Mount Vernon Library Budget Will Face Its First Vote By The Public

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The Mount Vernon Public Library may be in danger of closing if its budget isn't approved by voters.
The Mount Vernon Public Library may be in danger of closing if its budget isn't approved by voters. Photo Credit: File

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.

Poll

Do You Support The Proposed Library Budget?

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Reader Results

Do You Support The Proposed Library Budget?

  • Yes.

    55%
  • No.

    45%
Back to Vote

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.

  • 27
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Comments (27)

Here's an example of how City Hall controls the Daily Voice. This article was clearly the top of the news this week, not the science center. Yet here it is buried. It's also been removed from the most popular list.

Full disclosure to readers: Neither Mayor Davis nor Director Karwoski has reached out to myself or my superiors following the publishing of this article. The 'Top of the Week' stories are prioritized by the number of page views. Thanks for reading.

You're correct about this. I believe either the Mayor or the Library Director called the publisher and the writer and bullied them into downplaying this news. Many people are now learning about the upcoming vote, and many are very upset about the way it's being done - at the Library only, and two weeks before the School District budget vote. Both should be on the same day. But the Library Director took the suggestion from the Mayor and scheduled the voting separately, knowing that very few people will actually be able to get to the Library to cast their votes.

The library is going out to vote because the Division of Library Development in Albany which sets the standards for libraries mandated that the library become a school district library. Mayor Ernie Davis tried to have a change in the senate but nothing happened. New Rochelle Public Library went through a similar change in 2003.

http://www.larchmontgazette.com/2003/news/20030425library.html

You can read a very similar story to our own with the same issues about taxes. It may help people understand what is happening here. This was a mandate by a state institution that could shut the Mount Vernon Public Library down.

The library is a Carnegie library, but the Carnegie foundation does not fund building construction for libraries anymore. The Division of Library Development funds construction through grants to public libraries which is the same institution that asked the Mount Vernon Public Library to become a school district library. They also administer the central library funds to libraries throughout New York state.

We had some funds from the last director who had not spent the money to improve the building through a construction grant. These funds retreaded the stairs, put in new front doors and improved the overall atmosphere of the building. There is still a lot that needs to be done.

It is hard to grasp in some ways what is happening.

The Division of Library Development needs to keep a close eye on us. The mayor can twist any situation to his advantage. There are 12 candidates for trustee. Does anyone really think there's that much genuine interest in the library? No, many of these are the usual suspects, handpicked by the club that runs MV so they can control this juicy new pot of money for their own benefit. It's truly sickening. In MV not even the library is safe from the greed of these insatiable leeches.

After reading all the comments, as well as the recent propaganda (with all its misleading information) distributed by the Library, I've decided to vote NO. I'm suggesting to my fellow taxpaying neighbors to vote the same, unless they don't mind having their pockets picked yet again.

Sadly, voting no is what we must do. If the proposition fails in May, they will have to come back for another vote in June. Maybe by then the director will have gotten the message that MV taxpayers can't take any more. Whether through naivete or by design, she has so far capitulated to the mayor.

Wow! I'm so torn by ready the comments!

There is something which is missing from this article. Four of the five trustee positions are being voted on. On May 6, 2014, there will be a change in the library board replacing most of them. This is a very important vote, not just for money, but also how the library operates and its general direction.

On Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a meet the candidates forum in the commmunity room at the Mount Vernon Public Library for the Board of Trustees.

I believe a utilization study should be performed, by and outside agency, to determine if this library is worth the present expenditures. Should the old system be replaced with the 21st century of electronics?
Are we wasting money feeding a white elephant for the sake of status?

One does have to wonder. The original building doesn't qualify for historic site status because it has been structurally altered over the years. Even the Carnegie Foundation won't fund it. Sad since it was Carnegie who built it.

Like everything else in MV, the library is compromised by the control of the mayor. The director bemoans the fact that the city only funded the library through September of 2014. Yet she spoke in favor of this budget at the public hearing last December.

The library suffers from the same disease that plagues the city. A staggering 74% of the library's expenditures go to salaries and benefits. In MV everyone but the taxpayer is on the gravy train.

