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Library budget vote

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The Comsewogue library. File photo

After being given the option to reschedule its annual trustee and budget vote, the Comsewogue Public Library is asking residents to say “yes” to its $6,087,294 2020 budget, during a vote next Tuesday. 

The over $6 million budget is a 1.46% increase from last year, and represents a $58,528 district-wide tax levy increase. This accoutns for a 2% tax levy increase over last year’s tax levy, below the New York State tax levy cap of 2.79%.

Of the total budget, the library estimates $2,981,394 is to be raised by district taxes. This accounts for an annual increase of approximately $6.65 to $10 for a home valued between $2,500 to $4,000, or 27 cents per $100 of the estimated assessed value of one’s home.

The proposed budget includes moderate increases to most budget areas including staff, library programming, library operations and administrative expenses. This year’s capital improvement bond debt service and building expenses decreased slightly from the previous year’s budget.

“The proposed budget ensures the continuation of the library’s high-quality service program, which continually adapts to community needs and interests,” said library Director Debbie Englehardt in an email.

At the same time as the budget vote, residents will also be asked to vote to reelect Corinne DeStefano to library trustee. She is running unopposed to retain her seat for a 5-year term on the library board. She is currently the library board president.

DeStefano is a lifelong Comsewogue resident, having grown up just a few blocks from the library, according to her Comsewogue library bio. She is married to Robert DeStefano, a Comsewogue school board trustee, and has two children, ages 11 and 7.

DeStefano is a software engineering manager at Broadcom, which makes products for the wireless and broadband communication industry. She is a “big fan of the library” who is “always looking for ways to serve the community.”

District residents should have already received a budget brochure in the mail in advance of the original April vote date. Residents should have also received a special library newsletter directing them to the website for more details.

Those interested in applying for an absentee ballot for the library budget vote and election should call 631-928-1212, extension 123, or visit cplib.org/budgetvote.

The vote for this year’s budget is scheduled for Sept. 15, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allowed bodies like libraries to delay their budget votes from when they normally host it in April. Residents can vote at the library on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other Area Libraries

The Port Jefferson Free Library has already announced during July the library board voted to cancel the 2020-21 budget vote and maintain a 0% increase in operating budget from last year to this year. Library Director Tom Donlon said in the library’s fall newsletter that the library board “felt that with the current pandemic, high unemployment and staged tax increases due to LIPA, it would be unfair to our community to pursue an increase in taxes this year.”

The library director added the board feels the library can still meet the community’s needs without incurring additional expenses. 

The library will host an election in January 2021 for three trustee seats. Two five-year terms are expiring along with an unexpired one-year term that is up for grabs. Applications will be available at the circulation desk starting Sept. 21.

The North Shore Public Library is also hosting a trustee election this year, where current trustee William Schiavo is running unopposed. The election is set for Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the North Shore Public Library next to the Shoreham-Wading River High School. People looking to apply for an absentee ballot can call 631-929-4488 or visit northshorepubliclibrary.org/absentee-ballot-application-and-procedure.

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Emma S. Clark Memorial Library recently received a grant to reimburse the cost of adding LED fixtures and bulbs in its building. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

By Rita J. Egan

Three Village residents voting on the proposed Emma S. Clark Memorial Library 2018 budget will be voting “yes” or “no” on a slight increase over last year’s budget.

The proposed $5,235,398 budget for the library is $36,037 more than 2017 and would increase the tax levy by 0.69 percent.

President of the library board of trustees Linda Josephs credits Director Ted Gutmann and the library staff with keeping costs down for the Sept. 27 vote.

“We are able to consistently fulfill this responsibility due to the tireless efforts of our dedicated, professional director and staff,” Josephs said in an email. “Our very small budget increases over the past several years without any decrease in services is a result of their performance.”

The library provides an educational and cultural resource for all ages in the Three Village area. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Gutmann said the relatively low increase is due to a few factors, including the library no longer seeing an increase in their bills from the New York State & Local Retirement System as they did for several years. Approximately two-thirds of the staff is hourly or part-time, which reduces benefits costs. He said participating in the Partnership of Automated Libraries in Suffolk, a shared catalog/circulation system for Suffolk County libraries, has led to a savings of more than $20,000 a year. The library installed a new, energy-efficient boiler and HVAC units, which reduce utility costs, according to the director, and in the future lighting will be converted to LED, another cost saver.

Gutmann said contributions have also helped to offset operating budget costs. Donations in the last few years have included money left in 2014 by deceased Three Village social studies teacher and author Philip Groia to build the Global Studies collection, and late patron Helen Stein Shack’s family establishing an endowment used to fund an annual book award for teenagers.

The library recently received aid from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), which has allowed the library to create a new technology center, also install a new carbon-monoxide detection and alarm system.

Gutmann said in addition to the library offering paper books and e-books, it provides classes, one-on-one technology training and programs, and volunteer opportunities. There are also senior bus and social programs for older residents.

The director said he believes it’s important for residents to vote and have a say in library decisions.

“The library is one of the few places left for the community to come together,” Gutmann said. “We are a place where our patrons can enhance their lives through books, programs, museum passes and online services. We are a unique educational and cultural resource that serves all ages in the Three Village community.”

The library budget vote will be held Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Periodicals Room in the historic section of the building. The library is located at 120 Main St. in Setauket. For detailed budget information, visit www.emmaclark.org.