Written by Matthew Ern, email@example.com Wednesday, 09 April 2014 00:00
Having the ability to check materials out of a public library is something most tax payers take for granted. But for a select number of Stewart Manor households, the simple action of checking out a book is not something that is taken so lightly. On March 18, the Village of Stewart Manor held an election in which residents who live on Fernwood Terrace voted to retain their access to the Garden City Public Library for another five years.
Homes on Fernwood Terrace technically do not reside within the boundaries of Garden City, even though they fall within the school district. Since those residences don’t pay Garden City taxes, they voted to continue paying a special fee in their Stewart Manor Village taxes to be granted access to the library. The Fernwood Terrace residencies contain an estimated population of 197.
“One behalf of the library board, we’re thankful to them for renewing the contract and we’re looking forward to another productive five years,” said J. Randolph Colahan, Chair of the Library Board in Garden City.
Unserved areas that belong to no library district are not uncommon. Library district boundaries can be drawn up a variety of ways, based off towns or school districts.
The conflict arises because libraries, like public schools, are paid by taxing the citizens. But while everyone pays a school tax, not everyone pays a library fee. Areas that fall into no library district and therefore pay no library tax are known as “unserved.” Residents who live there have the option to petition a neighboring library and ask to be made a library funding district, and pay an additional library fee in their taxes.
Ten library funding districts have been formed via contracts for service with member libraries in Nassau County. The unserved area made up of Fernwood Terrace lies between the Elmont Public library, which serves the school district, and the Garden City Public Library, which serves the Village of Garden City. In 2004, residents first approached the Garden City Library about gaining access. Every five years the contract is put to a vote, with residents opting to renew in 2009 and again this year, extending the contract till May 31, 2019.
A special tax will be levied to all properties on the street to fund the cost of the library services contract, at $27,870 per year.
Elementary school children needing access to the library was a major reason why parents on Fernwood Terrace sought to be added to the Garden City district. The students sometimes go on field trips to the library, and since those living on Fernwood would not ordinarily have been considered Garden City residents, this contract was necessary for them to get library cards and take out materials.
Besides becoming a library funding district, unserved residents have the option to apply for a State Mandated Access Card to fulfill their entitlement to library access. This program began in 2000. Cardholders can borrow materials from Nassau County libraries with some restrictions.
“Because New York State will not allow a fee to be charged for these cards and because the individuals issued these cards are not currently taxed for local library service, the state has approved limitations on what can be borrowed or accessed by these cardholders,” explains Nassau Library Systems Director Jackie Thresher.
Some possible restrictions placed on a cardholder might be having restricted remote access to library databases and downloadable media. Libraries are not required to loan recently-acquired books and audiovisual materials to non-residents as well.
Sometimes the creation of a library funding district isn’t a practical option because the population of the area in question is too low. Residents in such an area might take advantage of the State Mandated Access Cards.
“Residents of library funding districts that contract with a library for service are considered local cardholders of that library and have the same library privileges as the library’s local resident taxpayers,” adds Thresher.