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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 about the possibility of forming a library district, which would create a separate charge on property tax bills for homeowners in the towns of Massena and Brasher.

The library currently receives most of its funding from the town of Massena; it also receives money from a library tax billed to Louisville residents.

Library board members want to examine the tax option as they face 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 decide, ‘Oh, let’s look into that,’ and then we won’t really have time.”

Library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer said that formation of a library district is still in the “exploratory phases” and that it is too early to estimate the effect on taxpayers. Any such action would have to be approved in a referendum, she said.

In 2010, Louisville residents voted yes on 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, Louisville contributes $9,000 to the library, according to Supervisor Larry R. Legault.

In 2010, library officials collected 200 signatures on a petition in Louisville, more than the 110 needed. However, they ended up with about a dozen fewer signatures than the 63 they needed in Brasher. The number of signatures needed is equal to 10 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election.

One factor in considering a library tax district is the amount of revenue the library receives from the town of Massena and from fundraisers. The town is contributing $673,000 for 2013, down $78,000 from the previous year.

Massena Councilman Charles A. Raiti told library officials that the Town Council plans to start its 2014 budget earlier in the cycle, to promote fiscal responsibility and better gauge the needs of departments and agencies.

He said the town is awaiting a report from assessor Michael C. Ward to determine how much revenue it can anticipate for next year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Raiti cautioned library officials: “Don’t plan on much more than what you got for this year. Just plan on what you have, and if you get more, great.”

Ms. Dunne-Thayer said library officials still had to discuss the idea of a library district with the North Country Library System to determine whether the move would put additional costs on the library.

“Obviously, funding is a factor, and it’s an issue facing all libraries,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.

She 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,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. “Obviously, it’s a terrible economic time, and we understand the town is having trouble funding all its entities.”

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