Mount Vernon Turns Out For First Library Budget Vote

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There was an experienced crew running the Mount Vernon library vote.
There was an experienced crew running the Mount Vernon library vote. Photo Credit: Zak Failla
Thousands of Mount Vernon residents voted on the public library budget.
Thousands of Mount Vernon residents voted on the public library budget. Photo Credit: Zak Failla
There were lengthy lines at the Mount Vernon Public Library.
There were lengthy lines at the Mount Vernon Public Library. Photo Credit: Zak Failla

Update 7:30 a.m., Wednesday:


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According to Mount Vernon Library Director, the budget unofficially passed, though the winning trustee candidates remain unknown.

“There was a very large turnout of over 2,400 voters,” she said. “The unofficial results showed that the library won the vote by a very large margin.”

Keep following the Daily Voice for the official votes of the inaugural Mount Vernon Library vote and to see which candidates will be filling trustee seats.

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Mount Vernon residents came out in droves on Tuesday, as, for the first time, they exercised their right to vote on the public library budget and trustee candidates.

There was a steady stream of traffic outside the library, and lengthy lines inside, as voters crammed into the community room to cast their vote on the $4.35 million budget.

Since its inception in 1904, the library budget has been funded as a small part of the overall city budget each year. Due to a state mandate that created an independent library district for the public library, the budget and trustees have been put up to vote.

The public voted on four candidates to vacant library trustee positions, three of whom will serve three-year terms, the other a one-year term.

According to Mount Vernon Library Director Carolyn Karwoski, considerably more than 1,000 voters had turned out by 5 p.m., with even more than that expected throughout the evening as residents return from work. They can cast their vote until 9 p.m., when the decision will be tallied.

“We expected a great turnout, but this kind of surpassed even what we could have imagined,” she said. “While we were out in the community, we’ve found that there is a lot of support for our library.”

There was a full compliment of officials on hand to help the lines move smoothly. The library was equipped with various security guards, greeters and other volunteers that were helping to point voters in the right directions. Experienced poll workers who have participated in school and other elections also volunteered their time to take and tally the votes.

“We had a huge crowd, but we had experienced folks that helped everything run well,” Karwoski said. “There is an amazing amount of people that support the library and its services.”

If the budget passes, it is not a new tax being imposed on property owners; it is instead simply being allocated separately from the budget. If it isn’t passed during the Tuesday vote, there will be a subsequent vote in June. If the budget fails the second vote, programs, services and potentially jobs will be cut.

“(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,” Karwoski 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.

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Comments (14)

I am a life long Mt Vernon Resident. Went to Mt Vernon Public schools and used the Mt. Vernon library when I was young. I now go to other libraries since Mt. Vernon is not handicapped accessible and parking is a major problem with limited time. By the time you get into the library you have no time to look for what you want. As for the vote. I guess you get what you pay for and I hope we didn't pay for the people handling the sign in books. They took 15 minutes to find the name of the person in front of me, because the lady did not know her alphabet. I spelled my name for her and she had trouble finding me. I had to tell her to keep turning pages till she found my name. It is so annoying to me when I have a college degree and years of experience and I can't find a job but people who work in city hall and other official positions can become employed and not know how to do their job. And if you think our city tax is going to go down the way the library literature said you don't live in Mt. Vernon. Our city budget has increased constantly and always way more than the 2 % cap. So get ready to get taxed out of our homes.

Thank you for this report, majalisa. The library hired twenty poll workers and trained them for this vote with our tax dollars. Like you, many were amazed by the free-for-all that resulted. It was a disgrace and if this were anywhere but MV, the outcome would have been invalidated.

The library budget tax was passed "overwhelmingly". Most of the people who voted for it, are not property owners and tax payers so they'll never feel the financial pinch.

The library director said there were about 2400 voters. She probably meant to say there were about 2400 ballots filed, but the actual number of voters is not known, due to stuffing the ballot box!

Of the four people who won the trustees' positions, the top one is the Mayor's nephew, who already has one job with the city and one with the schools. The Mayor will now have access to another pot of money - the Library's.

I was just thinking, how could someone have so much energy so as to work two full-time paid jobs, and then devote several more hours to a non-paid trustee position? Hmmmmmm......

My comments regarding voting irregularities were removed. This doesn't make them any less true. Many people remarked on it throughout the course of the day Tuesday.

There were some very noticeable irregularities. One was the paper ballots - anyone could grab a handful, check off the boxes, and stuff them into one of the ballot containers. Another was one of the trustee candidates standing right outside the entrance, handing out his personal campaign material - he was no more than 25 feet from the actual polling location.

