The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gleason Library protests proposed budget cuts

The consequences of a just-under 4% cut in the annual budget of the Gleason Public Library “are dire indeed.” So stated Library Trustee Chair Priscilla Stevens in a sharply worded memo dated January 20 to David Guarino, Chair of the Finance Committee (FinCom). The library is being asked to reduce its FY11 budget by $17,500 from the previous year’s $497,110. “There are limits to what we can do and still maintain the Gleason Public Library as the essential town department it is,” said Stevens. “We have reached those limits.”

The proposed FY11 budget of $479,610 “threatens our state certification, a situation with extremely serious consequences,” emphasized Stevens. The Massachusetts Municipal Aid (MMA) requirement states that the Library must receive the average of the preceding three years’ budgets with an increase of 2.5% in order not to be decertified. If cuts are made, the reduction cannot be disproportionate to other town departments. By comparison, the FinCom has asked the Police Department for a 0.5% reduction and the DPW for just under a 1.0% reduction.

What happens if the Library is decertified? The Library would lose all state aid, which amounted to $6,954 in 2009. Users would lose reciprocal borrowing privileges with other libraries across the state, including interlibrary loan. Individual Carlisle library cardholders would be ineligible to borrow books and materials, such as downloadable media for electronic books from the Boston Public Library. And finally, decertification would make the Town ineligible to apply for grants, which vary from $2K to $10K per grant.

Stevens believes the Library needs a budget of at least $502,705 to not fall below the MMA requirement, otherwise the Town needs to show that their budget was not cut disproportionately. “The Town will fail in an effort to waive decertification because this budget does treat the Library disproportionately,” said Stevens. “If the Finance Committee stands by the present budget, our Library will be decertified, along with those in a minority of towns in the state facing far more drastic budget situations than ours.”

In case the FinCom remains unconvinced, Stevens concluded her memo saying, “This cut represents not just a budget squeeze and temporary reduction, but swift, catastrophic and irrecoverable backward momentum for the institution that is this community’s information and communication center.”

The committee responded with surprise to Stevens’ memo, when they alluded to it during their meeting on January 25. FinCom member Dave Model said that library representatives had not reacted strongly when the cuts were discussed at an earlier meeting in December. The next library budget hearing before the FinCom is scheduled for February 1 at 8:15 p.m. ∆

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