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Library's request for stay denied

A vote on a proposition to cancel the property tax supporting the Middleport Free Library will go forward next week.

The state Education Department disclosed Tuesday that it has rejected the library's request for a stay, meaning the proposition will appear on the Royalton-Hartland Central School ballot next Tuesday.

The Board of Education voted to place the repeal proposition on the ballot after it received a petition from citizens who objected to the way the tax was approved last year.

The stay was denied Friday, Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said. He said the public announcement was delayed to inform the parties first.

"I'm thrilled, because it allows the district residents to get the vote that we were denied last year," said Mary Cedeno of Royalton, one of the citizen activists who forced the issue onto the ballot.

Carolyn Wagner, president of the library board of trustees, said she hopes people will vote against the repeal proposition.

"I'm hoping very much the community will support the library. It's a valuable asset to the community," Wagner said.

Most district homeowners didn't learn of the new library tax, 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, until they received their school tax bills last September.

The library had requested the tax in late 2010, and the Board of Education agreed to a referendum.

However, it was not held on the same date as the 2011 school budget vote, nor was it publicized in the mandatory budget fliers mailed to each home.

Instead, the referendum was held on paper ballots at the library three weeks later. There was a legal notice in local newspapers and a public meeting in the Middleport Fire Hall, but the notices of the referendum were mailed only to Friends of the Library members.

While 641 people voted in the school budget referendum, only 188 voted at the library, where the tax was approved, 176-12. It raised $103,000 for the library.

Roy-Hart Superintendent Kevin MacDonald told The Buffalo News in February that the Board of Education wanted a separate referendum on the library tax last year, for fear that its presence on the regular ballot might have harmed the school budget's chances of approval. Last year's school budget was approved, 406-235.

By state law, the library tax does not have to be reapproved every year. It would be perpetual unless there was a need to change the amount. Tuesday's proposition does seek to change the amount -- to zero.

Wagner said she wasn't too surprised at the ruling from Albany.

"Traditionally, it's very difficult to get a stay," she said.

Asked if the library has any recourse if the tax is repealed, Wagner said, "There are some things we're looking at. I'm not going to discuss legal strategy."