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Ancram’s frugality benefits Roe Jan Library


ANCRAM—The Town Board plans to spread the wealth around next year by giving taxpayers a 4.03% reduction in taxes, handing out 3% raises to appointed staff and raising the town’s annual allocation to the Roeliff Jansen Community Library by $1,500.

Discussion of the town’s 2013 preliminary budget occurred October 18 during a second budget public hearing prior to the Town Board meeting.

“If we’re so flush that we’re going to do a tax break, we should definitely be supporting the library more than we are,” Town Justice Bob Wilcox told the board.

Town Supervisor Art Bassin said the board had not yet decided whether to raise the town’s contribution to the library from $3,500 to $5,000 next year.

During the regular board meeting, Roe Jan Library Board of Trustees President Howard Van Lenten told the board the new library has been open for almost two years and patrons go there for everything from borrowing books and DVDs to getting flu shots and taking hunter safety courses.

According to data collected by Mr. Van Lenten, when the library was in Hillsdale, the highest number of monthly visits recorded was 1,275, while at the new library the average is 4,000 and often exceeds 6,000 visits/month. The new library in Copake is open more hours, yet has the lowest operating costs of any library in the Mid-Hudson system, Mr. Van Lenten said, adding that feat can be credited to the library’s 168 volunteers, who help the two full-time and two part-time staff members run the library and manage all its programs.

Though some Ancram residents use the libraries in Millerton and Pine Plains, many also patronize the Roe Jan Library, said Mr. Van Lenten, noting that 545 Ancram residents have Mid-Hudson Library System cards.

During annual budgetary discussions about how much to allocate to the Roe Jan Library, the question is always raised about how many Ancram residents are actually Roe Jan Library patrons. To try to get a handle on it, Mr. Van Lenten said, at the time the data were checked, 273 cardholders, or 50% of Ancram residents who hold Mid-Hudson cards, “had materials in their possession that had been borrowed from, or had paid fines to, a Mid-Hudson System library.”

Half of the 273 Ancram residents, or 136, had materials borrowed from or had paid fines at, the Roe Jan Library.

Mr. Van Lenten concluded that half of the people in Ancram who borrow library materials or pay fines in the Mid-Hudson Library System do so at the Roe Jan Library.

Though no hard numbers are available, Mr. Van Lenten estimated that the same percentage (50%) of Ancram residents use the Roe Jan Library for some purpose.

Not counting mortgage payments, the library’s annual operating budget is $248,000. Operating funds come from: miscellaneous sources 2%; circulation desk 3%; grants 9%; local public funds 29%; fundraising and events 57%. Most Mid-Hudson System libraries receive 60% of funding from local public funds and only 40% from other sources.

Looking at the three towns that provide funding to the Roe Jan Library, Mr. Van Lenten said, Copake, with 49% of the total area population served by the library, contributes 57% of the operating costs or $37,000; Hillsdale, with 26% of the population, contributes $24,000; Ancram, with 25% of the population, contributes 5%, or $3,500.

Mr. Van Lenten thanked Ancram for its support and said he hoped the town would see fit to raise its fund commitment.

Councilman Hugh Clark questioned Mr. Van Lenten about his definition of a library and wanted to know if the library distinguishes between funding for more traditional library functions and educational purposes versus “tai chi and things of that nature.”

Mr. Van Lenten said no money from the operating budget goes to those community center-related programs. He said concerts are put on with grant funding from entities like the Rheinstrom Hill Community Foundation and the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation and musicians are paid by contributions from the people who attend the concert events. While theater-goes usually can’t get away with spending less than $50, people can attend a concert at the library for a donation of $5 or $10, he said.

In making a case for a larger contribution to the library by the town, Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Leah Wilcox said that citizens can give private donations to whatever library they want but the town, because it is within the Roe Jan Library’s chartered service area, “has an obligation” to make a contribution and the request was for only $1,500 more. She likened it to not having any children in the school system, but still paying school taxes.

Judge Wilcox backed her up saying, if the Town Board does not believe supporting the library is a legitimate function of government and a social/intellectual necessity then it should take it out of the budget all together.

In the end, Councilwoman Madeleine Israel made a motion that the board raise its library support to $5,000, Councilman Clark seconded it and everyone voted in favor. The board went on to approve the preliminary budget later in the meeting.

In other business, Supervisor Bassin reported that the county’s much anticipated work on improving the sight distances at the intersection of State Route 82 and County Route 7 in the hamlet has hit a snag. When crews removed the vegetation concealing the retaining wall between the old Porter’s store and the Tin Smith House they discovered that the wall is cracked “in a serious way” and if they were to go ahead and make the changes they planned by carving back the bank, they may destabilize the remaining part of the wall. Instead, additional engineering analysis must be done to figure out how to preserve the part of the wall that will remain or whether a new wall is needed. The project may be delayed into next year.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com.

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