A considerable amount of people care about whether there is a public library or not. This holds true in most places. According to the Pew Internet Research Project, How Americans Value Libraries in their communities, December 11, 2013. 90% of Americans over the age of 16 would say that the closing of a library in their community would have an impact on the community. Of this 90%, 67% said that it would have significant impact on the community. This is probably true for Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon lacks a local bookstore, literary venues for poetry or other activities. This leaves the library as one of the sole places for literature in the community.

There is also no local movie theater. The dvd collection at the library is very large.

There are many other functions which the library provides which the community lacks. The library offers free internet access, computer training, wifi, and many other computer services which are not available elsewhere in the community. The library is the one place where people can get free access to the internet to search for work and apply to use electronic government forms.

It also provides significant support to the schools for reading assignments as well as material on literacy.

Not having a library in Mount Vernon would leave significant amount of unmet services to the community.

It's not a matter of whether the community needs and benefits from a library. It's a matter of how much money they need and how they spend it. Only 4% of the last budget posted in 2011went to purchase library materials. More recent budgets have not been made available.

It's also a matter of management. The state has just taken away the library's status as central library for Westchester County. This isn't a fact you're going to hear from them as they promote their cause.

Because they are holding a separate vote instead of having it the same day as the school vote on May 20, they've hired a consultant and election day workers who must be trained at taxpayer expense. Not an auspicious start.

Note this from the article, quoting Library Director Karwoski:
“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.”
If the city did not have a Library, property values would NOT be brought down. Very few people actually care about whether there is a local Library.
What DOES bring down property values is, a poorly run school district, such as Mount Vernon has had for several years. With more than 50 percent of the students failing, nobody in their right minds would send their children to Mount Vernon schools.

Having a well-funded public library with excellent collections, services and programs is very important to the Mount Vernon Community. I fully support this budget vote as the library adds much value to the city. Also would like to point out that the Westchester Library System will issue Central Library cards to Mount Vernon residents if the library closes. These cards will only be good to use to log on to Central Library purchased databases and to borrow Central Library Materials. Central Library Materials are only adult materials that can be classified as non-fiction. This would exclude popular bestsellers as well as popular DVDS and all children's materials. It certainly is something to think about.

Library Supporter is obviously a propagandist for the Library's Director. Probably won't have to pay any of the tax either.

And btw, it would be nice if the DV actually did some independent research and reporting instead of serving in its usual capacity as mouthpiece for city officials.

inthewoods, don't expect any actual "independent research" from the DV's "journalists". They have become, as you noted, a mouthpiece for MV city officials. Probably were bulled by the Mayor, as he has done to news reporters for the Journal News and News 12.

I would just like to take a moment to correct some misconceptions about the Library's upcoming vote.

The Library is chartered as a library district that serves the school district's residents. As a library district (of which there are over 200 across the state), the voters approve its community-based funding and elect its trustees. This provides greater accountability and representation. This isn't a new state mandate but simply the Library living up to its charter responsibilities.

The taxpayer share would be $283 per year for a home assessed at $10,000. Because of the State's Tax Cap law is clear that the money the City presently provides the Library must come out of its budget next year (this is called a transfer of function in the law), City taxes will decrease $183 for the same home assessed at $10,000. The actual taxpayer responsibility would be $100 a year--that's $1.93 a week, less than a cup of coffee.

The Library is not misleading anyone. If the Library closes, Mount Vernon residents will not have access to other libraries in the Westchester Library System. The reason why Mount Vernon residents can go to Bronxville or Pelham is because the Mount Vernon Public Library participates in the System. Without that participation, Mount Vernon residents will not be able to access any local library services. Call the Westchester Library System if you want to verify that.

Right now, the City collects our school district taxes. It would do the same for the Library on its July and January tax bills. The Library's community based funding would be a separate line item. The City would turn the money over to the Library which is a separate entity, with a separate elected board of trustees.

Sometimes people get confused about the relationship between a school district and a public library district that serves the school district (legally called a school district public library). There will be no legal relationship between the two because the City collects the tax on behalf of both. Providing stable funding for the Library, however, will enable it to build more productive collaborations with the school district so that a positive partnership can be formed to help our children thrive.

