MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – For the first time, Mount Vernon taxpayers will have the power to vote on the public library budget and trustee candidates.
Since the library opened in 1904, it has been funded as a part of the city budget each year. This year, due to a state mandate that created a new, independent library district, the public will have the opportunity to vote on its $4.35 million budget for the upcoming year.
Mount Vernon Public Library Director Carolyn Karwoski stressed that this isn’t a new tax being imposed on residents, that the library budget has simply been allocated separately from the city budget.
If the budget isn’t approved at the May 6 vote, and is again rejected in a subsequent second vote in June, the library would be forced to cut programs and services.
Currently, the city is only budgeted to fund library operations through September, the deadline to create the new library district. If it passes, the library funding will amount to approximately 2 percent of all taxes paid in Mount Vernon.
“(If the vote fails,) we’re not sure the city will be able to support us in 2015. We’d have to work with the city to see if they could spare some more money, but there’s not much left to allocate in the city,” Karowski said. “I don’t expect it would be pretty, and there’s no guarantees the city could fund the library next year.”
The $4.35 million in community-based funding represents a tax burden of $283 per year for a home assessed at $10,000, just 78 cents a day. If voters don’t pass the budget, hours, programs and resources at the library will all be dramatically cut to reduce costs in an effort to keep the library open as long as possible.
Karwoski noted that while passing the library budget will represent a slight tax increase, the costs of not having a fully funded public library in one of the state’s biggest cities could be exponentially worse.
“Economically, it’s a sound idea for property owners to support this. No one wants to own a property in a city that doesn’t have a library,” she said. “It will bring down property values. Most people want a strong public library in Mount Vernon.”
Mount Vernon resident Hank Miller, who has been busy notifying the city about the upcoming vote, said the library is too important of an asset to go underfunded.
“The importance of the library goes beyond just reference material and checking out books. The historic institution offers free computer and Wi-Fi use for those who may not have such at home,” he said while promoting the vote. “It is essential to spread the word out about this vote. The library must be funded.”
Residents will have a chance to vote from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, at the library. Absentee ballots can be requested from the library at 914-668-1840 ext. 223.