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Public Library District Toolkit: Strategies to Assure your Library’s Legal and Financial Stability

Sample Legislation: Special and Consolidated District Public Libraries 

Every New York State bill to create a Special Legislative District Public library is different because of the need to describe the unique aspects of the public library district involved, particularly the service area boundaries and which entity(ies) will serve as the taxing authority. However, the bills do include certain consistent elements that can serve as a guide to constructing a bill for your proposed district.

Special District Bill typical outline

(Section numbers may vary depending upon specific additional provisions for the new district.)

Section 1. Creation of library district. This section designates the official service area and official name of the district.

Section 2. Election. This section specifies the process for scheduling the initial local election to create and fund the district, specifies the number and the process for nominating candidates for the board and specifics of the election process. Confirm that the establishment vote is scheduled early enough to collect the tax levy for the first year of operation. This section should delegate the authority to hold future elections to the newly established library board. Plan your initial vote date wisely. Typically these bills are not passed until the end of the Legislative session, usually in June or July, and then wait for many weeks before being sent to the Governor for approval.

Section 3. Organization and structure. This section sets terms for the board and process for establishing initial terms for trustees. Thoroughly consider the most practical number of trustees. Experience shows that more is not necessarily better. Terms are generally three years, though five years are most common among existing libraries.

Section 4. Finances. This section covers the budget vote process, tax collections by the local municipalities, bonding options and handling of finances. In most cases public library district taxes will be collected by municipalities. In a few cases it may be more efficient for those taxes to be collected by school districts. Verify that the wording is very clear regarding the municipality’s responsibilities to collect and promptly transfer all approved library tax funds; as well as their requirement to issue municipal bonds on behalf of the library.

Section 5. Charter, commencement of operations, and transfer of property and employees. This section covers transfer of assets, and ensures that staff can continue with the same salary and benefits including State Retirement.

Section 6. Ad valorem levy. This section authorizes tax collections for the district to be based on the value of property within the district.

Section 7. Education law. This section specifies that unless specified in this legislation, the new district will operate under Education Laws of New York State. This is critical to ensure consistent legal guidelines for future operations. It is wise to specify “including NYS Education Law Sections 226; 259 and 260.”

Section 8. Special Conditions. This section may clarify the new district as distinct from the regional municipality. In some cases municipalities have continued to interfere with library operations. This section addresses the district’s independence.

Section 9. Dormitory Authority eligibility. Authorizes the Library the additional option to seek municipal bonding through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) for the finance of library construction. Many libraries have found it easier and politically expedient to avoid utilizing the local municipality for bonding library construction.

Following are examples of successful bills:

Simple Special District Legislation:

Examples of Consolidation Special District Legislation:

Additional examples of state legislation to create library districts can be found by contacting libraries that have gone through the process successfully. Many have needed to later amend their initial legislation and will be happy to share their lessons learned.