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$350K Prendergast Library Tax: Vote No

Here we go again. For a third time, the James Prendergast Library Board is attempting to raise property taxes by $350,000 by a 259 vote referendum being placed on the June 9 Jamestown School Districts School voting ballot. Now the library is forcing parts of outside towns (Ellicott, Busti and Kiantone) within the Jamestown School Districts to pay a library tax. All registered voters within the Jamestown Public School District were mailed absentee ballots on May 28. The library board tried twice previously to raise property taxes to fund the library (2005 — $560,000 and 2016 — $850,000). Both were easily defeated.

For 2020 the city of Jamestown taxpayers alone paid $100,000 funding to the library, doubling the library’s $50,000 taxpayer funding from previous two years. The library funding from the city budget will be “shifted” as a separate line item on the school’s tax bill if passed. The library wants an additional $250,000 for a total of $350,000. There is no guarantee that the $100,000 will be reduced from the city budget as it may be used to balance future budgets.

All senior citizens who own property will have to pay the library tax. The library tax is not tax exempt from the Basic STAR or Enhanced STAR program. Landlords and businesses could pass on the increased property library tax onto renters and customers to cover property tax increase. The residential and business properties are taxed at near their constitutional limit. The budget savings city council passed onto taxpayers in 2020 would be erased by the increase in the library tax.

In The Post-Journal dated April 4-5, 2020, Prendergast Library’s attorney, Schofield gave advice to the library board saying it may not be the best time to ask for tax funding support following the Coronavirus outbreak. “People are stressed out with what is going on,” he said. Economically, it is an unpredictable time to ask for tax support.” On voting on Library Board members Schofield says instead of a board appointed by trustees, board members would be voted in by residents who live in the library service area (Jamestown Public School District). Currently taxpayers in the Jamestown School District can’t vote on library board members. Some library board members don’t live within the Jamestown School District and wouldn’t have to pay the library tax if passed. Taxpayers voting would have a say on who they want as board members instead of trustees having an agenda on who they want on the board.

There was an influential active group called ‘Friends of the Prendergast Library’ who advocated and raised a lot of private and public donations for the library in fundraising. The group disbanded about 7 years ago due to dissatisfaction and the unwillingness by the board to take their concerns seriously. The library has seen a significant loss in donations and has since not rebounded.

One of the library board members at one the public library forums told the audience the $350,000 taxpayer funding would take care of the fundraising. In essence the Board wants to put the fundraising on the taxpayers back.

There is $5 million dollars in the library’s endowment. Artwork in the library was sold at auctions to a tune of nearly $1 million dollars which was added in the library endowment. The endowment is invested in stocks, etc. to raise money to help support the library budget each year.

The library utilized $331,174 investment gains from the $5 million dollar endowment which is 40% of this year’s budget. The board claims the library could close 3-4 years. This simply is not true. Even if the library didn’t invest the $5 million, it would take nearly 15 years at an average of $333,000 per year before the library would close. Out of the 2020 library budget of $824,357, $547,774 (66%) goes towards: Salaries, benefits and retirement for 14 employees, library materials $90,000 (11%), library operations $89,506 (11%).

The state has reduced “state aid” from $77,431 to $11,250 for 2020 that helped the library lose it’s “co-central library” status with Olean. State Aid ratio is determined by the amount of local taxpayer’s dollars raised to support the library. The more taxpayer’s dollars, the more state aid. For the loss in “state aid” for 2020, the library increased the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System (CCLS) $30,000 reimbursement to $56,000. Increased grants $96,649 to $156,239. Increased city taxpayer funding $50,000 to $100,000.

The library board has clearly made the proper budgetary adjustments without additional taxpayers help. In a Post-Journal article dated May 1, 2016 mentions the ‘state aid’ the Prendergast library receives goes towards providing ‘other services’ to 33 other smaller libraries in the (CCLS). Why are the city taxpayers being forced to vote on a $350,000 library tax increase so the library can get ‘extra state aid’ to ‘service’ other smaller libraries out of the school district?

In The Post-Journal dated Oct. 12-13, 2019, the library board admits the library has turned into a “community center.” I’m not against having a library but I am against using taxpayers’ dollars to support a “community center.”

Proposition #2 on Jamestown City School District ballot reads: “Shall the sum of $350,000 be raised by annual levy of a tax upon taxable real property within the Jamestown City School District for the purpose of funding the James Prendergast Library Association?” VOTE NO.

All ballots must be dated and signed and returned by 5 p.m. Tuesday June 9 to Juanita Walter, JPS District Clerk (716) 483-4420, (JPS Administrative Office) Jefferson Middle School. Envelopes received after 5 p.m., June 9 will not be counted. You are better off hand delivering your ballot in person 5 p.m. June 9 to be counted.

David Kohl,

Jamestown

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