Update: Voters approve local library budgets

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Free Library's budget vote is TK.
FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.

Voters approved proposed budgets from the Riverhead Free Library, Baiting Hollow Free Library and North Shore Public Library on Tuesday.

Riverhead Free Library officials announced shortly after 8:20 p.m. that its budget passed by a 202 to 55 vote. The Baiting Hollow Free Library’s budget also passed by a 180 to 76 vote, officials said.

About an hour later, North Shore Public Library officials announced its budget passed by a 200 to 24 vote.

Prior coverage:

Voters  in the area’s three public library systems head to the polls today, Tuesday, to vote on operating budgets for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The Riverhead Free Library is proposing a $3.8 million preliminary spending plan, which officials say carries a roughly 4.7 percent increase to the tax levy due to rising employee benefit costs coupled with a loss in revenue.

Library director Lisa Jacobs said the proposed hike to the tax levy —  the total amount of taxes collected in the entire district — pierces the state’s mandated 2 percent cap since the library doesn’t qualify for any exemptions to the tax levy cap, such as certain employee benefits and capital improvements.

Although school districts require 60 percent voter approval in order to pierce the tax cap, Ms. Jacobs said a library’s Board of Trustees only needs to approve the plan by a “50 percent plus one” vote and win a simple majority from the public vote.

“We came in under the cap last year by using some fund balance,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to [come under the cap again] without cutting services this year.”

Ms. Jacobs said anticipated increases in the New York State Retirement System and a loss in revenue from “contract” users makes up the majority of the tax hike.

Residents of the East Quogue, Eastport-South Manor, Remsenburg-Speonk and East Moriches school districts make-up Riverhead Free Library’s contract users. Ms. Jacobs said many of them have decided to go with other libraries that have recently been renovated on the South Fork instead.

“If they work in Riverhead, then they’ll usually sign-up here,” she said. “But, typically, they’ll go with other libraries that have newer buildings.”

Ms. Jacobs said next year’s spending plan contains the final debt service payment of the bonds issued in 1998 for the library’s expansion. She described Riverhead Free Library’s spending as “conservative” while continuing to offer new services, such as its E-book program. Materials are downloaded to electronic devices and are loaned through a digital license that only lasts a certain time, she said.

“I certainly hope our community recognizes the services we offer and the tremendous value they get,” Ms. Jacobs said.

The tax levy increase correlates to about $7 per year increase for the average Riverhead taxpayer based on current assessments and equalization rates, she said.

Because the library’s district covers three towns — Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven — tax rates for each town will not be known until later in the year.

The Riverhead Free Library vote runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the library on 330 Court Street.

Any registered voter in the Riverhead School District can vote in both the Riverhead library vote and the Baiting Hollow Free Library vote, which takes place at the same time and place and is on the same ballot as the Riverhead vote. In the case of both libraries, today’s vote is technically a vote on whether the Riverhead Central School District should contract for library services at the above mentioned budget amounts.

The Baiting Hollow Free Library preliminary spending plan is $11,800, up $100 from the previous year’s budget. The Baiting Hollow Free Library budget has traditionally increased by $100 each year.

North Shore Public Library officials in Shoreham are asking voters to approve a $3.68 million spending plan carrying a 1.9 percent increase to the tax levy.

The library director there, Laura Hawrey, said by prioritizing projects and applying reserves such as fund balance, the budget fit under the state mandated 2 percent cap. The tax levy — the amount of cash the library collects from taxpayers — is expected to increase to $3.46 million.

“We spent a lot of time going over the budget and we’re very proud we’ve had minimal spending increases,” she said.

Ms. Hawrey said the tax hike is the result of the library increasing programs, online resources and its E-books service. The changes are needed in order to meet the demands of residents, she said.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the library raised the tax levy for the first time in four years. If approved, Ms. Hawrey said the proposed budget will cost approximately $7 per year more than last year for the average household.

Registered voters in the Shoreham-Wading River and Rocky Point school districts can vote in the North Shore Public Library budget vote from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The library is located at 250 Route 25A in Shoreham.

TIMES/REVIEW FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library's budget vote is Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library’s budget passed Tuesday night.