 57,343 in 2008 to 59,322 in 2011. The number of public computer sessions rose from 9,165 in 2008 to 10,158 in 2011.
    Library patrons don’t just come for books and magazines, board member Carol Kinney pointed out. They come to use the computers to look for jobs and conduct genealogy research, to have items faxed and they borrow DVDs for entertainment.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It would cost my family more than $40 to go see a movie,” she said. “It’s much more economical to borrow a DVD from the library.
    The library proposition would provide $270,930 in community-based funding to support the library. This would amount to 78 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home in the school district assessed at $80,000, this would mean $60 a year. “That’s $5 a month or $1.15 a week,” the library’s informational brochure points out. “All one needs to do is take out three books or download three eBooks or borrow four new DVDs and this community-based investment pays for itself.”
    Voters would also choose library board members; the village board currently appoints members. Current board members Michelle Andersen, Charles Collins, Adam Hutchinson and Phillip Kane will appear on the ballot May 21. A fifth member is needed. Voters may write in a choice. If there were no write-in choice, another member would be appointed to serve until the next election.
    If voters say yes to the plan, the library would have a stable source of funding that would allow it to restore 10 open hours a week, going from 46 to 56 hours; restore its new materials budget, restore and expand programs, hire another full-time professional librarian and increase continuing education opportunities for staff members.
    If the majority of voters say no, the library may be forced to close an additional day each week, drastically cut its materials budget, have no programs for teens and tweens and no expansion of children’s and adult programs. Inadequate staffing levels and training could affect the quality of service.
    The board is working to make sure local residents understand the proposal and what their decision would mean for the future of the library. Board members have addressed local organizations and sent out a mailing as well as posted information and a presentation on the library’s website, www.midyorklib.org/herkimer.
    Questions may be emailed to Andersen at mmandfam@juno.com.

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