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State monitor, Wyandanch library board spar over $1M loan request

A note on the door of the Wyandanch

A note on the door of the Wyandanch Public Library, seen on Aug. 20, says the library will be "Closed until further notice," due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Wyandanch library officials are in a battle with the state monitor of the Wyandanch school district over an annual loan from the district, and the dispute may permanently change the relationship between both entities.

The argument rose to a head during a Sept. 1 Zoom meeting on the library’s proposed 2020-21 budget, which would raise taxes by nearly 2% and which is to be voted on Sept. 15. Trustee candidate Jordan Thomas asked library officials for clarity on a budget mailer stating that the library’s request for a $1 million loan was “rejected” by the school district’s state monitor, Al Chase.

The library and district have long been intertwined, in part because the district owns the library building. The library annually asks for the Tax Anticipation Note loan because the bulk of town tax revenue does not come in until January and the library’s fiscal year begins in July.  

Library board president Ghenya Grant said that after submitting their loan request, Chase asked for documentation but that the school board had already passed a resolution for the loan that then “miraculously disappears” from meeting minutes.

Grant said in a communication from the state, there were “discussions about other things like public hearings, which is something we never did, discussions about how the library should be able to take care of itself,” she said. “What we question is the good faith behind the request.”

Chase said the library’s use of the word “rejected” in the budget mailer “is somewhat irresponsible.” The district “simply needed to obtain a cash flow projection to be able to verify that the library indeed needed” the loan, he said, adding this is common practice when districts and municipalities seek money.

Chase referenced the library treasurer’s July meeting comment about a $1 million balance.

“If you had $1 million on hand, one has to wonder does the amount of $1 million in an advance, is that needed, or is it some lesser amount, or is it some greater amount?” he said. “But all we ask for is a cash flow.”

Despite the balance, the library still has expenses to be paid, Grant said.

Chase said the loan resolution was for district borrowing only. Nancy Holliday, the library board’s vice president and a school board member until June, got into a heated exchange with Chase and said she was told by Superintendent of Schools Gina Talbert that the library was included in the resolution. Holliday said there was also a separate resolution for the library that she voted for that has now disappeared.

Talbert did not respond to a request for comment.

Grant said the board is reevaluating the library’s relationship with the district and “looking at alternative arrangements.”

“The bottom line is we are not in a financial deficit like the schools and have never been, and to subject us to the same level of scrutiny and also to kind of drag us in because we’re in the same community is not fair to us,” she said.

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