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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
Canajoharie Library Director Leah LaFera provides facts regarding the library's annual expenditures during Tuesday's Town Hall session aimed at imparting information about the library's upcoming Library Funding Proposition.

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Library Funding Proposition detailed

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - Updated: 10:05 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE -- On Tuesday evening, a Town Hall session at the Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library attracted a handful of locals, who asked questions and received information about the Canajoharie Library's upcoming Library Funding Proposition vote on May 20, from 12-9 p.m. at the Canajoharie High School.

The Canajoharie Library is asking residents to provide $100,000 in annual, community based funding aimed at expanding library services and programs. If the Library Funding Proposition is approved, the average taxpayer (owning a home assessed at $100,000) will pay approximately $28 annually, which equals about 54 cents a week

The funding proposition will appear on the CCS school budget ballot as a separate line item.

The Canajoharie Library (which is chartered to serve just over 6,300 in the town and village of Canajoharie, town of Palatine, village of Palatine Bridge and town of Root) is "a place where everybody is welcomed and nobody is turned away," said Library Director Leah LaFera at the outset of Tuesday's informational session, during which she aimed to clear up common misconceptions about the library, some of which may have led to the public turning down the $100,000 funding proposition put forth in 2012.

The Canajoharie Library is publicly funded at less than 1 percent, or $950 a year, which is unusual in New York State, where the average library receives 50 percent funding from its tax base.

If the funding proposition passes, LaFera said the $100,000 would be spent by the library alone, with none of the money being used for museum expenses.

LaFera explained, "We do lots of things in conjunction with each other -- we do financial planning together -- but at the end of the day, all of our income and expenses are split out between two categories, whether it's a library expense and income or a museum expense and income."

LaFera provided a breakdown of the library's income and expenses, explaining that in 2014, income was about $10,000 less than expenses, which were transferred from the museum's income to fill the gap.

"None of our sources of funding right now are sustainable," said LaFera, explaining that also contributing to 2014's conservative budget of $224,129 was a $55,000 donation by the Arkell Foundation, $10,000 brought in through fundraisers, $1,100 brought in through library fees, $2,600 acquired through library fines, and $2,900 brought in through the annual library book sale, run entirely by volunteers.

"Community based funding is the only sustainable source of funding for libraries," LaFera stated.

As many are aware, the library (and museum) receives significant funding from an endowment left by Bartlett Arkell. The endowment currently contains just over four million dollars. In 2014, the library and museum used 5.5 percent of the endowment, the library's half breaking down to $83,758.50 from the endowment fund balance plus $37,500 endowment interest and dividends.

LaFera explained that if the funding is approved by the public, $32,000 (an estimate) will be used so that only four percent of the endowment is utilized in 2015, which LaFera called "a reasonable percent, which uses basically only interest and doesn't eat at the principal," which she explained the library has been doing for quite some time.

A resident asked of the library, "how many years have they been dipping into the principal and why haven't residents been made aware of it? Or did they just ignore it?"

LaFera explained, "Because we've never been publicly funded, this institution has never had a history of accountability in terms of information about its finances to the public because the public was never involved. And that's been a problem."

The resident stated of the endowment, "I think there's a mindset in Canajoharie that we're always going to have this."

"There's a misconception that there's a gazillion dollars in the endowment," said LaFera, continuing of the Arkell Foundation, "or that their money is our money," noting that their charter statement involves them helping people and organizations throughout the region -- not just funding the library.

La Fera said, "In the past, maybe we weren't doing as good of a job integrating ourselves into the community, honestly. We weren't doing as good of a job telling people we needed help. We were trying to figure it out on our own -- we were trying to use the endowment -- and then once we saw that it wasn't getting much better, we kept having to take more and more out every single year because demand for the library has gone up tremendously since 2007 with the construction of the new building (funded 100 percent by the Arkell Foundation).

Should the funding proposition pass, LaFera explained that an estimated $20,000 would be used to provide staffing, including the reinstatement of a part time programming position, which she said is extremely important in making sure that the library's programs, which have been cut recently due to lack of funding and help, are functioning at the highest level possible.

The lack of funding in recent years has led to reduction of hours from 52 to 37 per week, budget for books and DVDs dropped from $21,000 to $7,300, loss of a full-time librarian position, loss of a part-time programs assistant position, reduction of four to one sessions of storytime per week, and the reduction of teen programs.

If the funding is approved, the library will be able to maintain regular seasonal hours, expand library programming, which includes live science workshops for kids, adult cooking classes (hugely popular, recently cut), family movie nights, creative writing classes (which fill instantly), and the purchase of new computers and technology instruction.

It will also restore new book acquisitions and expand e-book and audiobook services to the tune of $20,000. It will also replace outdated technology, including public use computers that were recently forcefully scrapped because of the discontinuation of operating system Windows XP, as security updates would no longer be provided, putting the library's system potentially at risk. It will also facilitate the addition of a scanner/fax for public use.

$4,000 will be put toward the purchase of new technology, and $3,000 will be spent restoring programming, $4,000 will be spent on postage and printing for a library newsletter and mailings, while $7,000 will be set aside for random expenditures (electricity, fees, insurance, etc.).

About $10,000 of the funding would also be used to perform deferred building maintenance such as window repair and roof leaks.

If the Library Funding Proposition is approved, it will remain in place indefinitely, and another vote will not be required unless additional funding is requested in the future.

A second Town Hall session will take place in the Great Room on Tuesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions regarding any point of interest.

     

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