The Library is asking for $4.35M so that it can provide the level of library programs and services the community needs. With this funding, the Library will open on Sundays and extends weekday hours; have more public computers and an expanded Computer Lab; expand its popular book and DVD collections; create streaming video collections and online magazines; establish an Early Learning Center; enlarge its Homework Help Center; enhance our Job Center and Career Assistance program and greatly improve our historic library that was originally built with funds from Andrew Carnegie.

Despite what people think, the Library is not eligible for tens of millions of dollars in grants--granting institutions would most likely not support the Library with its present unstable funding base. It gets minimal money from NY State. In fact, the majority of state library funding goes to our systems like the Westchester Library System to help defray shared costs such as inter-library loan, the catalogue, databases, etc.

The Library wants people to be informed. Go to www.mountvernon.fundourlibraries.org for more information.

The Mount Vernon Public Library has become an entity of shambles thanks to mismanagement from the previous Director. The Library lost its non-profit status due to the negligence (I call it criminal negligence) of that Director, and she also caused the Library to lose the status it once had as THE premier Library in Westchester. And now the new Director has been contaminated by the contagion emanating from City Hall (mainly, from the Office of the Mayor), and has been shown how to "pick the pockets" of the taxpayers.
This year the Library wants $4.35M. Next year it'll want $6.5M. The year after, it will want $9M, etc etc etc. It's unjustifiable all the way.

As it happens, the Westchester Library System has been contacted regarding consequences in the event the MV library closes. Here is their response:

"If the Mount Vernon Public Library (MVPL) should close, individuals with MVPL library cards would have the following service levels available:  Walk-in access to on-site materials at any member libraries;  Borrowing privileges for materials purchased with State-Central Library funds; and WLS website and online catalog services that do not require a library card."

With regard to collection of the tax, see detailed procedure at NY State Library Development website:

http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/libs/pldtools/guide/1taxclct.htm

With regard to grants, the library has been ineligible to apply because of its loss of tax exempt status. Now that this status has been recovered, there are many grant sources that can be tapped. See

http://www.lesko.com/libraries

and

http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/construc

inthewoods, you are correct about the Library being eligible for many grants now that it's non-profit status has been restored (according to Library propaganda). I suggest the Director do her job and apply for, and receive, those grants.

The library hasn't released a budget, so taxpayers don't know how the money will be spent. It's not clear that they even have a budget. Reading the minutes of the trustees' meetings over the past year shows an organization in chaos. The new director needs to present a recovery plan before asking the public for support.

They are falsely claiming that city taxes will go down when the library is separately funded. Anyone familiar with MV city government knows what a laughable idea this is. They're also using the scare tactic that if the MV library closes, residents won't be able to use other libraries in the Westchester system. Not true. This is a LIBRARY giving out false and misleading information. What does that tell you?

As a school district library, their new tax money will be collected and administered by the school board, another reason for pause. Will the school board withhold and misappropriate the funds as they did with the Amani school?

Libraries are a public good. Because of this, the library leadership expects us to give blind support. Be a smart voter and insist on answers. The library board of trustees meet Wednesday, April 16 at 6:30pm.

This will be another tax on the already over-burdened Mount Vernon taxpayers. Currently, the Library budget is $2.8 Million, which will keep the Library open through September (according to Library propaganda). That breaks down to an average of $311,111 per month. The budget the Library is demanding, $4.35 Million, breaks down to an average of $362,500 per month. Why the massive monthly increase of over $51,000? The Library is eligible for tens of millions of dollars in various grants, as well as funding from NY State. I suggest the Library Director do her job and actively get those grants.

Most grants will cover special programs, building repairs and the purchase of materials. It is rare that grants will cover general operating expenses.

The demanding 4.35M is 150K more than the highest contribution by the City of Mount Vernon--which was approximately 4.2M made in 2010.

And, if approved, this $4.35 million becomes an automatic annual funding/tax. We don't get another chance to vote unless the library comes back for an increase.

Please vote. There is a Mount Vernon Public Library Board of Trustees meeting tonight on April 16, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.