The public was sharply critical of the Plattekill Library Trustees last week during their monthly meeting. The criticism centered around the trustees decision to not hold a budget vote for 2018 because it is the same amount as last year’s budget, an action that is legal. The public also voiced their dissatisfaction in the way the library has handled their finances over the past few years, citing board President Lynn Ridgeway in particular for her role in the loss of a returned deposit check in the amount of $9,250.
Councilman Dean DePew, who is a Town Board’s liaison to the library, said he is in favor of the town selling the present structure and land to the library, saying “this makes good sense” for the community to continue at their present site and it would not take any other property off of the tax roll.
DePew said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the library Trustees have chosen to not hold a budget vote even though this is legal for the library to do so when there is no change in the budget and the tax levy from the previous year. This has happened in the past, nearly a decade ago. DePew said numerous residents have contacted him about the library budget, responding that the Town Board has no authority over the library budget but he urged people to attend library meetings to keep abreast of what is happening. He said having a vote brings “an air of transparency” to the entire process.
James Jacobini questioned where the $9,250 is, with the board responding that it is with the owner of the Cider Mill property, which the board had considered purchasing for a new library. Jacobini said Kevin Roberts, who is running for re-election to the Ulster County Legislature, is using the situation at the library for political gain, espousing half-truths on Facebook and on other social media. Another person in attendance said if he lost $9,250 he would be out of a job- “This is absurd that this happened,” while another person said “it is money that people worked for that you mishandled and someone has to be responsible.”
The record shows that the Cider Mill property owner had initially agreed to sell his property to the library in the spring of 2014 but by November 2014 he returned the check, made out to the library’s attorney, indicating that the sale was off. Library President Ridgeway and VP Valerie Smith, however, maintained that the library still had a contract. The check, meanwhile, sat in a file and eventually was no longer valid. The rest of the library board was not informed that this had happened until the check was no longer valid. The board has indicated that to sue the owner for the deposit money would cost more than $9,250. In trying to explain the deposit check issue board member Luz Ledesma and library director John Georghiou insisted that this matter took place while they were still in negotiation to purchase the Cider Mill property. The written record, however, does not back their claim on this point.
Ridgeway tried to cut off further discussion on the matter, saying, the board “has hashed this out time and time again” but board member Will Farrell said “but the public doesn’t know anything about it but at some time they should know the whole story.”
The library recently received a report from the NYS Comptroller highlighting several accounting issues that the library needs to correct. Library President Ridgeway in response said it will make reasonable estimates of revenues such as interest, fines/fees and grants “because of the likelihood that it will lead to budget variances.” She added that going forward the library “can and should budget for long-term needs by including lines in its budget for items like capital fund contributions and repair contingency funds.”
Ridgeway also noted that the library Treasurer will “make greater use of detailed line-items in future budgets.” She concluded that the library will remain committed “to being responsible and compliant stewards of the library’s assets and are pleased that after the Office of the State Comptroller staff spent several weeks doing its examination, the report found no issues other than these limited concerns regarding our budget process.” The full report can be found on the Town of Plattekill library website.
The library Board also voted to record their meetings in their entirety and to make them available to the public upon request.
By Mark Reynolds