Library Funding Ballot Initiative
Frequently Asked Questions about the upcoming funding changes: 

- The Library seems OK the way it is, why the change?
Nine  years ago New York State asked Phillips Free Library to increase our service area to include ALL residents of the Homer School District, not just those folks living in the Town and Village of Homer.  The school ballot is the most efficient way to ask all 12000 district residents to fund the library.
 
-Why should I support the library if I don’t use it?   Even if you don’t use it, you still benefit from having a good library in your community. You may never need the police or fire department yourself,  but we all pay taxes so everyone will benefit from those services when the need arises.
And we are so much more than books:  we have DVDs and BluRays, Video games, books and magazines you can download to your phone or laptop. A recent issue of the Cortland Standard highlighted our high-tech makerspace, but we have lots of “low-tech” equipment and hands-on program opportunities for all ages. And if you need the Internet, join the over 16,000 folks who connected  with our WiFi last year, some just by sitting in the parking lot. We’d love to have the opportunity to show you around the library.  Your small contribution is a huge investment in the future of our community and the world beyond. 
 
-Why are you raising my taxes? A library is considered a municipal or community service - open libraries lower crime rates, raise property values, and raise literacy rates. A public resource available to all residents should be funded by all residents. That means a small, nominal contribution from every homeowner has benefits for everyone!  
 
-Will the library tax automatically increase (or be so large) each year? This year’s increase seems large because we are combining THREE income sources into a single amount. If you own a home worth $100,000 this contribution will run about $24.  That’s only $10 more than last year’s request. If this is the first time you’ve been asked to contribute, it’s only $2 a month.  It’s difficult to predict what future budgets will need, but the library director and the board work diligently to keep expenses under control while still meeting the needs of our 12,000 patrons.
 
 -Will my town or village taxes go down if they’re no longer paying for the library?  That is a good question for Mayor McCabe or your Town Councilors or Supervisors.
 
 -Why won’t the town or village just give you more money? That question is a good one for your elected officials, town council, supervisor, mayor, etc.   This initiative allows all residents of the District to vote on library funding.
 
 -Why can’t you just charge a fee (or charge to check books out, etc)? Our charter doesn’t allow it, nor does New York State law.  By charging a fee, we would end up restricting that access to only those who could afford it.
 
-Libraries are supposed to be free, why are you asking for an increased library tax?  
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s,  the term “free libraries” was created to describe  libraries that were fully open to the public, as opposed to  “subscription libraries” which were only open to paying members.   The Free in the name Phillips Free Library is a holdover from its original founders, and  reminds us that our Democracy depends on the  right to open access to information for all.
 
-Why don’t you use volunteers? A library our size is managed by a director with a Masters in Library Science, as required by state law. Our staff provide so many kinds of  customer service we lose track - from pointing out where the bathroom is to helping with getting on the Internet.  Volunteers are good-hearted and generous people, but it’s difficult to plan high-quality programs and consistent service without a paid, dedicated staff.
 
 
 
 
-Why don’t you spent down the endowment before asking  taxpayers for money?  We currently draw off about 4% of the interest earned by our investments which we use to  cover a percentage of ongoing operating costs and other expenses. That amount was recommended to us by our Certified Financial Planner. If we spend down the principle in the short run, we’ll be losing the possibility of returning to that 4% withdrawal in the future and jeopardize the endowment altogether.
 
-How about grants or donations? We have  received  generous gifts in the past, for which we are very grateful. Some of them specify how the money is to be spent, others have given us the freedom to use our judgement. But donors rarely give money for things like “paying your electric bill” or “repairing the elevator” – and those costs never go away.
We currently provide a great many programs through grant funding, writing 5-8 grant applications each  year. But grants come and go, they are competitive and often very specific about what they will and won’t cover. In short, they can’t be part of an annual budget when it comes to planning for routine expenses. They are like icing on a cake – delicious but not dependable. 
 
 -Who decides how the money is used? The library director and the library board are involved in all financial decisions. There may be  state regulations (like wage increases) or insurance costs, utility rates that figure in, but programs and services are a top priority, as is maintaining a safe and accessible building for all our patrons.
 
 -What will the library do with the money? Along with paying our bills to keep the building running and keeping our technology as up-to-date as possible, we have a couple of pilot programs in the works. We’re working with the Homer School administration to develop a Homework Help Center for students needing extra support. We also will be reaching out to folks in Preble, Truxton, Scott areas to bring our programs and services to them.
 
-     Any major improvements?  Since we’re on the Historical Register, structural improvements in the building itself are strictly regulated. So, we’ll  be looking at upgrades to technology, renovating interior spaces to be more flexible for programming needs and keeping our eyes and ears open for new service ideas. 
 
 -What happens if the vote fails?
We will return to the old method of funding –1/3 through the village and town funds, and 2/3 through the school ballot .But since the Town of Homer  has already stated publicly they will NOT be funding us in 2020, we’ll be forced to make significant reductions in staff, hours we’re open, programs, services and materials. It will mean a huge step backwards.