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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 17, 2011

Budget proposal for 2011-12
Spending down at Guilderland library, but taxes would still increase slightly

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The public library is proposing a $3.38 million spending plan for next year, a 2-percent decrease over this year’s budget.

“We try to keep it as close to the bone as we can,” said Barbara Nichols Randall, the library’s director.

Although spending is down, so are revenues, meaning the amount to be raised by local property taxes would go up by about 2 percent. Guilderland residents currently pay $1.07 per $1,000 of assessed value for the library budget.

All 11 trustees back the proposal, said Nichols Randall; the board approved the plan on March 10. It goes to public vote on May 17. At the same time, voters will elect two library trustees for five-year terms. The terms for Robert Ganz and Diane Rosenbaum are expiring.

Library use has increased in recent years. In 2008, the trustees supported a plan to renovate and nearly double the size of the library for $11 million or $12 million. The economic downturn delayed the project while also increasing use of the library.

The Guilderland Public Library follows school district boundaries, and includes most of the town of Guilderland, which has a population of about 34,000. In 2009-10, the library had 328,475 visits from patrons. Circulation also increased this past year, with 596,630 paper materials being checked out; this does not include electronic items.


Spending cuts were made in most categories, according to the $3,379,995 plan for 2011-12.

The largest expenditure is for salaries and benefits, which is down about 2 percent from this year to $2,426,875 for next year. The library employs 55 people, about half of them full-time, said Nichols Randall.

Retirement incentives were offered to school district public libraries for the first time, and Guilderland took advantage of that, Nichols Randall said. Also, the library reorganized, merging its technical services and circulation departments so that there is just one person overseeing both. And, the library saved by hiring a supervisory clerk rather than a principal clerk.

The second-largest spending category is for materials. Spending on library materials would go up 1.95 percent to $367,530. Nichols Randall said this is a cost-of-living adjustment. Since shelf space is limited, the library is trying to expand its electronic material, like e-books.

“We’re full,” Nichols Randall said last month. “To add things to our collections, we have to get rid of other things.”

Libraries across the country are currently embroiled in a battle with HarperCollins Publishers. The publishing giant has said that libraries can lend out one of its e-books only 26 times before having to pay for the book again. “Locally, our system has said we won’t buy more HarperCollins e-books until this issue is resolved,” said Nichols Randall this week. “They’re trying to upend things,” she said, noting that 7 to 9 percent of publishers’ hard-copy sales are to libraries.

 The third largest category for spending — the physical plant — is also down, about 5 percent to $169,500. Nichols Randall says this savings was realized through changes in procedure, like closing the library’s front doors during winter months, and from its newly installed solar panels, purchased through a grant.

The costs for programming and planning are also down — from $144,775 to $69,775. While there are more programs, and program attendance was up 23 percent last year, close to $100,000 in this year’s budget was set aside for architects and engineers to develop a schematic design for the library expansion. The cost for programs and planning in 2009-10 was $59,755.

The cost for human resources is down $200 to $15,300 because the employees’ assistance program ended up costing that much less, said Nichols Randall.

The cost for equipment is also down from $46,567 to $37,000 for 2011-12. “We don’t have room for much more shelving at this point,” said Nichols Randall. “And we got a bargain through eBay,” she said of the online sales site. A law library in Delhi was selling shelves that were interchangeable with the Guilderland library’s shelves and close in color. “For under $300, we got a few thousand dollars worth of equipment,” said Nichols Randall.

Professional services, which pays lawyers’ and auditors’ fees, is one of four categories that is up, from $73,385 this year to $78,020. Nichols Randall said the increase is due to the state comptroller’s requiring another audit.

The cost for technology and communications would more than double, from $42,885 to $90,995 because of the need for a new phone system. “We maxed out what the system would hold,” said Nichols Randall “One of the main circuit boards wore out.” The system dates back to 1997, she said.

Expenses for properties would increase from $20,100 this year to $32,000 for capital improvements. “We try to keep enough money to fix something if it breaks,” said Nichols Randall. “This past year, the chiller for the air-conditioning gave up the ghost.” It cost $47,000 to replace it; the library had enough money set aside to do so, she said. In 90-degree weather, without air circulating, the library would have had to close, she said.


The lion’s share of the library’s revenues has traditionally come from local property taxes since state aid is scant.

“We still don’t have this year’s state aid. Next year’s is going to be 10-percentt less,” said Nichols Randall. “The idea of ‘shared sacrifice’ sounds a little sarcastic to libraries,” she said referring to words Governor Andrew Cuomo used in presenting his budget.

The Guilderland library was to receive $8,000 in state aid this year and is expecting $7,800 next year.

Unexpended funds for the current year totaled $21,484. For next year, the proposal is zero.

Non-resident fees are to remain steady at $15,500. Last year, the library began charging patrons who live outside the school district lines and are therefore not taxed, an annual fee of $25 per person. The library initially estimated that half of the non-resident patrons would pay the fee for a total of $37,500, but many fewer did.

Gifts and grants are estimated to hold steady at $10,000.

The income from investments is down from $30,000 to $20,000. “There are only certain types of bonds we can have through banks,” said Nichols Randall. “We’re getting a little over 1 percent on our investment, which is not much at all.”

Fines and lost materials fees are expected to hold steady at $75,000, and so are miscellaneous fees, such as for copiers, at $27,000.

The reserve funds, at $100,000 this year, are proposed at zero next year. The library would be keeping a month’s operating expenses in reserve, which would run between $200,000 and $250,000, said Nichols Randall. “The building’s older,” she said of the 1995 structure. “We already had the chiller die on us. It could be the furnace next.”

The revenues from those eight categories for 2011-12 total $154,800 compared to $286,984 this year. That leaves the remainder — $3,225,195 — to be paid through local property taxes.

Most of the library district, following school district lines, is in the town of Guilderland. Small parts are in three other towns. The current tax rate in Guilderland is $1.09 per $1,000 of assessed value. In Bethlehem, it’s 91 cents; in New Scotland, it’s 90 cents; and in Knox, it’s $1.69.

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