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Support local library propositions Nov. 2

The Millerton News Editorial

When Tuesday, Nov. 2, arrives, voters around the United States will head to their polling places to cast their ballots — as it will be Election Day. While most voters will understandably have their attention laser-focused on the candidates running for office that day, we would like to redirect their gaze to the local propositions that may be on the back of some ballots for those who live in a few Harlem Valley communities, along with a handful of other proposals.

In the town of Amenia, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on an important proposition that could provide essential funding for what is, as Amenia town Supervisor Victoria Perotti put it, “the heart and soul” of the town — the Amenia Free Library.

The Amenia Free Library Board of Trustees is requesting a $50,000 increase, from $125,000 to $175,000. It’s the first increase the library has asked voters to approve in three years — solely to fund operating expenses — salaries, materials and supplies, maintenance and utilities.

Library Board President Alan Gamble explained how the increase requested in Proposition No. 7 would affect taxpayers in Amenia if they pass Prop. No. 7 at the polls. It would increase taxes by $14.48 for an average residence in Amenia assessed at $250,000.

“That’s just $1.21 per month for expanded library services,” he wrote in an Oct. 14 letter to the editor published in this newspaper, adding that “Voters should be aware that NO taxpayer dollars were used for land purchase or construction of the newly expanded and renovated library. Our expansion is the result of 25-plus years of fundraising as well as a significant grant from the New York State Education Department.”

Don’t forget the many generous donors in the community who contributed to the library addition since 1994, when it began fundraising. But let’s not get off-track.

The point here is that aside from the incredible library expansion that will bring more enlightening and educational programs and services, not to mention resources and improved facilities to the town of Amenia and its residents, by approving Prop. No. 7, voters will, as Gamble explained, allow for “an increase in our operating hours, and additional print and digital materials that the public has been asking for and which our patrons deserve.”

The extra tax dollars will go to support the kinds of things that all libraries should be able afford in an ideal world, but can’t always — because, as our parents loved to tell us — money doesn’t grow on trees. That’s especially true in the age of COVID-19, when economies are struggling, as are families trying to educate their children.

That’s why, just a few miles northward, in the town of Copake, the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, which serves not only Copake, but also Hillsdale and Ancram, is similarly asking voters in those communities to approve Proposition No. 6.

According to an article readers can find by reporter Carol Kneeland on Page A5 this week, a vote in favor of that measure would cost a little more than $9 a year for properties worth $100,000, which is lower than the rate of $9.50 voted on in 2013, which was the last time patrons of the Roe Jan Library approved such contributions.

If approved, Copake taxpayers will be responsible for $66,472 of the library’s budget; Hillsdale taxpayers will have to contribute $44,142; and Ancram taxpayers will have to pay $29,977 toward the library’s annual budget.

Local public funding makes up 33% of the Roe Jan Library’s budget; Prop. No. 6 is proposing that amount be increased to 40%. Private donations and grants contribute to the remainder of the library’s annual funding.

The Roe Jan Library reported having more new patrons in 2020 — especially families — than any year since 2013, and said it expects 2021 will show those numbers to be even higher. That’s in spite of the COVID pandemic, during which it’s held roughly 200 outdoor programs for the year, on Zoom and in person, attended by more than 3,500 people. Circulation this year is expected to reach an astounding 45,000 items.

Considering all our libraries have done for us, our families and our communities throughout the years — even when in the midst of major renovations like the one Amenia is currently undergoing — approving what amounts to a minor monthly funding increase (that, let’s face it, at $1.21/month would barely make a dent in our daily lives), it’s the least we could do.

For more on the Amenia library expansion and Prop. No. 7, turn to Page A3; for more on the Roe Jan Prop. No. 6, turn to Page A5.

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