Town approves June 21 referendum

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:59

    MONROE-In a 3-2 vote, The Monroe Town Board approved a resolution that paves the way for a June 21 public vote on a 20-year bond for the proposed $12.6 million construction of a new Town Hall/Library complex. The vote, however, revealed some of the rift between the town and the library, which is centered on money and location. Lori Currier-Woods, James Rogers and Don Weeks voted in favor of the resolution. Supervisor Sandy Leonard and Councilman Peter Martin were opposed, citing the high cost and the taxpayer's assumption of the long-term debt. They also said the town has an affordable option of utilizing the M&T Bank building. "We don't have the luxury of looking at each issue on a stand-alone basis," Leonard said. During a work session on the town's five-year financial plan, Martin displayed worksheets with projections to 2010 and beyond. Allowing for slow growth in areas such as salaries (estimated at 4 percent annually) the 6.6 percent town tax rate for 2005 would grow to 10.8 percent in 2006. He also said it would rise as high as 12 percent in 2010 with no new programs such as parkland development added to the budget except the 20-year Town Hall/Library bond. That would require an annual payment of $1.3 million. Library Trustees Barbara Zerner and Catherine Hilliard were in attendance for the work session and the subsequent Town Board meeting. One resident questioned them as to salaries, staffing and how those numbers might grow with a larger library. Hilliard said that Library Director Marilyn McIntosh was working on those numbers. She further stated that they try to be careful when discussing individual salaries as some people may consider that information private. Some heated discussion ensued regarding a taxpayers right-to-know and what is public information. When reached by telephone on Tuesday, McIntosh said that she had every intention of attending the work session but car trouble kept her away. With regard to the question of salaries, she said, "We are not trying to hide anything. All of our information is available for review. Our budget is on our Web site and is published in our newsletter." Anyone wanting more detailed information than is on the site can contact her at the library, she added. Concerning the 5-year projections, she said, "I had planned on attending the work session accompanied by the Library's auditor. We do want to be certain that our figures are prepared in a manner comparable to the town projections. We had not been given any direction from the town as to the format of these projections." "We have always been very conservative with our budget," McIntosh said in regards to the operating budget. Monroe compares in size to Haverstraw and Suffern in Rockland County in terms of the population served. Those libraries have budgets of in the order of $4 million annually. "We don't anticipate radically increasing staff and programs in the first year in a new building," she said. "We would look to grow slowly. The growth of services and staff will not be affected by the location of the building." Should voters reject the referendum, the town would likely move forward with a plan to purchase the M&T Bank building in the Village of Monroe. The purchase and renovations would likely cost town residents about $500,000. A defeated referendum would leave the library of once again looking for land on which to build. Over the last five years the library board has actively sought property. Of the sites investigated, the only remaining, workable plot in the village would be the site just north of the Bank of New York building on Route 17-M. The library could be forced to look outside the village. The cost of purchasing land and constructing a new building are currently estimated at $9 million to $10 million dollars. Unlike the cost of the joint project that would be passed on to all town residents, a solo library project would likely not include residents of the Village of Kiryas Joel as the state is close to granting the Village a provisional charter for their own library. The public referendum on the proposed joint project is set for June 21. To minimize costs, Town Clerk Judy Dise said that this vote would be handled in a manner similar to a school board election. There will be two polling places, the Monroe Senior Center on Mine Road and the Kiryas Joel Medical Center. Prior to the vote everyone registered to vote in the Town of Monroe will be sent a postcard with details of the vote, polling hours and locations. Absentee ballots also will be available.