Another step needed

Massena Public Library officials are in early discussions about possibly forming a school district public library. Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The Massena Public Library is in the preliminary stages of evaluating the possibility of becoming a school district public library, which would split the cost of its operation to all users and not just Massena residents.

“The main reason the library board has decided that we should be going in this direction is to maintain stability and growth in the library,” said library Director Elaine Dunne.

Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr., the town’s liaison to the library’s Board of Trustees, said becoming a school district public library would be “more structured as far as their funding and stability.”

School district public libraries are autonomous legal entities independent of the school district or town, and are governed by elected library boards. They receive funds directly from school district taxpayers by asking them to vote on a resolution placed on the annual school district ballot.

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. Board members are appointed by the Massena Town Council.

Ms. Dunne said, because the library is funded by the town, there have been cuts to their budget that they’re still absorbing.

“We’re still recovering from budget cuts. Our budget is equivalent to what it was eight years ago. Something has to be done to maintain current services,” she said.

As a school district public library, “the library becomes its own entity. We’re not answerable to the town. Our board is also voted through the school district,” she said.

School district public libraries have service areas that coincide with the school district boundaries. The Massena Central School District includes Massena, Louisville and portions of Brasher and Norfolk.

“The idea of being a school library district is we reach out to the entire district. It’s not just Massena residents that are paying for the library. It’s also parts of Brasher and Louisville, who give us $9,000 toward the library now. The idea is to make it equitable. There’s far more people in the school district who are using the library and not paying their fair share,” Ms. Dunne said.

For Massena residents, she said town officials have said, if they become a school district public library, they will subtract the library’s portion of the town budget from the town taxes.

“It’s just a transfer of a funding source from the town to the school district. Massena taxpayers may see their taxes go down slightly because the cost of the library is being shared amongst a much wider field,” she said.

Ms. Dunne said she has met with Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady and town council members, and plans to met with village officials. The goal is to have the proposition placed on the ballot for the May 2020 school budget vote.

“We’re in the very preliminary stages. This is going to be happening in May for the next school budget,” she said.

The library’s annual budget, which includes the Badenhausen Library in Brasher Falls, is $773,305. Without the Brasher Falls library, the budget is $713,305.

“Brasher will have to become independent, which they are heading toward anyway because the funding will run out. This will give them a year to get themselves organized,” Ms. Dunne said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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