Montgomery County

Vote set on Canajoharie library funding

As the school year winds down and parents seek out inexpensive pastimes for their children Canajohar

As the school year winds down and parents seek out inexpensive pastimes for their children Canajoharie Library is getting busy.

In fact, it’s getting busier every year. Last year, over 46,500 people visited the library, which shows a 67 percent increase since 2006.

This year, Librarian Leah LaFera expects about 200 kids to take part in their two summer-reading programs.

The growth began in 2007 when the library received a grant from the Arkell Hall Foundation to expand their existing two-room art museum.

“Our square footage doubled,” LaFera said. “Suddenly we had all sorts of space to run programs. We restructured everything, and people started coming.”

As the new museum wing was constructed, the economy fell, which both hurt and helped the library.

With family budgets tightening up people came to the library in search of free pastimes. At the same time grants, private donations and income from the library’s 100 year-old endowment took a steep drop.

“Last year, we only received $700 in public funds,” LaFera said. “We need more than that to keep our doors open. We had to dip into our reserve, which is a huge no-no.”

The Canajoharie library is now turning to the public for $100,000 in yearly property taxes to solve its budget crunch. A public vote will be held in the library from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Under New York state, the library is chartered to serve the Canajoharie School District, so the district will manage the vote and collect an extra tax levy, separate from its own, for the library if the proposition passes.

In preparation for the vote, library staff have concentrated on educating the public on customary library funding, printing bookmarks, sending mailings and making calls.

“The public has never had to support the Canajoharie library in the past,” LaFera said. “So people don’t necessarily know how libraries usually run. We’re one of only a couple in the state that doesn’t run on public funds.”

While LaFera calculates that the tax levy would only increase the average home owner’s taxes by $26 a year, the vote has turned into a local hot-button issue.

“I’m really surprised. A little thing like that, but people are really hot about it,” said John Peruzzi, owner of the local meat market. “I try not to let people talk about it in the store because I don’t want any fights.”

According to Peruzzi, who is neutral on the subject, public concern has more to do with the idea of adding another tax than the estimated $26.

“People are worried it’s going to go up every year,” he said. “If it was a one-time shot, no one would have a problem with it.”

In spite of whatever of disagreement there is over the proposed library tax, LaFera is confident it will pass.

“We hope the people who come in every day or every week will come in and vote yes,” she said, pointing out that 55 percent of the local population hold library cards.

In the words of Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery, “It’s up to each individual to weigh the merits of the library.”

For more information on the vote, visit

Categories: Schenectady County

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