Voters on September 5 will decide the fate of the Woodstock Public Library’s proposed 2014 budget, which contains a 5 percent tax increase that library officials say is needed to fund obligations, such as state-mandated retirement contributions for employees, and to provide expanded services to the community.
The tax hike substantially exceeds the statewide cap on property tax increases for municipal entities including libraries. Following an annual adjustment for inflation, the cap is set at 1.66 percent for 2014. In the process of approving the proposed budget, the library’s 11-member board of trustees voted unanimously to override the state tax cap. A vote by 60 percent of the board would have sufficed for that purpose.
According to library officials, the tax increase amounts to an additional five dollars over the course of the year, or about 40 cents per month, for the owner of a Woodstock property with an assessed value of $250,000. For the last two years the library’s budget has complied with the state cap, which stood at 2 percent until its recent tightening to 1.66 percent for the next fiscal year.
The public vote on the $570,755.42 budget — the total reflects an increase of about $25,000 over the 2013 spending plan — will take place from noon to 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 5, at the library (5 Library Lane in Woodstock). Also on the ballot is an election to fill two seats on the board of trustees. Incumbent trustees Elaine Hammond and Kathleen Lee are running unopposed for the positions.[The budget vote coincides with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Absentee ballots can be obtained at the library. Information on the budget is available at the library’s website, woodstock.org.]
In a recent interview the librarian, Amy Raff, detailed the proposed budget and the status of the library’s plan to build a Library Annex on the site of the former laundromat across the street. Raff emphasized that the budget does not include any capital expenses for the Annex project, which will be financed through private donations and a grant.
The lion’s share of the budget is funded by taxes, with gifts and grants accounting for the remainder. Taxes would increase by $25,238 — or 5.02 percent, to a total of $527,874.42 — if the spending plan is approved. Of that increase, said Raff, $14,000 would be designated for contributions to New York State retirement benefits for current library employees who are enrolled in the state plan — a so-called unfunded mandate that burdens municipal budgets statewide.
The rest of the $25,000 increase, said Raff, would be allocated for materials, such as books, DVDs, CDs, and books in CD format; health and building insurance; children’s programs; publicity and printing costs that are largely related to community outreach efforts; and a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for employees that totals about $2,000.