Library Board Proposes Trustee Residency Requirement

The James Prendergast Library Association Board of Trustees may soon have a residency requirement.

On Thursday during the monthly meeting of the board, Cassie Blakeslee, 259 Vote Committee chairwoman, proposed that the board change its bylaws to require that two-thirds of its members reside inside the Jamestown Public Schools District.

The proposal steams from a discussion earlier this month when the board hosted an online workshop to discuss the options of either having a trustee residency requirement, election or to become a school district public library. No residents of the public spoke during the online workshop or submitted questions to the board prior to the online workshop.

The discussion on the residency requirement during the online workshop included some members of the board being worried about limiting the “talent pool” for potential board members, of which at times it has been difficult to find people to volunteer for the position.

Mary Zdrojewski, library trustee, said she thought a residency requirement would be good idea because the Jamestown community should be in charge of how the library is operated.

“I think the community should have a majority voice,” she said.

Dan Hickman, library trustee, suggested that perhaps the number of Jamestown residents on the board should correspond to the percentage of the tax levy city residents pay toward the library’s annual budget, which in 2020 is 42%. In June, voters in the Jamestown Public Schools District approved a $350,000 annual tax levy to fund the library’s operations.

Joni Blackman, board president, asked the board’s 259 Vote Committee to possibly create a proposal to include a residency requirement so the board could discuss it at its next meeting.

On Thursday, there wasn’t much discussion before a vote on proposal other than to state that the board already has two-thirds of its members — there are currently 12, but can have as many as 15 — residing in the Jamestown Public School District. The board took the vote and of the 10 members present, eight voted “yes” to the two-thirds residency requirement.

However, it was then mentioned by Hickman that the board couldn’t vote on the proposal during the same meeting it was first discussed. According to the bylaws, the proposed changes will be presented and reviewed at one meeting and voted on at the next scheduled or special meeting.

Hickman also said that the bylaws can only be amended or changed by a two-thirds vote of all of its members of the board. The board is slated to vote on the proposal again at its next meeting Thursday, Oct. 15.

In other business, Annie Greene, library director, said on Jan. 1, 2021, the library’s co-central library status will be reinstated by state officials.

When city of Jamestown officials reduced the library’s funding from $350,000 to $50,000 during a two-year period, 2017 and 2018, the Prendergast Library failed the state’s Maintenance of Effort clause.

The state’s Maintenance of Effort for Public Library Systems clause tries to ensure that local municipalities fund library operations so the state isn’t the only taxing entity supporting the facility. The Maintenance of Effort clause states that the reduction of 5% or more of a library’s funding by the local community for two consecutive years will result in a reduction in state aid. Because of its own financial issues, city officials cut funding to the Prendergast Library by 71% ($250,000) in 2017 and 50% ($50,000) in 2018. In the 2020 budget, city officials did increase the library’s funding from $50,000 to $100,000.

When the library failed the Maintenance of Effort clause, state officials revoked Prendergast’s central library status. The loss of central library status resulted in a significant loss in state aid. Prior to the failed Maintenance of Effort clause, the library would have received around $123,000 in state aid in 2019. However, because of a 25% percent cut in state aid, the library only received around $81,000 in state aid last year.

This year with the additional loss of the co-central library status, the library only received around $12,000 in state aid, a reduction of $111,000 during a two-year period.

Greene said she hasn’t been told yet by state officials if the state aid the library receives will return to the same amount it was prior to losing the co-central library status.

Greene also discussed with the board the library will be changing its temporary hours by being open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. When the library reopened in July following the COVID-19 pandemic the temporary hours were Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Greene said expanding the hours is being done because the staff is more experienced with the new policies and guidelines following the reopening. She said library patrons have responded favorably to the new requirements of wearing a mask and social distancing.

“We’re going to do it in baby steps,” Greene said about expanding hours just two days of the week. “If it works well we could increase (the hours) more.”


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