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Fri., Sep. 19
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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Library considers future, tax referendum possible

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POTSDAM — The Potsdam Public Library has created a plan that will guide it for the next five years and as it continues to grow it may soon approach residents with a referendum to seeking a small tax increase.

The five-year plan was adopted by the library board in August.

Nearly 129,000 people visited the library in the 2011-12 fiscal year, up from just over 79,000 only five years earlier. Potsdam has the highest circulation of any library in the north country; it surpassed Watertown last year.

In 2006, residents of the Potsdam Central School District voted to create a special taxing district for the library. Members of the school district pay $1.29 for every $1,000 of their assessed property value to keep the library going, a rate that has not been raised since it was instituted.

The creation of the taxing district saved the library from severe financial difficulties, and began a period of rapid expansion.

“It was the smartest thing we ever did,” Library Director Patricia W. Musante said.

The five-year plan looks at how the library plans to handle the challenges that accompany such rapid growth, while continuing to encourage even more members of the community to use its services.

This may require a small tax hike, Ms. Musante said. The library has longer hours than any other library in the district, and the ever-increasing number of patrons has left it short-staffed.

Any tax increase would have to be approved at a referendum by those who live within the taxing district, which shares the same boundaries as the Potsdam Central School District.

“We can’t increase our funding unless it goes before the people,” Ms. Musante said.

This referendum would probably be introduced in 2013. In the future, the library may try to institute an annual referendum to allow for a small cost of living tax increase annually, rather than proposing larger tax increases less frequently.

“We don’t want to wait until we’re talking about a lot of money,” Ms. Musante said.

Plans are also under way to modernize the library and bring it further into the digital age.

The long-term plan also calls for renovations to the library, which looks much the same as it did when it moved to its current location in 1976. These renovations would be funded primarily through charitable donations, not through taxpayer money.

This may pose a problem, as charitable donations to the library fell by more than 70 percent since the creation of the special taxing district in 2006.

Over the next five years, the library will also work to maintain its Public Computing Center, improve online services, and make more e-books available, according to Ms. Musante.

The entire long-term plan is on the library’s website at www.potsdamlibrary.org.

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