Ogdensburg’s library caught in crossfire between city hall and school district

WWNY Ogdensburg’s library caught in crossfire between city hall and school district

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - It’s a school district vote, but it’s riling up city hall. The future of the Ogdensburg Public Library is caught in the crossfire.

A referendum vote on library funding will be held May 18 at Ogdensburg Free Academy. But for now, the real action is at city hall.

“If that referendum goes down, if it fails...like it has before, what is your plan? Is your plan to do away with the library,” said City Councillor Dan Skamperle.

The city has cut its library support by nearly $350,000 since 2017.

School district residents voted to make up $125,000 of that cut.

Now, the library wants school voters to approve $225,000 more. Dire consequences are predicted if the proposal goes down.

“I do know we won’t have enough funding, at this point in time, to keep us open probably more than two years,” said Penny Kerfien, Ogdensburg Public Library executive director.

But Mayor Mike Mike Skelly says the library should be doing more with less. He says with the staff it has, it should be open more than the current 45 hours per week.

“It says to me they haven’t managed their employees and their money properly, that they could have done a lot more for the city, been open a lot more, and provided a better library,” he said.

Library officials point out they’ve made cuts. They used to have 7 full-time employees and 3 part-time. Now it’s 2 full-time and 6 part-time. The library used to be open 55 hours.

The library board of trustees has become an issue as well. There are 3 vacancies and the board had forwarded 3 names to city hall to fill them.

The mayor appoints library trustees with the consent of the council. Mayor Skelly says he’ll take a good look at the 3, but will consider others as well.

“I want somebody that thinks more of accountability, of how we’re going to get the most from citizens for this money,” he said.

If the referendum passes, it means about a $58 property tax increase for an Ogdensburg or Oswegatchie home assessed at $65,000. In Lisbon it would be about $75 for a home assessed the same.

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