Saratoga County

Public library funding to be decided by Malta voters

A townwide vote on public library funding will be on the ballot in November, town officials and the

A townwide vote on public library funding will be on the ballot in November, town officials and the Saratoga County Board of Elections have agreed.

An agreement reached Tuesday ended a short period of confusion created when the Town Board voted 4-1 Monday not to refer petitions seeking the referendum to the Board of Elections.

The board acted after hearing that two town attorneys have advised them the move was unnecessary, even though the Board of Elections had requested the referral.

The town attorneys met Tuesday with Republican Elections Commissioner Roger Schierra to try to resolve the matter.

“We see eye to eye. I think it will be resolved,” Schierra said Tuesday afternoon.

“They all worked it out. There will be a referendum in November,” said town Supervisor Paul Sausville.

The question to be put on the ballot would be whether the Round Lake Library — which serves the entire town — should get $291,000 in town funding next year.

Library supporters has given the town petitions with more than 800 signatures seeking the vote.

Town Clerk Flo Sickels brought the petitions to the Board of Elections office in Ballston Spa two weeks ago, but was turned away. She said she then mailed a certification letter to the board Sept. 12.

The elections commissioners nevertheless said they wanted a resolution from the Town Board putting the question on the ballot. However, both Town Attorney Tom Peterson and outside counsel Mark Schachner said the step is unnecessary, leading to the 4-1 vote against taking action.

“I see no legal reason for it, and therefore I will oppose it,” said Councilman John Hartzell.

Only Sausville voted in favor of the resolution. “We’re not embracing the matter, we’re not endorsing the matter, we’re simply making a referral,” Sausville said.

The board set a public hearing for Nov. 9 on establishing a library tax levy of up to $291,000, assuming the referendum passes. If the full amount were raised by property taxes, it would amount to 16 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

The library, which operates a main library in Round Lake and a branch at the Malta Community Center, is owned and operated by The Women’s Round Lake Improvement Society, a private non-profit organization in Round Lake.

Library supporters began circulating a funding petition this summer, after town officials said the current arrangement, funding the library by contract from the general fund, needs to change. Library board President Sandra J. Debus said $291,000 levy equals the amount the library received from the town of Malta and village of Round Lake this year.

Given revenue forecasts for the next couple years, town Comptroller Kevin King said it isn’t feasible for the town to keep funding the library without imposing a property tax. The money has been coming from the town’s share of the county sales tax, which has been seeing minimal growth.

The town’s general fund tax is currently only 2 cents per $1,000, to cover ambulance service costs. Town officials said at least some of the money for the library, if not all of it, would need to come from an increase in property taxes.

“It’s important for people to realize if they want to give that money [to the library], it has to be raised by tax,” Sausville said.

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