School District Ballot
New York State Education Law § 259 provides public libraries in New York State (including Association Libraries) with the ability to place a funding proposition on a school district ballot. This process often requires that the library board simply pass a resolution notifying the school board that it wants to place a funding proposition on the ballot for the upcoming school district election. However, local school districts may require a formal petition process. That entails gathering 25 signatures in support of the proposition from eligible voters residing within the school district.
It is important to meet the school district’s deadlines and to word the proposition to ensure that the library tax is an annual allocation. With a properly worded ballot, the amount collected for the library will continue from year to year until the library board requests another proposition to increase the amount. The school district cannot deny the library’s request to place the proposition on the ballot. If the proposition passes, the school district must collect the taxes and pay them to the library. If two or more libraries are located within the school district, there could be one ballot that includes the individual amounts for the individual libraries or a separate ballot for each library.
School District Ballot — How to go about it
- Representatives from the library obtain information from the school district regarding the process and timeline for petitioning the school board to place a funding proposition on the ballot for the library.
- The library board determines an amount of funding to be requested on the ballot. In determining the amount, the library board should consider the economic and political conditions within the community, but must remember that the financial well being of the library is their first priority. By placing a proposition on the ballot, the library board is simply providing voters with an opportunity to determine the level of library services for their community. The library board is not raising taxes.
- Once the library board determines the amount to be requested, the board passes a resolution to request that the school district place the funding proposition on the next school district ballot. If the school district requires a formal petition process, representatives of the library must gather 25 signatures in support of the proposition from eligible voters within the district.
- The library board contacts local municipalities (especially those that are currently funding the library) to inform them of the library’s intentions and to obtain their support and assurance that municipal financial support will continue if the library’s budget vote fails. Even if the proposition passes, it may be necessary for the municipality to provide some “bridge funding” to cover cash flow needs during a gap between the passage of the resolution and the date that taxes are collected and turned over to the library.
- A representative of the library should contact the superintendent of schools and/or the president of the school board to inform them of the library’s intentions. Though the school district cannot legally deny the library board’s request, it would be helpful to have the district’s support, or at least its neutrality, regarding the library proposition. If a school district expresses opposition to the library’s request, the library should contact the New York State Library’s Division of Library Development for advice on how to proceed.
- The library board formally requests that the library-funding proposition be placed on the next school district ballot by submitting a letter and/or the signed petition and the proposed wording for the funding proposition to the president of the school board. It is important to ensure that the wording of the proposition guarantees that the budget amount approved will continue on an annual basis. The library board is entitled to specify the exact wording to be used on the ballot provided it is legally valid (see sample proposition wording below).
- The library proposition will show up as a separate measure on the school ballot. Sample proposition: "Shall the proposition be approved authorizing the Board of Education of the X School District to levy taxes annually in the amount of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) and to pay over such monies to the trustees of the Y Public Library…"
- The school board has the right to set the time and place for the vote; usually it will coincide with the next school district election. However, the school district may choose to schedule the vote to be held in the library on a separate date. The library should discuss this with school district officials early on in the process and make a formal written request that the election be held in the library. Though the school district is under no obligation to comply with the request, school district officials may find it is in their best interest to keep the library budget vote separate from the school district budget vote.
- The library board and appropriate working committees conduct a campaign to educate the community and advocate for passage of the proposition. No public funds can be used to advocate for the proposition. However, library support organizations such as the Friends of the Library can use private funds for advocacy. Click here for more information on educational and advocacy campaigns.
- If the proposition passes, the school district will collect taxes and turn them over to the library.
- The amount authorized for library services will show up as a separate line on tax bills.
See also Library Budget Propositions on School District Ballots, May 2009 and Library Budget Votes, Based on 2006, 2007 and 2008 Annual Reports for Public and Association Libraries | Return to What is a Public Library District?