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Wyandanch library budget proposes 2% tax increase; vote to be held outdoors amid pandemic

The Wyandanch Public Library on Aug. 20, where

The Wyandanch Public Library on Aug. 20, where a note on the front door advised users that the library would be "Closed until further notice," due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The Wyandanch public library will conduct voting outdoors for an upcoming budget proposal that seeks to raise taxes by nearly 2 percent.

The board of trustees posted the proposed budget and updated information on voting — scheduled for Sept. 15 — on its Facebook page Thursday night. The vote was postponed from April due to COVID-19.

The library has been operating on a contingency budget after voters rejected last year’s proposed tax increase of nearly 39%. The 2020-21 $2 million budget would have a 1.81% tax increase over the current budget. The library lists $557 as the amount residents would pay in annual taxes, but the amount based on the average home assessed value is $702 under the current budget, library staff said last year. According to Babylon Town officials, under the current average assessment, the annual taxes would be $709.  

The largest expense category, library staff, would decrease from $1.02 million to $967,088. Materials and supplies would drop from $156,000 to $149,500. Library operations would increase from $322,860 to $372,060, and fixed administrative expenses would rise from $218,000 to $266,500.

The library provides only a budget outline, not a line-item budget, and has not responded to Newsday’s questions on the outline or a Freedom of Information request for a full budget.

Treasurer Jordan Wilson said during a July 27 Zoom meeting that the library has a $1.1 million balance and “that’s a good position to be in financially at this point.”

But he also said Babylon Town is not paying tax revenue to the library “in a consistent manner or paying us in a timely manner.” Wilson added that it feels “like we’re being held hostage where the board can’t plan properly for district services that you provide for the community.”

Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said there’s been no change in how tax revenue is transferred, which is “on a rolling weekly basis to all tax jurisdictions within the town, as required by NYS law, including to the Wyandanch Library District.” He added that if the library board “has information contrary to that, we urge them to contact us to rectify the situation.”

Library officials also have mentioned not receiving an annual $1 million loan that it gets from the financially-strapped school district. The Facebook post says the funding request was “rejected” by the district’s state monitor. According to the state Department of Education, no decision on the loan has been made. A department spokesman wrote in an Aug. 17 email that in early July they requested additional information, “including a cash flow projection that indicates a loan is required” but that the information had not been submitted by the library.

Wyandanch is the only library in Suffolk County not to resume in-person services since March, saying that the ventilation system is unsafe due to COVID-19. In addition to outdoor voting, residents can request absentee ballots due to the pandemic. 

A Zoom meeting on the proposed budget is at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Participants must register in advance.

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