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Potsdam library will ask taxpayers for $40,000 raise


POTSDAM — The Potsdam Public Library will ask voters to approve a tax increase in June to keep from cutting hours.

The library received several large grants over the last few years, which helped buy new equipment and keep things running. Now that extra money is running out, and the library is turning to the voters to make up the difference.

“Now we’re going to start operating a deficit, and we can’t,” said Director Patricia W. Musante.

Prior to 2006, the library was funded through the village budget. Hoping for a more stable source of income, the library appealed to voters to create a special taxing district, which was approved.

For the last eight years, the library has raised $465,000 in taxes annually. If the referendum is approved, this will increase to $505,000.

When voters first decided to create a special taxing district for the library in 2013, the tax rate was $1.21 per $1,000. The total assessed value of all the property within the village has increased since then, driving the rate down even though the total amount of money raised remained the same. Under the new referendum, residents would pay about 97 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from the 89 cents paid in 2013.

If the vote fails, the library likely would need to cut hours, according to Ms. Musante. It is now open 65 hours a week, including Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re open every day, and we’re busy every day,” Ms. Musante said.

If the increase is approved, the library will continue to expand its collection of digital books. With the rising popularity of reading on electronic devices, this has been a top priority for the last few years, Ms. Musante said.

About 12,000 items are checked out of the library every month, 5,000 of which are digital. This number is climbing rapidly and steadily, according to Ms. Musante.

The library also is considering a fundraising campaign to repair and renovate its aging building. Most of its money goes to pay salaries or buy new materials, with little left over for repairs.

“It’s not the most beautiful library inside, but we have a terrific collection,” Ms. Musante said.

The proposed tax hike will not raise enough money to restore the building, and Ms. Musante said she would rather the cost be covered by private donors.

“I don’t think taxpayers should necessarily pay for that,” she said.

Potsdam residents have grown accustomed to a snare of overlapping taxing entities. The school and library districts have the same boundaries, which include most of the town of Potsdam and parts of the surrounding communities.

The town contains the village of Potsdam and most of the village of Norwood. It also has two separate highway districts for those living within or outside the village of Potsdam, a fire district for those living outside the village, lighting districts for Hewittville and Sissonville residents, and a water and sewer district for those in Unionville. In addition, town voters soon will decide whether to create a special recreation taxing district that would include all but the village of Norwood.

Despite this, Ms. Musante said she is confident voters will be willing to approve a small increase to keep the library running.

“We’re not talking about a big, big raise, but it’s been eight years since we asked for a raise,” she said.

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