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Taxpayers Who Are Paying The Library Tax Levy Should Have A Say In How It Is Spent

James Prendergast Library board members should absolutely further discuss a residency requirement for board members at its meeting Thursday.

Board members who say a residency requirement too drastically limits the pool of possible board members or that the board has functioned well for the past 120 years don’t seem to realize that the board’s role has changed over the past few years.

The library board has always had a fiduciary responsibility to use its money wisely, including in controversial decision to auction the library’s artwork to raise money for the library’s endowment fund. But the library itself wasn’t actively a taxing entity. It was taking money granted to it by foundations, the city and other sources and spending it.

Passage earlier this year of a 259 vote, which placed the library’s budget as a budget line on the Jamestown Public Schools budget, fundamentally changes the library’s role in the public. Rather than simply taking money it was given from a budget decided upon by elected officials, the library is raising tax money by its own request. Now that the board is a direct taxing entity, its board should be made up of people who live within the library’s taxing area.

Board members said last week that it appears too expensive to create a school district library, which would come with elections for board seats. We agree with that idea. It’s enough of a stretch for taxpayers to be on the hook for 42% of the library’s funding — they shouldn’t be on the hook for any more while living in one of the most highly taxed cities in New York state. That leaves a residency requirement as the next best way of overseeing how the new tax money is spent.

In our view, the taxpayers — either homeowners or business owners — who are paying the library’s tax levy should be making decisions on how that money is spent. If board members who live outside the city want to continue serving, they should contact a realtor.

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