The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gleason Library negotiates larger FY11 budget to retain certification

After the letter from the Gleason Public Library Board of Trustees that was published in the January 29 issue of the Carlisle Mosquito, attendees perhaps expected something approximating the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” at the Finance Committee (FinCom) meeting on February 1. Three library trustees, Priscilla Stevens, Ann Rosas and Larissa Shyjan, showed up along with Library Director Angela Mollet, two Selectmen, the town administrator and a dozen townspeople. Squeezed in with the seven-member FinCom, the diminutive Heald Room was virtually bulging at the seams. Stevens fired the first shot. “We have reached the limit of tolerance,” she began.

Stevens was referring to the prospect that the library could be decertified if the guideline budget cut of almost 4% was imposed on the library. The state requires 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, or if cut, show that the cut was not disproportionate to other town departments. “We really can’t go below where we are,” stated Stevens. The library trustees have proposed a budget of $502,705 to meet their FY11 requirements. FinCom is asking them to live with $479,610.

FinCom Chair David Guarino explained that FinCom was left with the impression after the first meeting with the library that they had some flexibility in the collections and that is where the proposed cut came from.”But it’s pretty clear that you were saying one thing and we heard something different.” Mollet countered that “If you reduce our budget by $17,500, only 16% can be collections – everything else has to be from personnel and hours.” Guarino dug further by asking, “If all of the town departments were cut by 10% and we left the Fire Department flat, does that mean that the library would be considered disproportionately treated?”

“Very possibly,”Stevens responded.

Stevens reminded the gathering that the library is open more hours to the public during the week than any other department in town. To provide this service, “We have only two full time positions.” Stevens went on to explain that the library has lost its competitiveness with other communities and has become a training ground for people who stay with the library, are trained by its staff, and then go on to full-time positions in other communities. “We can’t keep them. If our operations budget is cut, that is going to become completely untenable.” After several rounds of back and forth with no resolution, Selectman Tim Hult interjected. “Let’s just state very clearly that there’s no committee here, any committee, including Selectmen, who wants or will tolerate the library being decertified, so that’s not gonna happen.”

Model cut to the bottom line. “What amount of revenue are you asking us for in FY11 in order to run the library?” Mollet believes “the $502K number” would satisfy their goals. Guarino proposed a floor amount of three years divided by three, times 1.025, which is about $493,000. FinCom members agreed to work with the library to come up with a final budget number somewhere within that range.

This defused any rancor that remained and peace once again returned to the budget hearings. “But I think we were unfairly portrayed in your letter to the Mosquito,” said member David Verrill in one final parting shot. ∆

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