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: firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.
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- Questions? Contact Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability at email@example.com or 845.471.6060 x239