Last updateThu, 29 Jan 2015 3pm

Tax needed to keep library open, officials say

    A proposed 30-cent property tax levy will appear on the August 5 ballot to fund the future operation of the James Memorial Public Library. The tax would provide funding to allow for yearly operation and is required if the facility is to remain open. Voters will not only determine if St. James continues to have a public library, but will also decide if the city keeps the St. James Park recently acquired from the James Foundation.

    The levy would generate approximately $106,400 per year for the library for staff, books, programs and services currently offered and allow for future growth. This proposed tax would be similar to what is charged for other area libraries that are the approximate population of St. James. Salem currently has a 30-cent levy, Sullivan a 20-cent levy and Rolla has an 18.85-cent levy for library operations. If approved, the library would also be eligible for additional funding opportunities including state money, grants, and reduced rates for Internet connectivity.
    The James Memorial Library hasn’t received tax assistance since 1941 as it was being privately funded by the James Foundation. Since it was given to the city of St. James, it is not funded at all, aside from some money given by the New York Community Trust during the transfer. Because of this lack of funding, the library cannot maintain longer hours for evening and weekends, the time most residents are off work. This lack of funding is a detriment in getting new materials, added services and better hours for users. Building improvements and repairs are also not an option under the current funding source—the sale of library cards.
    Should the tax pass, the money generated through the levy will be used to purchase new books, DVDs, CDs, audio books and large print books. Digital subscriptions in e-books, downloadable magazines, and streaming music and movie services would be available. The facility would have extended hours, would provide computer classes to the public and provide more outreach programs to nursing homes, adult day cares, preschools and day cares.
    For those who do not use a library, the levy would still impact St. James. Libraries aid economic development for businesses looking to come to St. James. Students in the district utilize the public library throughout the year for classes and the summer reading program is a popular program held during the months out of school.
    Perhaps the most important part of the levy being passed is the park. The contract signed giving the James Memorial Public Library to the city included the requirement that the park and library must remain open. Should the city lose the library, the park would revert back to the James Foundation, which could then do whatever it would like to do with that property. Since the Foundation no longer wants to operate that land, the city could lose its park along with the library.
    Members of the St. James Library Board will be offering information to residents throughout the coming weeks. More information can be obtained at the library and Municipal Center.