JAMESTOWN – The James Prendergast Library is once again proposing a new tax in order to help it solve its financial challenges.
The Jamestown Post-Journal reported Friday that the Prendergast Library Board of Trustees met on Thursday afternoon and said they would be pursuing a 259 vote next May as part of the Jamestown School budget vote.
Under New York Education Law §259, libraries are permitted to seek funding directly from school district voters. The school district is not required or even needed to give permission. The matter will simply appear on the school ballot as part of the annual budget vote.
Library officials said they will propose an annual tax levy of $350,000 for the library – the same amount that the city of Jamestown had been giving the library up until two years ago, when funding was reduced by $250,000. An additional $50,000 was removed last year, bringing the total amount of money the city provides for the library down to just $50,000 for the current year.
Library officials have said that the significant reduction in funds by the city has created a domino effect with their state funding and the library will now lose $111,000 unless it can restore the local tax contribution. That’s because the state funding formula is based, in part, on the amount of local community contributions the library also receives.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi has proposed restoring $10,000 of the recent city cuts in next year’s city budget, but that still won’t be enough to save the state aid. As a result, library officials are hopeful the 259 vote will pass in May 2020 in order to restore community support and bring back the state library aid.
Library officials said last week that unless they can get the local funding restored, the library is in jeopardy of closing down within three to four years.
The tax rate for the city of Jamestown is currently $23.85 per $1,000 assessed value, but only 3 cents of that rate is earmarked for the library.
If the 259 vote is approved, the library “tax rate” would be 23 cents per $1,000 assessed value. That would mean a property in Jamestown valued at $50,000 would pay $11.30 a year for the library.
The library attempted a similar taxing district vote in June 2016, but the total amount it wanted to raise then was $850,000. That effort failed by a vote of 1306 against and 856 in favor. The Library Board is hopeful that reducing that amount by more than half this time around, along with the message that the library could likely close in 3 to 4 years if funding isn’t secured, will lead to a positive outcome this time around.