G.N. Library board allocates surplus money to capital projects instead of bond fund

G.N. Library board allocates surplus money to capital projects instead of bond fund
Great Neck Library main building. (Courtesy of Island360 Archives)

The Great Neck Library Board of Trustees approved the use of surplus budget money for capital projects instead of putting it toward bond payments and introduced a proposed change to the library digital surveillance policy, both of which spurred backlash from audience members at a meeting Tuesday night.

The board also approved some less controversial resolutions, including the purchase and installation of a television at the Station Branch Library and introduced a policy to expand the library’s rules and regulations to disallow UberEats orders to the front desk, vaping, and charging e-bikes.

The board heard a 2024 capital transfers resolution, which called for the transfer of surplus money from the library budget to help pay out the library’s bond. It altered the resolution before approval to transfer the surplus money into the main building and special services fund for capital improvement projects.

“With this surplus, I would rather just finish some of the jobs now,” Assistant Treasurer Liman Mimi Hu said, “and we’re getting good rates on the bond anyway.”

Board President Rory Lancman disagreed and said he thought the initial recommendation, which would ease the burden on taxpayers, made sense.

But some trustees, including Assistant Treasurer Josephine Mairzadeh, agreed with Hu that capital improvements should be the priority.

The business manager’s initial recommendation was to transfer $150,000 to the branch and special services fund, $100,000 to the automated library fund, $175,000 to the bond retirements fund, and $125,000 to the main building and special services fund.

After light debate, the board altered the resolution to allocate surplus money proposed for the bond retirement fund to support capital improvement projects at the library. Some $300,000 of the total $550,000 transfer funneled into the main building and special services fund. The board voted to approve this resolution, with one trustee voting no.

Former Board President Marietta DiCamillo slammed the resolution change and suggested the board review its budget more “carefully” next year, citing overspending tendencies.

“You’re ending up with a $550,000 excess of spending. This year, you increased the tax rate by nearly 4%,” DiCamillo said, referencing the 3.8% budget-to-budget increase to a $10.3 million 2024-2025 budget. “This process continues to perpetuate the overtaxation.”

She said the surplus money should have been allocated toward the bond fund to “return overtaxed revenue to the paying public,” which would “ultimately result in a tax cut.”

In addition to approving the transfer of funds, the board discussed a proposed policy change to the library’s digital surveillance policy.

The policy revision would eliminate the need for the library director to receive approval from the president of the board before accessing digital surveillance footage.

Trustee Aliza Reicher said the policy revision was meant to “not burden the director if she needed to access digital surveillance.”

Reicher said that instead of requiring permission from the board president, the director would just need to notify the board before accessing the footage to prevent “unfettered access for no reason.”

Under the policy change, the director and assistant director could assign a designee, who must be approved by the board, who could access the footage if both the director and assistant director are unavailable, the trustee said.

Hu said she did not understand why the director needed permission to access the surveillance footage in the first place.

“This is some residual policy from the past, which shows how the board really micromanaged the management team,” Hu said.

But DiCamillo said the policy was created as a safeguard when digital surveillance cameras were first introduced in the library, which she said was an “extremely controversial move.”

“We agreed with the staff union that we would include that layer of personal protection so that they didn’t think that the library management was spying on them,” DiCamillo said, “and it’s especially important in the current heat of affairs that is currently transpiring at the library.”

The board voted early in June to conduct an independent investigation after a letter from an anonymous employee alleged Director Denise Corcoran has fostered a “toxic and fearful work environment.”

In addition to decrying the proposed policy change, DiCamillo called out trustees for not reaching out to past board members like herself to learn the history of policies.

“It’s always amazing when I sit here as a former trustee and member of the board and I hear the trustee say that they don’t really understand why the policy is what it is and never bother to reach out and see if there was any logic to doing what was done,” she said.

The former board president said she would be submitting a Freedom of Information Law request after the meeting after her repeated requests for a report mentioned during the April board meeting went unfulfilled.

“I don’t seem to easily get my request for records review done,” DiCamillo said. “I’ve received two notices advising me that it’s not ready. It’s a report. It must be ready. You pay for it. It must be ready. It’s old. It must be ready, so I don’t understand why I’m being stalled.”

The next Great Neck Library Board of Trustees meeting will be held July 16 at the Lakeville Branch Library.

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