The Westhampton Beach Free Library is proposing a nearly $2.1 million budget for 2008-2009, a spending plan that includes a 43-percent hike in expenditures and a projected 53.4-percent spike in library taxes next year.
The majority of the spending increase is needed to finance the construction of a new $7.8 million library, a project that was approved by voters last fall, according to Library Director Matthew Bollerman. Nearly one quarter of next year’s total budget, or $587,910, has been earmarked to cover the first bond payment on the project that is due next year.
“This is something taxpayers voted on—it’s not a surprise we’re raising taxes,” said Library Trustee Hank Tucker, who also serves on the Westhampton Beach Village Board. “When [taxpayers] voted on the bond in the fall, they knew they’d have to pay for a new library.”
To finance the new library, the amount of tax revenues that officials need to raise will jump by nearly $700,000, from $1.25 million this year to just over $1.92 million next year. The library district tax rate will increase by 15 cents to about 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, according to library officials.
As a result, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $750,000 will pay about $315 in library taxes next year, or $110 more than this year. The 20-year bond voters approved in the fall to finance the project will impact taxes for that same period.
District taxpayers will be asked to approve the library budget on Tuesday, May 20, the same day that they will cast their ballots on the Westhampton Beach School District’s proposed $46.5 million for the 2008-2009 school year. Voting will be held in the large instruction room at Westhampton Beach High School.
Library officials will discuss their budget at the next Westhampton Beach School Board meeting on Monday, May 12 in the high school.
Mr. Bollerman explained that even if the library budget is rejected by voters, the construction project would continue. Library officials could either hold a second budget vote or the school district would have to collect the nearly $590,000 needed to cover the first bond payment, according to Mr. Bollerman. In turn, school taxes would have to increase to offset the cost, said Library Trustee Joan Levan, who also serves on the Village Board.
Work on the new building, which requires the demolition of the existing library on Library Avenue in Westhampton Beach, was set to begin this spring, though Mr. Bollerman said this week that he still could not provide a specific date for work to commence.
“Spring lasts until June 21,” Mr. Bollerman said on Tuesday after releasing a copy of the proposed spending plan. He declined to elaborate further.
The main sticking point continues to be the securing of necessary permits from the Village of Westhampton Beach to install and operate an industrial-size trailer across the street from the existing library. The trailer will most likely serve as the library’s temporary home for at least 18 months, the time it will take to demolish the existing library and replace it with a new two-story, 14,350-square-foot structure.
The lot targeted by library officials, 28 Library Avenue, is currently zoned as multifamily, and the library needs a variance from the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals to operate the 5,040-square-foot trailer on the property. The library is still waiting for the variance, Mr. Bollerman said on Tuesday.
Officials with the Zoning Board of Appeals could not be reached for comment this week.
Mr. Bollerman noted that the library is also awaiting approval from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services for both the new library and the temporary shelter. Once they are approved by the county, the Westhampton Beach Village Planning Board can then sign off on them.