Woodstock Library dissolution vote: The facts of the matter

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The proposition:

Proposition No. 2 on the back of the ballot on which you will vote, reads:

“Shall the Woodstock Public Library District be dissolved and terminated?” 

What is the district? 

The district includes the entire town of Woodstock and all registered voters in the town can vote on this proposition. 

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A ‘YES’ vote means:

That the Woodstock Public Library District will be abolished — not the Woodstock Library, just its governing structure.

A ‘NO’ vote means:

That the Woodstock Public Library District will be allowed to continue its governance of the Woodstock Library in its present fashion, under its current charter, with its current trustees. 

What happens if the Woodstock Public Library District is abolished?

The Library will not be forced to close. 

Per General Municipal Law Article 17A, the current Library Board of Trustees will have six months to formulate a plan for dissolving the district and for the Library’s future governance. The Library’s charter, granted by the state Board of Regents, will be null and void. 

But nothing changes until the plan is adopted.

The town of Woodstock will collect and disburse the taxes to the Library for the coming year, as it has been doing all along, as directed by the Library’s voter approved budget. 

If ‘Yes’ wins, what are the options for future governance of the Library?

The current trustees would have several choices. They could ask the Woodstock Town Board to assume control, which would then appoint a board to oversee its operation, making it a municipal library. The Library would no longer levy its own taxes. The Town of Woodstock would include funding for the Library in its own budget and distribute the money to the Library. This outcome is favored by the pro-referendum group. 

The law gives other choices. It could become a school district library, but since Woodstock is part of three districts — Onteora, Kingston and Saugerties — it is an unlikely, unwieldly solution.

Or the Library could become an Association Library, as it was before 1989, controlled by a not for profit organization, and would have non-elected board. Its funding could also come largely from the municipality. 

A majority vote, or six of the eleven current trustees, is needed to implement whichever choice is made by the current board. 

What if the referendum is defeated?

It’s the status quo. The Special Library District remains intact and any similar dissolution attempt by ballot initiative is blocked by a four-year moratorium. 

If the referendum passes, what happens to the employees of the Library? 

Under Municipal or School District options, employees are subject to civil service law as they are now. Employee status is uncertain. If an Association Library is chosen, they are not covered by civil service law. 

What about the new building proposal?

This is not on the ballot. 

While the Proposition to dissolve the district and whether to build a new building or renovate (and perhaps add on to the existing structure) are separate issues, dissatisfaction with the building decision clearly led to the referendum.

If the referendum fails (if ‘No’ wins) trustees are free to pursue the path they’ve chosen, to seek a new building. If they have to borrow (bond for) money to complete the project, or any project, it will be subject to a separate referendum. 

If the referendum succeeds (if ‘Yes’ wins) any path toward improving the physical condition of the Library will be in the hands of its new form of governance, as chosen by the current trustees from the choices listed above.

There are 2 comments

  1. Michael Hunt

    One very important fact left out of this article: If the referendum passes, the voters of Woodstock give up their democratic rights to elect or defeat Trustees candidates and have any direct say in passing the annual Library Budgdt.

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