"This is something we've always wanted to do," says Chartering Committee Chairman Cliff Buck, "but when we started New York State was not entertaining any new charters. They began doing so about a year later. This is a window of opportunity, so we're actually doing it sooner than we expected."
The committee considered two choices: becoming a Municipal Chartered Library and a School District Chartered Library. They decided the latter was the best choice, and have reached out to theSuperintendent of Schools and School Board while working on meeting the requirements to become chartered. Mr. Buck is working with Sharon Bowman, who is acting as liaison between the library and the Town government.
Taxpayers within the Lansing School District will vote on three items next May:
- Approve the creation of a School District Public Library
- Elect Trustees
- Approve funding
"Once chartered we would become a municipality under State law," says Mr. Buck. The library would not become a part of the school system, but would remain a distinct entity that shares the same constituency with it. Once approved the tax rate would be fixed, and would only require another vote if the library board needed to change it.
The Friends of the Library would hand over their governing role to an elected Board of Trustees. As a chartered library LCLC would have a larger budget than it currently does, because the trustees would have to hire a Director and an assistant. Currently the library is run entirely by volunteers.
Mr. Buck says The Friends would continue to have a role, "to provide the library with some of the fun things." He said that could include special programs or other things.
Mr. Buck noted that the Tompkins County Library tried to become chartered in Lansing about six months ago. The tax rate for the library would have been 27 cents per thousand dollars of homeowners' assessed value. At that time issues were raised that caused the library to withdraw the plan.
Now that Lansing's library is going through the process Mr. Buck says there will be advantages. "It will protect taxpayers from paying a tax that goes outside of their town," he says. He also noted that the tax rate will be considerably less than the County library would have gotten. Though the exact rate has not yet been determined, he says it will be in the teens. Earlier this year the State inspected the library and encouraged the Friends to go forward with the chartering process.
The next step is a survey. The committee is sending a survey to school district residents in the mail this week to get a feel for how the proposal will be supported. Lansing businesses and individuals have been generous in supporting the library so far, and the committee hopes residents will be supportive of this plan.