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Residents May Back Library Tax If Board Is Elected

Prendergast Library board members want Jamestown Public School District taxpayers to approve $370,000 in new taxes by creating a school district public library.

Any such discussion should also include an elected library board. Libraries that are formed as School District Public Libraries or Special Legislative District Public Libraries have elected boards while libraries that levy taxes under Section 259 of the state Education Department law do not have to have an elected board. That frankly makes little sense, but chances are little can be done about Section 259 votes that have already passed for libraries that have un-elected boards.

Jamestown, on the other hand, could have an elected board. It would have to figure out how to pay for elections. And, we admit that getting people to run for any office can be difficult.

One wonders of electing the Prendergast Library’s board as part of the funding vote would engender some public goodwill for a library tax. Many of the people who have been opposed to the Prendergast Library’s proposal to raise money through a separate taxing resolution on the Jamestown Public Schools District budget vote each year are critical of the lack of public accountability for the library budget. The perceived lack of accountability isn’t really the library’s fault. Prendergast Library board meetings are publicized in The Post-Journal, minutes are posted on the library’s website and all meetings are open to the public. That was true even when the library was receiving $370,000 a year from the city of Jamestown.

Perhaps the public would be more comfortable with a taxing district proposal if the library’s board members were elected by the public. Unlike some other areas that use the Section 259 vote to raise money for libraries like Dunkirk, the Lakewood Memorial Library and the Hazeltine Library in Busti, Jamestown’s property taxes are already among the highest in the state while the high percentage of tax-exempt properties mean the burden for additional taxes falls on a smaller percentage of people in Jamestown than it does in other school districts. It is little wonder, no matter the numbers or arguments used to justify taxpayer support for the James Prendergast Library, there is significant pushback from city residents.

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