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Massena library officials discuss possible formation of library district

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MASSENA - Massena Public Library officials are in early discussions on the possibility of forming a library district, which would create a separate library tax on the bills of residents of the towns of Massena and Brasher.

The library currently receives the majority of its funding through the town of Massena, and $9,000 from a separate library tax billed to residents of Louisville.

Library board members would like the possibility explored in order to determine if it’s a favorable option as they move forward in a difficult budget climate.

“Maybe we’ll decide it’s not a good thing for the library, but I think we need to explore it now so five, six months from now when we’re looking at the budget cycle, we’ll know which way to go,” board member Emily Hutchison said. “I would hate to just wait and then (later on) decide, ‘Oh, let’s look into that’ and then we won’t really have time.”

Library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer said the possibility of forming a library district is still in the “exploratory phases” and that it was still too early to provide estimates on how it might impact area taxpayers. She also pointed out that any such action would have to be put up to a referendum.

In 2010, Louisville residents supported a proposition to have property owners in the town contribute to the library’s budget. Louisville residents are billed a separate line item on their property taxes for the library. Each year the town’s taxpayers contributes $9,000 to the library, according to Supervisor Larry Legault.

That year library officials collected 200 signatures in Louisville, more than the 110 needed. However, they ended up with about a dozen less signatures than the 63 they needed in Brasher. The number of petitions needed is equal to 10 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election.

One factor that may influence the possible action is the amount of revenue the library generates through fundraisers and contributions from the town of Massena. In its 2013 budget, the town contributed $673,000 to the library, down $78,000 from its contribution the previous year.

Town Councilman Charles A. “Chuck” Raiti told library officials the town council planned to look at its 2014 budget earlier than it had in year’s past in an effort to promote fiscal responsibility and better gauge the financial needs of its entities. He said the town was awaiting a report from town assessor Michael C. Ward to determine how much revenue they would be working with next year.

“We’ll (begin the budget process) earlier than we ever have. We want everyone to know where we are now instead of in August,” Mr. Raiti said.

He told library officials not to expect any increases in its contribution from the town. “Don’t plan on much more than what you got (from the town last year),” Mr. Raiti told library officials. “Just plan on (receiving) what you have, and if you get more, great.”

Ms. Dunne-Thayer couldn’t comment on whether the current budget climate might prompt library officials to propose the formation of a library district. She said they still had to discuss the option with officials from the North Country Library System to determine if the move would put any additional costs on the library.

“Obviously funding is a factor (in the decision), and it’s an issue facing all libraries,” she said.

Ms. Dunne-Thayer also stressed the importance of providing the same level of service to the residents of Massena, Louisville and Brasher. “We’re hoping to keep up with what we currently provide,” she said. “Obviously it’s a terrible economic time, and we understand the town is having trouble funding all its entities.”

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