Even with all its controversy, the one thing Woodstockers can agree upon is that they would like the Woodstock Library to succeed. Though ideas of how to achieve that apparently differ, we believe that most could subscribe to a definition of the library’s success as being a vibrant, thriving, friendly cultural institution to which people could connect in person and electronically for the enhancement of their intellectual and emotional beings. And, despite arguments, that is what we get, no doubt about it.
As with all government entities in these days of imposed tax austerity, resources are limited (more on this in the next section of this editorial). Money is tight these days, infrastructure repair is necessary, and in these areas there can be conflict.
But we have the 84th Woodstock Library Fair on Saturday, and this event can do us all much good. It can allow us to focus on areas of agreement, to show up and be in support of the overall goal of serving the community’s cultural life. It can certainly help replenish the library’s coffers in a way that is not taxing — that is, it’s a show of financial support of your own choosing. And it allows the Library to serve you in an irreverent way, with the citizens of the town pitching in.
The Library Fair is a much needed event that can put us back on an even keel, even as the politics of its day to day existence are debated. No matter what you believe the library should build or not build, show up at the Fair and have a good time, sample the fine food and entertainment. It’s well worth being together on that day.
When New York’s tax cap was put into place, it’s rules said that increases in the levy could only be 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The all-seeing powers that be likely couldn’t imagine a rate of inflation being less than 2 percent. Yes, squeezing those profligate governments down to that tax cap would eliminate all that frivolous spending of our tax money, and, to a great extent, that has happened, as most have pared down what once were 5 to 10 percent yearly increases to the limit.
But funny things have happened along the way. The rate of increases in state mandates have not been limited. School buildings built in the 1950s have not gotten less expensive to maintain, nor have the expenses been exempted. More students have individualized needs that require addressing. Municipal contributions to state retirement funds have not receded. Sales tax and mortgage tax revenues have not increased, even as the economy has rebounded. State aid to education has not kept pace.
This year the rate of inflation is around 0.7 percent. Republicans, who predicted that stimulating the economy to rebound would send inflation soaring, may be chagrinned. Consumers are happy. And it might be good news for taxpayers. But the unintended consequence for municipal and educational entities that have already squeezed the fat out over the last years of tax capping is that hard times are ahead. And that can include difficulties in paying for repairs to our roads, bridges, police; for educating our children and giving them the equipment that is needed to learn as well as a safe environment.
There needs to be modification to this law. To keep tax increases reasonable (and, as we’ve always complained, funding education through property taxes is far from the best policy) there must be corresponding adjustment from the state, be it more aid (though that would tend to lessen local control of our institutions), or a similar tightening up north to loosen the noose down here below.