RESIDENTS DEFEAT GOLD COAST LIBRARY BUDGET BY WIDE MARGIN; PAPIRO, HERTLEIN, BENCHIMOL ELECTED TO LIBRARY BOARD.
With more than 700 voters - six times as many as had cast ballots last year - turning out to the polls, residents in the Gold Coast Library district defeated the proposed $1.6 million budget for the 2016 calendar year, a .74% increase over this year's spending plan that would have increased taxes on the average household by about 27 cents a month. Additionally, Nancy Benchimol the current president, and a member of the Board of Trustees since 2001 was re-elected and candidates Rudy Hertlein and Anthony Papiro each won positions on the board unseating four year incumbent Craig Hennenberger and Miles Sibell, a principal founder of the Gold Coast Library 15 years ago and a board member since 2001. The trustees-elect three year terms of office will begin in January.
On Wednesday, 422 residents, or 58% of the total, voted no, while 303 community members supported the spending plan. Ms. Benchimol received 342 votes, Mr. Hurtlein 449 and Mr. Papiro 548; Mr. Hennenberger garnered 298 and Mr. Sibell 218. Both Mr. Hurtlein and Mr. Papiro opposed the budget. Ms. Benchimol, Mr. Hennenburger and Mr. Sibell supported it.
Although not on the ballot, the Library Board’s proposed purchase of the Halm property in Glen Head completely dominated the discussion at the Meet the Candidates forum two weeks ago, and had gotten significantly more attention than the budget on social media in the days and weeks leading up to the vote.
Mr. Hurtlein and Mr. Papiro have stated that they support having a larger library, but are opposed to the purchase of the Halm property and the building of a roughly 20,000 square foot library at that site, that the library board has said will likely have a price tag between $15 and $19 million. The purchase and construction is contingent upon voter approval in a bond referendum to finance the cost that will most likely be held this December.
Mr. Hurtlein, an accountant who is a financial advisor to St. Hyacinth’s Church on rte.107, has proposed that the library ought to rent the empty grammar school there which he has stated would cost taxpayers about $350,000 per year. Both he and Mr. Papiro have said other properties should be considered or reconsidered as well, such as Bernard’s on Glen Cove Avenue.
The current Board has said at public meetings that for several years they have looked at other properties including Bernard's but believe the Halm property offers the best opportunity for the community. Ms. Benchimol, Mr. Sibell and Mr. Hennenburger, supporters of the purchase of the property and building a new library there, have repeatedly emphasized that it is a community decision and that the board has the responsibility to put that option before the public to allow it to decide for itself. Additionally they have said that it would give the community control over the unused portion of the property, allowing residents to decide who it would be sold to.
On Wednesday night, asked what would be cut from the budget, Library Director Morea said that that will be decided at a later time. He explained that under state law, unlike school budget votes, there cannot be a second vote, and that next year's tax levy and budget would be the same as this year's.
Last year 128 residents turned out to cast ballots in the referendum on the library's budget, a 2.6% increase over the previous year's budget, and Board of Trustees election - an uncontested "contest." 83.4% supported that year's spending plan.
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