Massena school district voters to be asked June 16 to allow MCS to collect taxes for public library
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 9:36 am

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

MASSENA -- The Board of Education approved a June 16 referendum where voters can decide if the school district should collect the taxes that will fund the Massena Public Library.

A big part of the board's discussion centered around the way the proposal will be phrased on the ballot. Board Vice President Paul Haggett said he's afraid the lengthy legal jargon may be confusing to some voters.

"It's one big run-on sentence," he said. "If I'm a voter and I'm reading this, I'm getting tired before I get to the end of the proposition. If it were broken out better, it would be more easily digestible and easily understood."

The ballot proposal is a single sentence of approximately 125 words.

District Clerk Candie Prairie said there are legal deadlines that may be tough to meet in order for the ballot language to be changed.

"We have to advertise ... there's a lot of behind-the-scenes things that take place in a timely manner, by law," Prairie said.

Town taxpayers currently fund the library through a portion of their annual tax payments to the Town of Massena. Under the proposal, the Massena Central School District would collect a library tax from all residents within their boundaries, which includes the Town of Massena and parts of the towns of Louisville, Norfolk and Brasher.

Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne attended the Thursday, March 19 Board of Education meetings and took questions from its members.

School board Trustee Loren Fountaine asked what would happen if voters turn down the proposal.

"If people are not interested in supporting the robust public library, we'd have to look at what programming we can shed, look at more fee-based services," Dunne said. "We would remain a municipal library."

Dunne said they want to spread the tax burden across the school district because it covers an area where people live who use the library, but currently don't fund it. As a municipal library, Town of Massena taxpayers fund it, but they get users from Louisville, Brasher and parts of Norfolk.

They would ask for an initial annual funding level of around $695,000 and that wouldn't be able to go up without a voter referendum. She said the town funding isn't at the level they need to maintain their current level of services.

She noted that they work to provide free services to all ages and demographics, including storytime for young children, teaching seniors how to use smart devices and tablets, providing free wi-fi for locals who may not have access to it at home, and much more.

She said the annual tax rates would be about $82 on a $75,000 home in in Brasher, $75 on a $75,000 home in Louisville, $66 on a $75,000 home in Massena and $81 on a $75,000 home in Norfolk.