WATERTOWN — The city school district and Flower Memorial Library have been sued by a town of LeRay couple who are upset with a $14 charge added to their school tax bill to fund the library.
John W. Eisenhauer and Kathleen Anne McGlynn Eisenhauer filed suit in state Supreme Court in Jefferson County on Jan. 5, against the city, the city school district and its Board of Education, as well as the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library.
The Eisenhauers claim the fee is an arbitrary tax imposed on non-city residents without representation.
The city school district’s Board of Education approved the $77 million school budget on May 26, including a question on the ballot about whether to provide $75,000 annually to the Flower Memorial Library, a fee in addition to the regular school budget. The city school district is collecting that tax revenue from taxpayers on behalf of the library. School tax bills for 2020-21 had a separate line item for the amount dedicated to the library.
Taxpayers approved both the budget and the ballot question about library funding on June 16, 2020. The vote was certified by the district the next day, according to the suit.
The Eisenhauers, while not city residents, reside within the city school district limits. School district boundaries don’t always align with municipal boundaries, resulting in some town of LeRay residents residing within the city school district. The vast majority of the town of LeRay is within the Indian River Central School District.
Brian M. Quinn, the attorney representing the Eisenhauers, said Wednesday he had no comment on the suit.
The library tax provision is added to taxpayers’ annual school tax bill, which varies based on assessed property value.
Mr. Eisenhauer, a LeRay town councilor, lives in a home assessed at about $330,000, resulting in his annual payment of $14.71 to the library, according to Jefferson County real property tax records.
The Eisenhauers argue they shouldn’t pay the library tax as they do not live within city limits, and therefore have no ability to serve as library trustees, nor can they participate in electing trustees. The mayor and City Council appoint members to the library’s Board of Trustees. The Eisenhauers further state that they have no ability to elect representatives in the city.
“Stated otherwise, Petitioners are being taxed without being afforded any representation” in the city or the city-owned library, the suit states.
The Flower Memorial Library is an extension of the North Country Library System and can be accessed by anyone with a library system card.
The Eisenhauers claim the tax violates their right to due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It also states in the petition that the tax is “arbitrary and capricious,” in turn a violation of the law.
Standing on these grounds, the petitioners are requesting an annulment of the June 16 election solely regarding the library tax provision; that the defendants be prohibited from proceeding with taxation of city school district taxpayers on account of passing the library tax levy; that the election results as it pertains to the library tax be decertified; and that the tax be invalidated tax and the defendants be required to refund any taxes paid, together with attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements.
The library was established in 1904 when Emma Flower Taylor donated $6,000 for the purpose of establishing “in and for the city” a free public library in honor of her father, Gov. Roswell P. Flower.