Richards Library’s operations have been bankrolled primarily by a private endowment for 111 years, but its budget will from now on receive annual public funding of $98,100 due to a tax levy proposition approved May 15 by residents of the Warrensburg Central School District.
For over a century, Richards Library has been a landmark cultural institution in Warrensburg.
This week, the library passed a significant milestone.
The public voted Tuesday May 15 — by a vote of 481 to 272 — to provide the library with local tax funding, the first in its 111-year history.
This approved annual stipend of $98,100, which will supplement Richards Library’s operating budget, will allow the completion of the institution’s stalled expansion project.
A large addition was built onto the compact but grand stone building about six years ago, doubling its floorspace while preserving its historic architecture.
But the expansion project was put on hold soon after construction began because the library ‘s endowment — which once yielded enough interest to cover a portion of the operating expenses — dwindled in recent years, particularly in the recent recession.
The significance of this week’s milestone in the institution’s history was not lost on Library Board of Trustees president Susan Jennings.
“This vote was really significant,” she said soon after the vote was tallied. “Look for wonderful things to happen to the library in the near future.”
The expansion plans are envisioned to transform the library and provide an upscale, welcoming ambiance, with a reading lounge, a 10-station public computer center, and more accessible book stacks and storage as well as a community meeting room.
Jennings said that the remaining work in the expansion effort includes interior carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, as well as equipping the doubled floorspace with needed furniture, computers, carpeting, lighting, plus audio-visual and information technology equipment.
The first installment of public funds will likely be available to the library late this year — so finishing the expansion project could be tackled this next winter, Jennings said. Completing the project is estimated to cost $600,000, about the same amount spent to date on the expansion effort.
The $98,100 tax levy approved May 15 is spread across the 6,000 or so residents of the Warrensburg School District, which mirrors the library's service area. The District includes Warrensburg, Thurman, and small portions of bordering towns including Lake George, Bolton, Stony Creek and Chester.
The library tax levy will be listed as a separate charge on the school tax bill beginning this fall, and it will be perpetual.
Jennings said that the library board has projected that the $98,100 annual stipend will be sufficient for at least the next five years, and the trustees will not be seeking an increase at least until 2017.
Library officials have estimated that this levy will cost 19 cents per thousand of assessed valuation on property tax bills.
The tax levy represents about $17 per capita annually, library Vice President Paul Gilchrist said.
“Richards Library provides education for all ages, from pre-schoolers to the elderly,” he said.
Jennings said she, other board members and fans of the library truly appreciated the vote of support.
“This is not a very high tax,” she said. “And the library is one place the public will see their tax dollars at work.”