Bill, does the library have the money for electronic voting? I doubt it.

I am a property owning tax payer and fully support library funding. I use 3 different libraries regularly and the loss of any of them would be disastrous to the community. Libraries do close for lack of funding and property values do go down in those communities, it is not a scare tactic if it is the truth.

If anything, I would love to see a small branch opened in Fleetwood for all of the people there who have difficulty getting to Bronxville or the Mt. Vernon library.

Fleetwood Mod: The library has plenty of money (thousands) to spend on a publicity campaign encouraging people to vote for the new tax, so they definitely have the money for electronic voting.
And, if they did this honestly, it would have been on the same day as the school budget voting in two weeks. More people would have been able to vote, because the polling places would be in the usual locations, i.e., neighborhood schools.
If the budget tax failed, and failed again on a re-vote, the library would not close. That was definitely a scare tactic.
It is NOT true that property values would go down if there was no library in Mount Vernon. The thing that makes property values go up is an excellent school district, and Mount Vernon's is far from excellent. In fact, it is one of the worse in New York State.
Just wait until you find out about the next surprise tax Mayor Davis has in store for the honest taxpayers.

Thank you for the reply Bill. I, too, thought it was odd the way they went about it but I did not see thousands of dollars spent on a campaign. It seemed the opposite to me, like they did the bare minimum to advertise the vote in hopes that only people who use the library would turn out. That's how I found out about it. I guess I didn't complain because I wanted the vote to go the library's way. They have new administrators and now 4 new Board members, maybe there is hope.

My fear is that the library will close or reduce hours to such an extent that it may as well be closed. Piggy-backing on to the school district may be the death blow because, as you point out, Mount Vernon doesn't seem to want to improve the schools. If Dept. of Ed. can'y get their act together to upgrade the schools, what hope does the library have?

Philadelphia and Chicago both did studies showing the value of an active public library system and the degenerative effect of closing branches. All 3 NYC systems faced huge backlash recently for closing branches, selling buildings and reducing staff. What makes you believe that can't happen in Mount Vernon?

In any event, my wife and I are new to the area and willing to speak up, write letters and pound the pavement in front of City Hall. When's the next rally?

Fleetwood Mod,

You are new to the area and think of the issues as if this were a normal place. It is not. Corruption is so endemic it has even infiltrated the public library, more so now that as of May 6, three of the five trustee seats are held by political hacks.

I think you are correct that the library wanted to publicize the vote only to supporters. But it is true that they have spent a couple of thousand dollars for a public relations consultant out of Albany who specializes in library votes, and more on the several misleading mass mailings. This is a matter of public record.

They didn't want the library vote held in conjunction with the school vote because last year the voters defeated the school budget and they had to gin up some affidavit ballots to squeak it by in the second vote.

The mayor wouldn't have allowed the library to close because so many of his pals are on the payroll there. Now they have a fresh new pool of money to plunder.

You are correct that they do not want to improve the schools. You will now see the library go the way of the schools, taking more and more in tax dollars while delivering Iess and less to citizens.

If you want to get involved, come to the city council meetings on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month at 7pm where you will hear what else they have planned for us. It's not pretty and will indeed inspire you to speak up, write letters, pound the pavement and rally (or pack up and leave).

Welcome to Mount Vernon.

Now we can await the counting of the ballots, which are being done manually. If the Library did this the right way, the ballots would be counted electronically.

The Library used scare tactics in its propaganda encouraging support for the budget tax, such as saying it would close if the tax did not pass, and a closed library would cause house values to drop.
Most of the people who are supporting this tax are not property owners and not tax payers.
I don't trust the "tallying" of the ballots, because it's all paper ballots and this may result in uncounted (or discarded) votes. This is Mount Vernon and we know what goes on here!
And of course the Library deliberately held the voting at its own location instead of the usual polling places (neighborhood schools), to limit the number of people who would be able to physically get there to vote.

Activist Bill: I don't think I've ever seen a positive idea or helpful suggestion you've posted. In the world I live in, when we find things that we are not comfortable with, we look for ideas that might make outcomes better. You seem to be focused on the negative side of life. That is very sad. Perhaps you need some help so that you can see some sunshine and light?

dennis.mcdermott.9: Apparently, you're annoyed by people who report the truth and don't see everything through rose-colored glasses, as you do. I'm not negative in my comments. I write and say things as I see them, and I get the "big picture". Too many people have tunnel vision and proceed through life always accepting whatever is being dealt to them by the "powers that be". I'm not one of them. Perhaps it is YOU who needs some help so that you can see what's really happening in your precious adopted city of Mount Vernon.