BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — In order to find more reliable funding, the Barker Free Library will ask voters for their approval of an annual tax levy.
Fighting rising costs and dwindling revenue, the library is looking for a way to stabilize funding, instead of just relying on what municipalities can spare. Currently, the library receives money from the Towns of Somerset and Hartland, as well as the school district and Village of Barker.
But, municipalities are under the gun, meaning financial assistance may not be there as it has been in the past, said Roy Anderson, president of the Barker library board.
“They’re all under pressure too,” Anderson said.
A levy would give the library stable funding, enough to ween it off heavy reserve usage. Anderson said there is about $5,000 left in the library’s reserves, down from $25,000 a few years ago. The 2013 budget calls for using $4,000 of what’s left in reserves.
Usage of the library has shot up dramatically, with 982 library cards issued to members in 2011, up from 364 in 2005.
“When the economy is bad, library usage goes up,” Anderson said.
Without the levy, it is very possible reserves would be depleted and services would have to be cut. The library provides a number of services, not including a wireless Internet connection, something that is hard to find in the Barker community.
The Barker Free Library is classified as an association library. The move to a tax levy would require the library to be rebranded as a school district library, with a possible name change. Anderson said the new name would be something like Barker Community Library.
The label doesn’t mean the district would have control over the library’s operations. But taxpayers would be able to vote on the library budget each year, much like the Lockport Public Library and the Royalton-Hartland Community Library, formerly the Middleport Free Library.
The move to a tax levy would also fulfill a Board of Regents policy urging libraries to shift tax support from municipal general funds to direct public votes, Anderson said.
Library supporters approached the district last month with a petition of 80 names. Superintendent Roger Klatt said the district attorney is reviewing the petition and making sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted.
“We want to make sure we’re following all procedures and requirements,” Klatt said.
Once everything checks out, the Barker Board of Education will decide when to hold the vote, likely on May 21, the day of the annual school district budget vote or close to it. The decision could come as early as the Jan. 14 school board meeting.
When a vote date is selected, the rest is up to the library. That includes getting information about the vote out to residents within the Barker school district, for which there is already a plan, Anderson said.
That plan includes a mailing, a public hearing and a series of meetings with Anderson himself. Presentations have already been made in Somerset and a Barker school board meeting. People have already voiced their support, Anderson said.
“We are very lucky, very fortunate,” Anderson said.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick
at 439-9222, ext. 6241.