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MHLS Trustee Newsletter
Winter 2011
In This Issue
Tax Cap Basics
2011 Vote Results
Save the Dates!

Legal Issues for Libraries

Saturday, December 3rd  

10:00am - 1:00pm
@MHLS Auditorium  

Workshop Notice [PDF] 



Building Your Base Online: "10 Things" Self-Directed Online Learning Series
10 week program beginning January 23rd

 Workshop Notice [PDF] 


Please register online for all MHLS events.  




February 12-25, 2012

"What's life like on a typical day at your library? Wouldn't you like to document just how busy and essential your library is with statistics, pictures, videos and user comments? Then join New York's libraries and participate in SNAPSHOTNY: A Day in the Life of a Library by collecting statistics, comments, and photographs/videos from one day to provide tangible proof that libraries consistently provide invaluable services to our communities."   


NYLA Library Advocacy Day @Albany:
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 

"Library advocates can visit one-on-one with their legislators in their Albany offices to inform them of NYLA's State Budget Priorities for the year." Register online with MHLS. Coordinated transportation information will be coming soon! 


Trustee Handbook  Available Online
Often referred to as the "Trustee Bible," the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State by Jerry Nichols is available online free of charge.

If you would like your very own print copy, order yours today for $5 from MHLS.

Quick Links



With the recent passage of the "tax cap" law libraries around the state are struggling to keep up with the compliance guidelines.

This issue of Across the Board gives you the latest information on how the tax cap impacts your library, provides advice for staying in compliance and provides hope that the "yes" votes are still there, even when libraries need to go above the cap.

Read on for some guidance, advice, statistics and resources for further assistance.


Feature: Tax Cap Basics

In June 2011 the Real Property Tax Levy Limit bill was signed into law in New York State. While there is no specific mention of libraries in the bill, the Governor's office, Division of Budget (DOB) and the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) have made it clear over the past months that the intent is for the law apply to public libraries as well. So what does this mean for your library? 


Libraries that have had a public vote on their budget - special district public libraries, school district public libraries and those municipal public libraries and association libraries that have used the 414 municipal ballot or 259 school district ballot options fall under the new regulation.    


The law applies to the amount of taxes levied on behalf of your library at the local level. The law states that the tax levy may not be raised more than "2%," or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) whichever is lower, unless 60% of your board approves a request to the taxpayers above this level and a simple majority of voters approves the request at the level you propose.     


The actual dollar amount of the "2%" tax levy limit for your library is calculated using a formula. Each year your library is now asked to file a form, online, with OSC where you will report the amount of money levied for the library. This information will be combined with the tax base growth factor (provided by the Department of Taxation & Finance), any exemptions you are due through the State Retirement System - if your library is a part of that system - and a few other factors to calculate the dollar amount of your tax levy limit. This number is likely to be different from just doing a raw 2% calculation with a calculator of the amount you have previously asked taxpayers for. Your director should have the log-in information for this online form and is aware that the form is due by the end of this first year. In coming years it will be due by the end of September.*


As mentioned previously, your board can put forth an amount to the voters that is over the calculated 2% figure if it needs to. The override procedure involves passing a resolution by 60% of eligible voting members of your board prior to the approval of your budget by your board. If the resolution at the board level passes you may put up a levy request that goes above the tax levy limit you have calculated through the Comptroller's online form. Once this has been done you will follow the same procedures for enacting a public vote on your budget as usual, the vote still would need to pass by a simple majority. Your board may not do a "blanket override" that would apply to future years. [Sample
override resolution language is available from Rebekkah:]


At workshops held around the state staff from OSC did suggest that it is allowable, possibly advisable, to pass an override resolution regardless of the amount you ultimately ask the public for each year to "protect" your library. They made this suggestion in light of the fact that should your library, accidentally or knowingly, be approved for funds beyond your tax levy limit (for example, if your calculations are off) without the override resolution in place, your library is liable for the difference in the amount, plus interest, should you be audited.


Libraries that have never had a public vote on any portion of their budget do not need to fill out the online form from the Comptroller. Your situation remains the same as it always has in that you will need to negotiate with your municipality for funds for your library. The amount your library receives will be a part of your municipality's tax cap calculation - you do not have a separate cap calculation from them.

All of the clarifications we have received are thanks to the efforts of the New York Library Association (NYLA). Their executive director, Michael Borges, convened a tax cap "think tank" early this year to identify issues for libraries and to seek clarity with the appropriate agencies and stakeholders.

*There are still pending issues that NYLA is working on, the largest of which is related to the timing of special and school district public libraries that hold their public votes prior to November. Guidance issued by the Office of the State Comptroller seems to require that their online form to calculate your tax levy limit be filed prior to a public vote on your levy. Give that data elements of the form are not released until August/September and the form is due by the end of September this creates an unreasonable deadline for these libraries.


To stay up-to-date on the Tax Cap issue sign up for our weekly newsletter, the MHLS Bulletin  


  • Questions? Contact Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability at or 845.471.6060 x239   





2011 Member Library Vote Results
There were 31 budget votes this year. 93% of those votes were successful. This is an outstanding record, higher than the the national average recently reported by the American Library Association (87%). 

The numbers don't lie. Libraries are essential to the residents in our communities and they are voting with their tax dollars in possibly the toughest economic climate in our history as a System.

MHLS has made a commitment to helping member libraries build their base of support in local communities and secure sustainable funding. Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability [ or 845.471.6060 x239] is available to your library and library board as a consultant on a variety of topics including:
  • Sustainable Funding Options
  • Building Your Base / Winning Your Vote
  • Explaining the Tax Cap

It is never too early to begin strategizing for next year!


Visit the MHLS Public Library Vote Toolbox: Know-how for your library's vote to see a full list of member library vote outcomes.   


Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. We know how busy your life is and appreciate that you are taking the time to learn more about your role as a public library trustee.


MHLS is here to help you and your library. Please don't hesitate to call us!  


Check out theMHLS Problem Solving Service Directory or the
On Demand Consultation List
to connect with the MHLS staff person best able to help you. 


To stay up-to-date on the latest news, subscribe to the weekly MHLS Bulletin.  


Don't see what you need?Just ask! 



Rebekkah Smith Aldrich
Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability
Mid-Hudson Library System