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Library considers future; tax referendum possible

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POTSDAM — The Potsdam Public Library has a plan for the next five years and, as the facility continues to grow, it may approach residents with a referendum to approve a small tax increase.

The library board adopted the five-year plan in August.

Nearly 129,000 people visited the library in the 2011-12 fiscal year, up from just over 79,000 only five years earlier. Potsdam has the highest circulation of any library in the north country; it surpassed Watertown’s Flower Memorial Library last year.

In 2006, residents of the Potsdam Central School District voted to create a special taxing district for the library. Property owners in the school district pay $1.29 for every $1,000 of their assessed property value to keep the library going, a rate that has not been raised since it was implemented.

The creation of the taxing district saved the library from severe financial difficulties and began a period of rapid expansion.

“It was the smartest thing we ever did,” library Director Patricia W. Musante said.

The five-year plan looks at how the library plans to handle the challenges that accompany such rapid growth, while continuing to encourage even more people to use its services.

This may require a small tax hike, Ms. Musante said. The library has longer hours than any other library in the district, and the ever-increasing number of patrons has left it short-staffed.

Any tax increase would have to be approved at a referendum by those who live in the taxing district, which shares the same boundaries as the school district.

The referendum probably would be held in 2013. The library might try to hold a yearly referendum to allow for a small cost-of-living tax increase, rather than proposing larger tax increases less frequently.

“We don’t want to wait until we’re talking about a lot of money,” Ms. Musante said.

Plans also are under way to modernize the library and bring it further into the digital age.

The long-term plan also calls for renovations to the building, which looks much the same as it did when the library opened there in 1976. The renovations would be funded primarily through charitable donations, not through taxpayer money.

This may pose a problem, as charitable donations to the library have fallen by more than 70 percent since the creation of the taxing district in 2006.

Over the next five years, the library also will work to maintain its public computing center, improve online services and make more e-books available, Ms. Musante said.

The long-term plan is on the library’s policies page at www.potsdamlibrary.org.

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