People living in the boundaries of Massena Central School District have a choice to make about the future of the library system that serves them.
Officials at Massena Public Library have embarked on the process of changing how their facilities are funded. Through absentee ballots, voters are now considering a proposed initiative.
They’ve been asked if Massena should become a school district public library. This will make it an autonomous taxing body, and its budget and board members would be subject to approval by district voters.
For 2020, the Massena Public Library operated on a budget of about $683,730. Of this, $607,430 came from the town of Massena, $30,000 from the library’s fund balance, $17,000 from library charges, $15,500 from grants and donations, $9,000 from the town of Louisville and $4,800 from property rental. The library serves residents in the village and town of Massena, most people in the town of Louisville and a portion of the population in the towns of Brasher and Norfolk.
The bulk of funding for the library is provided by residents in the town of Massena. Officials firmly believe that converting to a school district public library will ensure the facility’s expenses are shared equitably among all people who have access to its services.
If voters approve the referendum measure, Massena Town Board members have pledged to remove this funding allocation for the library. A separate line on the property tax bill for Massena Central School District will be added.
This will reduce part of the property taxes for Massena residents from the town. They will pay for this portion on their School District bill.
Including more residents from the towns of Brasher, Louisville and Norfolk will spread the amount of funds needed by the library to a wider base of taxpayers. So Massena residents will have a lower amount of taxes to pay.
Of course, this means that members of these other communities will have a higher tax burden. Just as in virtually every other part of the nation, the economy in the north country has suffered as a result of stay-at-home orders in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The prospect of paying more in taxes is certainly not what people want to hear.
Brasher residents would pay about $110 for every $100,000 of assessed value of their property. People from Louisville would pay about $101 for every $100,000 of assessed value, and Norfolk residents would pay about $108 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
This situation is complicated even further for Norfolk residents, who now pay a tax for the Hepburn Library. Officials from the Massena Public Library understand that being taxed by two libraries doesn’t seem fair, but they said there was no way to remove them from the proposed district.
This raises difficult issues for people whose household budgets are being strained. But these residents have been served by the Massena Public Library for many years, and they have paid very little or nothing for this benefit. Approving this initiative would correct this inequity.
Creating a school district public library would ensure a stable source of funding for the Massena facility for the future. What happens if the Massena Town Board’s budget priorities need to change dramatically and it can’t allocate all the funds required by the library?
Residents in this new district would have a direct say in determining the library’s budget and who sits on its board. This measure should be approved in Tuesday’s election to guarantee the Massena Public Library has the revenue it needs to properly serve its communities.