Library status change advances

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Public Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to “pursue becoming a school district public library,” library Director Erica Wing said Wednesday.

“So now that we’re moving forward, we’re working on a funding proposal,” Wing said.

Officials from the library and the city in 2016 first discussed whether the facility could become a school district library funded by people residing within the Greater Johnstown School District boundary. The move could be beneficial financially to all entities involved, officials have said. City taxpayers currently are funding the library in 2017 by about $278,000 in the city’s 2017 budget.

Wing said the Board of Trustees is looking at possibly conducting a proposition next May to coincide with the school district’s annual budget vote. According to the school district calendar, the district’s annual budget and Board of Education vote will be May 15, 2018.

The next steps will also be to educate the public on this “big” change for what is still known currently at the public library at 38 S. Market St., Wing said.

She said that if the voters approve the switch, the Johnstown library will become a school district public library like the Gloversville Public Library and the Northville District Library. She said both of those facilities “do this successfully” and are financially secure.

The director said the move to a school district public library will foremost provide “stabilized funding” for the facility.

Wing said it is important for people in the area to know that the money collected annually that will “show up on the school tax bill” is “not a school tax.”

Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education President Kathy Dougherty also noted today the role of her school system in this process is to only provide the “vehicle” – the tax bill – by which users of the library will pay for the library. Funding for the library doesn’t come from the school district levy, which is completely separate, Dougherty said.

“That is the only role the district plays, officially,” Dougherty said.

But the school board official said the district will continue to assist the library in the future, as it has in the past, with vital programming for the library.

“We don’t want to lose that,” Dougherty said.

The Board of Trustees in May hired Libby Post, president of Albany-based Communication Services, to determine the feasibility of a Johnstown school district library.

Wing said the district took into account Post’s findings and work in making its decision this week to pursue to the school district library option.

“They’re 100 percent behind this in going forward,” Wing said of trustees.

She said the school district boundaries will now be the official boundary for the people the library will serve, if next spring’s vote is approved. That would include residents of the district to the west of the city in the town of Ephratah.

How the 2018 city budget is impacted by this week’s decision is now known. City Treasurer Michael Gifford this week is not yet releasing proposed figures from city departments for 2018. Wing recently told the Common Council she didn’t think her city 2018 budget would be impacted too much, although she did make some additions such as a call for a new full-time librarian post.

Pending approval of next May’s proposition, the Johnstown Public Library would apply for a new library charter, dissolve, and transfer assets of the old library. Once that process is completed, the library would be funded by a separate designation on a future school tax bill.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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