WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Geneva Public Library Seeks Increase in Tax Levy

May 17, 2016

On Tuesday, voters in the City of Geneva School District will have an opportunity to vote on a proposed tax increase for the Geneva Public Library. Chris Finger is the Library Director. He says that the increase is about funding the basic services of the library to the community, which are already greater than comparably funded libraries around the state.

“If you look at all the libraries in New York State that are receiving a comparable amount of tax funds, we’re serving a population that’s 42-percent larger. So, we’re taking what we get and doing a lot more with it than other libraries that are receiving the same funds in the state.”

The request is for an additional 14-cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value. That’s an increase of around thirteen-and-a-half dollars for the average household in Geneva. And, while library funds come directly from property owners, the vote itself is open to anybody living within the Geneva City School District.

Jennifer Morris is with the community organization Geneva Loves its Library, which has been actively campaigning on behalf of the increase.

“We’re just encouraging people to understand what happens if the library doesn’t get this increase, which is cutbacks and we’re trying to remind people of the great services the library does offer.”

Those cutbacks would include a 25-percent decrease in new books and a 6-hour reduction in open hours.

In the months leading up to the vote, the library held a series of focus groups and surveyed the community regarding their services. Finger says the majority of respondents, 84-percent, say books remain the reason that people visit and that the library itself is described as accessible and welcoming.

“There’s a real value that our staff are adding. The library is not just a building that has book and public computers. People are coming in here and deriving a value from the resources that staff are providing them.”

Jennifer Morris says that when Geneva Loves Its Library has encountered opposition to the increase, it’s generally come from a perception that property taxes are already too high.

“We like to say that libraries are free the way schools are free. They’re paid by somebody, but they don’t just exist out of thin air.”

The vote on the proposed increase in the Geneva Public Library’s tax levy will be held Tuesday, May 17th from 11 to 8 at the North Street Elementary School on West North Street.