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Wyandanch residents vote down library budget

The defeat was the first for a library budget in Suffolk County in at least five years.

The Wyandanch Public Library is seen here last

The Wyandanch Public Library is seen here last Friday.  Credit: Barry Sloan

The Wyandanch Public Library’s proposed budget, which carried a nearly 39 percent tax increase, has been voted down by residents, according to unofficial results.

Write-in candidate Katrina Crawford appeared to be victorious in the trustee election.

The nearly $2.8 million budget was defeated 116 to 96, according to library trustee Judith Graham-Guerrier and Crawford, who were present as the votes were counted Tuesday night. Library board president Ghenya Grant on Wednesday declined to comment on the vote, saying only that the board was “in consultation with legal counsel.”

Library attorney David Cohen of Melville, who Graham-Guerrier and Crawford said was present when the votes were tallied, said the votes have not been certified.

The proposed budget would have raised taxes by 38.7 percent, amounting to a $272 increase for an average home assessed at $3,500 and pushing annual library taxes from $702 to $974, according to library director Edwin Maxwell. The library did not include the dollar amount of the tax increase in notices sent to residents.

The defeat was the first for a library budget in Suffolk County in at least the past five years, said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. It was the first for Wyandanch in at least a decade, he said.

Verbesey said that if a proposed budget is defeated, the tax levy reverts to the previous year’s amount, resulting in little or no tax increase, depending on any assessment changes. A library can hold another vote on the same or a modified budget proposal, but it would need to take place  before June 30, he said.

During the five-minute public portion of an emergency meeting called Wednesday night, the board voted to eliminate Sunday hours at the library, effective May 1. Grant said Sunday staff have been getting paid time and a half. Graham-Guerrier voted against the measure, saying the budget should be carefully analyzed because the issue has come up previously.

“Well, this is the first time our budget has failed, and it’s the first time a trustee has advocated to vote the budget down so we’re in a different position,” Grant said. Graham-Guerrier, who openly supported Crawford for trustee, shouted back that the accusation was “hearsay.”

“No one had to encourage us to vote it down,” said resident Jarod Morris. “We voted it down because Wyandanch cannot afford higher taxes from people who cannot properly spend the money they have.”

Crawford waged a write-in campaign after the board voted to leave her name off the ballot. Crawford received 100 votes while incumbent Khristian Jones got 94 votes, according to the unofficial tally. Jones was appointed to the board last month after a nearly yearlong vacancy.

Crawford said that last month, after turning in her petition, she was asked to provide proof of residency, but Grant said it was insufficient and the board voted to keep Crawford’s name off the ballot.

Both Cohen and the election clerk confirmed Tuesday night that she was the winner, Crawford said. At the Wednesday meeting, she said she was again asked by Grant to provide proof of residency. She said she showed her driver’s license but was told she needed to provide more proof.

“You can’t call someone at 4:35 p.m. and tell them there’s an emergency meeting at 6 p.m. and not tell them till they show up that they have to prove residency,” said Crawford, who said she has lived in Wyandanch her whole life and voted at the library on Tuesday. “I’m so tired of this.”

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