Riverhead Library budget calls for 8% tax hike

Riverhead Library budget calls for 8% tax spike
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The library's adult services coordinator shows teens last year how to use the county's software, which allows users to download ebooks and other electronic materials.

Citing ever-rising personnel costs and an increasing demand for electronic services, Riverhead Free Library officials are proposing a 2011-2012 budget that would increase the districtwide tax levy by 7.95 percent if approved by voters April 5.

The tax increase is “primarily due to increased personnel costs,” library director Lisa Jacobs said in a letter to the community. “These include an estimated 44 percent increase in retirement, a double-digit increase in health insurance, and an increased salary line based both on a small contracted increase and the still-high public demand for staff assistance.”

The proposed 7.95 percent increase amounts to $225,531 more in taxes over the current budget, bringing the total to $3.3 million.

“The Board of Trustees and I would have liked nothing better than to present a zero-increase budget to you in this difficult time,” Ms Jacobs continued in her letter. “However, the reality is that many years of conservative budgets, followed by two years of difficult economic times, left us with no fat to be pared from the budget.”

She said library usage continues to be high, and the demand for electronic materials such as e-books is skyrocketing.

The library tax levy increase was 4.37 percent in the current year and 2.6 percent the prior year.

The library tax rate is generally a much smaller percentage of the tax bill than school or town taxes. However, since the Riverhead Free Library district has the same boundaries as the Riverhead School District, figuring out the actual tax rate — and thus, how much more individual homeowners will pay due to the budget increase — usually can’t be done until later in the year because the district is located within three towns, Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven. Library and school tax rates are different in each town.

This year, for example, an owner of property assessed at $50,000 (which equates to a market value of about $329,380) in Riverhead Town would pay $4,498 in Riverhead school taxes, $2,268 in town taxes and $155 in library taxes. If that library increased by 7.95 percent, it would amount to about $12 more.

In recent years, the school and library tax rates have shown small increases in the Riverhead Town portion of the district and big increases in the Southampton Town portion due to fluctuations in the equalization rates in the two towns, along with a drop in assessed value in the Southampton Town section of the districts.

These fluctuations are beyond the control of the school and library district, and Southampton Town and New York State officials say they are hoping to enact state legislation to fix this.

The library budget vote will take place on Tuesday, April 5 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the library meeting room.

A budget information meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in the library meeting room.

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