Library budget approved, Irene Hurst and Vern Benjamin win seats on board

Irene Hurst and Vernon Benjamin

Irene Hurst and Vernon Benjamin

Voters in Saugerties approved the proposed 2014 library operating budget by a margin of 273 to 62 and selected two board members for the 11-member Board of Trustees on Thursday, Sept. 5.

The overall budget of $563,434 calls for $521,964 to be raised by taxes—the same as 2013—at a rate of 29.44 cents per $1,000 of assessed value (about $60 for a home assessed at $200,000).

The newly-elected trustees are Vernon Benjamin, elected to a five-year term with 165 votes, and incumbent Irene Hurst, who will retain her seat for a five-year term with 130 votes. The other candidates on the ballot were Janet Asiain, who received 81 votes; Brian Collins, 86 votes; Rita Ford, 76 votes; and Christina Kelliher, 54 votes.


New trustee Vernon Benjamin is a writer and teacher as well as a former journalist and legislative aide for Maurice Hinchey. Benjamin recently completed writing “A History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to Civil War,” with volume one set to be published next April, and is currently teaching an adjunct course on art history at Marist College.

Incumbent Irene Hurst retained the seat she has held for one year, after election last year to finish out the term of a member vacating his seat. In her first term, Hurst served on the public relations and long-term planning committees. She was one of four trustees from the Saugerties Library who successfully lobbied legislators in Albany earlier this year for increased library funding and the right of the public to information about research conducted with taxpayer dollars.

Hurst has a doctorate in literacy studies. She was an elementary school principal and taught at Hofstra University for 15 years. She currently teaches literature courses through Lifespring Adult Learning Community and handles publicity for the League of Women Voters.

The new board will meet for the first time at the library’s monthly Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

A total of 335 total ballots were cast; a smaller turnout than last year’s budget and trustee vote that brought out nearly 200 more voters. Still, according to interim library director Tiffany Lydecker, for a zero-increase budget that did not call for an increase in the amount to be covered by taxpayers, the turnout was actually better than expected.

Paper ballots were utilized in the vote to avoid last year’s voting machine malfunctions, when the vote totals were compromised by machines that didn’t count the votes correctly. And if the numbers don’t seem to add up at first glance, they convey the fact that the 335 voters didn’t all vote for both budget and trustee candidates, says Lydecker; some voted on the budget alone while others cast a ballot for just one trustee rather than the two allotted per voter.