The DeWitt Community Library, is chartered as a free association library, and is located in the Town of DeWitt in Onondaga County. Like many free association libraries, DeWitt Community Library uses the provisions of Education Law 259 to place their budget levy before the local voters on the school district budget ballot.
In 2012, a local individual brought suit to challenge the statutory authority granted to DeWitt Community Library, and all free association libraries, to use the mechanisms found in Education Law 259 in placing a budget proposition on a school district ballot. This despite previous determinations by the State Comptroller, NYS Commissioner of Education, and the NYS Supreme Court that Section 259 does confer this right. In June 2015, the Commissioner affirmed this right exists. However, the petitioner in this suit raised novel issues of Constitutional Law, and that part of the suit is now before the NYS Supreme Court. If the court finds in favor of the petitioner on these constitutional issues, it would throw the primary funding mechanism for dozens of free association libraries across the state into disarray.
Because of the potentially destructive statewide impact an adverse finding in this case would have, the New York Library Association has agreed to provide assistance from the NYLA Legal Defense Fund to help defray legal costs. The DeWitt Community Library has already expended $35K defending this matter, and the potential further costs of this litigation are significant – particularly if the court finds merit in these novel constitutional issues, and the library is forced to litigate through the appeals process.
Debby Emerson, President of the New York Library Association, commented “NYLA is pleased to be able to step in and provide assistance to help defer the legal expenses for the DeWitt Community Library against this baseless litigation.”
In order to aid in this defense, you are invited to donate to the NYLA Legal Defense Fund.