BRASHER FALLS - Volunteers hope to have the required number of signatures by Wednesday to place a proposition for a branch library in Brasher on the November ballot.
But some residents have questioned the impact the proposed branch library would have on taxes if voters approve it.
Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said the town raises $385,014 in taxes for their highway and general fund. It doesnt address chargebacks.
Thats what we actually raise in taxes. For the chargebacks, were entirely at the countys mercy. That is what is assessed to the towns in the January tax bill. Its never in our budget, he said.
Based on the $385,014, Mr. Dawson said the tax increase to cover the proposed branch library, which would have an annual budget of $56,000, would be approximately 14.5 percent.
He said he obtained that percentage by taking $385,014 and multiplying it by 14.5 percent, which equals $55,827 - just under the $56,000 annual cost.
But organizers say, based on their calculations, it amounts to 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of $67 for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000.
From the very beginning it was laid out at $56,000. Thats the entire cost of the branch. No one was ever hiding anything. Its very clear on the actual petition. Its 67 cents per $1,000 (of assessed value). Where the other percentages are coming from, I dont know, Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer said.
She said, at this point, theyre forging ahead with the petition drive. Their goal is to have the signatures turned into town officials by the time they hold their monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Its the second go-around for the signature-gathering process after Roger A. Linden, the attorney for the town of Brasher, had questioned the validity of the petitions during a hearing last month because volunteer Michele Ellis-Porcaro had signed her name on each page of signatures, including those she had not personally witnessed.
Ms. Ellis-Porcaro had told Mr. Linden that, while there were some signatures she had not personally witnessed, she had personally seen others sign the petition as she went door-to-door seeking supporters for the initiative. However, Ms. Ellis-Porcaro said, her signing each page of petitions was simply a misunderstanding about the proper procedure.
Among those that she did not witness were signatures gathered at the local IGA supermarket, LBSH Housing and during a local teacher conference. Those signatures had been witnessed by other qualified volunteers, who should have had their signature notarized at the bottom of their respective pages, according to Mr. Linden.
Library officials needed 80 signatures - representing 10 percent of the Brasher residents who had voted in the last gubernatorial election - to get the proposition for a branch library on the November ballot. The proposed library would be located in Crapser Hall in the former Boothe Building in downtown Brasher Falls.
All together, they turned in 11 pages with 130 signatures, but indicated on their cover letter that 89 were residents from the town of Brasher.
Because of the confusion over which signatures would be declared valid and which would not, organizers have started from scratch in their attempts to garner 80 signatures for the second time.
I think they just wanted to make sure that theyre following the letter and doing everything that was requested by the towns attorney. The support was there. Theyre just getting people to sign it again who had already expressed their support for this. Theyre going back and making sure the support is still there, said Emily Owen, a consultant with the North Country Library System who has been working on the project with Massena Public Library officials.
Its tough, she said. They had all those signatures. Its just that they werent witnessed properly.
People who volunteer are going around a second time. Volunteers have been going around to people who have signed the first time and presenting their case again. Most have already agreed, Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. They feel kind of cheated that theyre not getting a chance (to show their support).
The petitions will be turned in to the town board by Wednesday and must be filed with the Board of Elections by Sept. 20 to appear on the November ballot, according to Ms. Owen, who said she hopes they can be reviewed and approved in time.
She and Ms. Dunne-Thayer said the effort was only initiated at the request of Brasher residents who indicated on a survey that they wanted their own branch library.
The library was done in good faith. The support was there. Theres clearly a lot of support for it. Its just getting to those people face to face, Ms. Owen said.
We were approached to see if we were interested in taking this on, and we were. This was an attempt to meet a community need. We were asked to provide it, and we agreed to it. Were trying to improve services for a community within our service district, Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.
However, she noted, theyre meeting with some opposition and rumors regarding the impact a branch library would have on taxes.
What we didnt anticipate were rumors and negativity about Massena. Thats absolutely uncalled for. Its kind of upsetting with some of the allegations that people really werent being told the truth. They certainly were when the petition was presented to them, Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. From the point of view of myself and my board, I think were very surprised with some of the anger and some of the allegations.
Mr. Dawson suggested there may be a better way to bring the service to the town without creating a branch library. That, he said, could test whether there was support in the community for such a facility.
At the last meeting it was suggested that the town of Brasher rent a little storefront and form a little civic volunteer group. I can get books for them and get a used computer for them. We can see how that goes without raising taxes. If it goes really well, then well look at it, he said.