John Jermain Memorial Library Budget Approved; Trustees Elected

John Jermain Memorial Library Sag Harbor
The John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller photo

Sag Harbor voters overwhelmingly approved a $3.092 million budget for 2020 for the John Jermain Memorial Library, 231-35, on Thursday night.

In addition to the budget, voters selected three people to fill seats on the eight-member Board of Trustees, in a contested election.

The top vote-getters and new members of the board were Patricia McCormick , with 169 votes, Michael Garabedian — a former board member, with 165, and Bob Weinstein, with 133.

Challengers Daniel Glass, the only incumbent seeking reelection, received 125 votes, Elliott Sroka had 78 votes and Charles Stevenson had 41.

There were four write-in votes, for William Horan, Mary Ann Miller, Jessica Soffer and Stella Stands.

Incumbent board members Alison Bond and Nick Gazzolo are unable to seek re-election having reached their term limits.

Voters approved the $3.092 million budget for 2020, $2,869,889 of which is generated by the tax levy. The budget represents a 2.8 percent increase over the current spending plan.

The average property owner in the library district in Southampton Town will see a zero-percent increase for the second year in a row. Property owners in the East Hampton Town portion of the district, who saw a zero-percent increase last year, will see a 0.41 increase for a property valued at $500,000, or just under $5 per year.

The debt service on the 2009 $10 million referendum that helped fund the restoration and expansion of the historic Main Street library, accounts for $905,000 of the proposed budget, with operations making up $1,964,889 — $1,033,640 funding the JJML staff salaries, with an additional $445,800 making up employee benefits and payroll taxes, $185,640 earmarked for library materials and programming, $213,648 covering administrative and office expenses and $308,461 slated to cover building and grounds.

“I think the approval of the budget by such a wide margin is always a lovely thing and this year we did have 100 more people vote than last year, however, it is still a small percentage of people who could vote for the budget,” said JJML Director Catherine Creedon on Tuesday. “I am thrilled with the people who did vote, yet, I would prefer to see a greater number of voters turn out. We did a lot of outreach this year to get people to turn out using social media, the website, and by state law everything related to the vote was published in English and in Spanish.”

Ms. Creedon noted the budget did stay below the state-mandated tax cap — a priority for the sitting board of trustees. “A lot of new initiatives we are planning at the library will be funded through donations and grants,” she said. “We are always looking to expand and are doing a lot of plug-in programming with the schools and are working with other local organizations as well. Formalizing and expanding our home delivery service is something I am really excited about. Through that program, we are able to serve longtime patrons who may be less mobile, delivering books to their home and even by mail. It is not just for older patrons either, but also for those who may be sick or a family with a new child. We can get them books and arrange to have them returned as well.”

Ms. Creedon added another priority for the library continues to be to expand its archive and local collections.

“As with everything, my staff deserves a lot of credit,” she said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Garabedian — a past president of the JJML board and a local attorney with Egan & Golden LLP — said he hopes to bring his experience as a former board member to the table as an asset, in addition to his knowledge of law and contracts. Mostly, Mr. Garabedian said he hopes to support Ms. Creedon in her mission as director.

“Cathy has been the constant throughout everything,” he said. “She is incredible and the best thing we can do as a board, outside of our fiduciary responsibility to the community, is to stay out of her way and let Cathy do what Cathy does.”

Like Ms. Creedon, Mr. Garabedian said another focus is to serve the underserved communities in and around Sag Harbor, including Sag Harbor youth.

“We have an incredible Hispanic community and we have to get them more involved and give them a safe place for them and their children,” he said. “We need to get more involved with other minority communities as well, including the African American community in Sag Harbor. It’s an absolute must.”

“As an author, I hope to add to the creative thinking already being done by the staff to broaden our outreach to patrons, to get more books into the hands of readers, to bring more authors to our community and attract more patrons to the library itself,” said Ms. McCormick in an email on Tuesday. “Now that so much information is available on-line, people can forget how satisfying it can be to visit the library, to talk to our friendly, knowledgeable staff – and to enjoy the heavenly quiet in this noisy world.”

“It’s very gratifying to live in a community where six people would choose to run for 3 seats for the board of trustees of our library,” said Mr. Weinstein on Tuesday. “I’m thrilled to have won, but feel any of the candidates would have been a great asset to JJML.

“I believe I was the only candidate with a background in marketing and communications, and I hope my skills will be put to good use in matters of community outreach and fundraising. Additionally, I have deep roots in the community and would like to think we can create more synergy with the other cultural institutions in our village.”