School Districts and Taxes For Public and Association Libraries: How the Partnership Works

Increasingly, public and association libraries are approaching school districts to have the school district place a resolution for funds on the ballot at a school district election. These resolutions provide an opportunity for voters in the school district to decide whether or not to tax themselves for a public or association library. To assist libraries and school districts, the New York State Education Department, Division of Library Development has prepared the following general information based on Education Law and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

  1. What are association libraries? Are they different from public libraries?

    A free association library is established by a group of private individuals to serve "all the people in the community in which the library is located." (Ed Law, §253[2]). A "public" library is established by a village, town, city, county, school district, or special state legislation. (Ed. Law §255[1]). Once established, all libraries are expected to provide the same basic services and must meet Education Department minimum public library standards. All chartered and registered public and association libraries are under the authority of the Board of Regents and may receive funds authorized by the voters of the school district.

  2. If a library wants to be on the ballot to request tax money from the school district taxpayers, how may they do it?

    The library board should ask the applicable Board of Education to place a proposition on the school district ballot. The library board should prepare a valid petition to put the matter on the ballot. The Board of Education must honor the request and place the library's funding proposition on the ballot. A budget proposition, which has been properly submitted, must be presented to the voters. (Ed. Law §259 [1])

  3. Are public and association libraries autonomous legal entities?

    Yes. Even though they usually have a budget and staff much smaller than the local school district, public and association libraries are corporate entities chartered by the Board of Regents and registered by the Commissioner of Education.

  4. Why do public and association libraries request funding through the school district ballot?

    The law provides a means for these libraries to access voters in the community in order to levy taxes and to use tax collection mechanisms. (Ed. Law §§ 256[1], 259[1], 255[1]). Public and association libraries serve the entire community.

  5. Are public and association libraries mandated for communities as schools are?

    No.

  6. Can a public or association library request that its budget vote be held at a separate time and/or separate location from the school district's budget vote?

    Yes. For association libraries, it is at the discretion of the school district, and a special district election may be held at a time and place designated by the school district. (Ed. Law §2006, §2007). If the vote is held in the library, it must be administered by the school district.

    A school district public library may hold their vote at a time and place separate from the school district. If held separately, the vote must be held between April 1 and June 30. The library may incur costs for requesting a vote separate from the school district election. This should be discussed at the local level between the school board and the library board. (Ed. Law §259 [1]).

  7. If voters approve the library budget, is the tax money collected for the public library mixed with school district funds?

    No. These tax moneys must be kept separate and must be paid to the treasurer of the library board "upon the written demand of its trustees." (Ed. Law, §259[1])

  8. Can the school district charge for collecting the library funds from the district taxpayers?

    No.

  9. Does the library funding appear as part of the school district budget funds?

    No. Library funds appear as separate lines on the ballot. (Ed. Law, §259[1])

  10. Is a new budget vote required each year?

    No. Once the proposition has been accepted by the voters of the district, it is "considered an annual appropriation until changed by further vote." (Ed. Law, §259[1])

  11. If a library vote requesting an increase in funds is defeated, does the library receive any funds?

    Yes. If a library vote for an increase is defeated, the appropriation reverts to the amount last approved by the voters, since the appropriation is "… considered an annual appropriation until changed by further vote..." (Ed. Law, §259[1])

  12. Where can I get answers to my specific local questions about public and association libraries and school district ballots?
    For specific advice on a particular library question, contact the attorney for the library. For general information, contact the public library system in your region. The Division of Library Development staff can refer you to the public library system in your region and give further assistance as necessary. If you need information on how to do this, contact: The University of the State of New York, The State Education Department, New York State Library, Division of Library Development, Cultural Education Center, Room 10B41, Albany, NY 12230-0001: (518) 474-7890

See also Results of Library Budget Propositions on School District Ballots; School District Ballot

Last Updated: February 6, 2014 -- asm