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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 12, 2012


Taxes up 2 cents
Guilderland library stays under levy cap with $3.4M proposal
By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The board of the Guilderland Public Library has adopted at $3.4 million budget proposition that stays under the state-set levy cap, meaning it would pass on May 15 with a simple majority of votes.

The public library has never seen a budget defeat.

Library use increased with the recession in 2008 and is still going strong, with 197 visitors coming through the doors for every hour the building was open this year, said the library’s director, Barbara Nichols Randall.

This year’s budget was a tough one to draft because several sources of income are expected to decrease. So, although spending is up only $47,095, the levy is up $87,095 to $3,312,290.

The library’s initial estimate is that the tax rate for Guilderland residents will increase by 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, from $1.07 this year to $1.09 next year if the budget is passed.

“We have tried very hard this year — as every year — to look at every line… Unfortunately, a realistic look at income is that revenues are down,” said Nichols Randall.

The board is planning a $12 million expansion that would nearly double the size of the crowded library. A public vote on a bond issue to pay for the expansion will be scheduled later, said Nichols Randall.

The trustees will discuss the matter at its April 17 meeting; they are hoping the bond can be handled through the school district. “It appears it will be possible for the school district to bond for us without effecting their 2 percent [levy limit],” said Nichols Randall. “It saves the taxpayers money that way…Every $10 counts.”

On May 15, voters will also elect three new members to the 11-member library board of trustees. Two of the posts, which will go to the top vote-getters, carry five-year terms. The third, filling out a vacancy left when Steve Wacksman resigned, will carry a two-year term. The posts are unpaid.

Nichols Randall said no petitions have yet been taken out. Petitions are due back on April 16. In recent years, there have been several write-in candidates for the library board since petitions weren’t returned.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, especially for young parents to make a difference in the community,” said Nichols Randall of running for the board. “They use the library a lot,” she said of young parents, yet they aren’t well represented on the board. Two of the board members are young and single; the president, Douglas Morrissey, has two young daughters; and the rest have grown children, she said.

Anyone who may be interested in becoming a trustee can stop by the library to pick up a trustee candidate packet or e-mail Nichols Randall at director@guilpl.org to have the packet e-mailed.

When the board voted on the budget proposition last month, nine members were present. Morrisey can vote only to break a tie. Seven trustees voted in favor of the $3,427,090 spending plan while Bryan Best voted against it.

When The Enterprise this week asked Best why he voted against the budget proposition, he at first didn’t remember that he had. He then confirmed the vote with Nichols Randall and said that he favored the budget proposal that came from the board’s finance committee. “When it came to the full board, we started adding more to come right under the tax cap,” Best said. “We were playing with the tax cap.”

He estimated that the board added about $50,000 to the spending plan that had been developed by the finance committee. “I felt we shouldn’t be changing that based on the tax cap,” he said.

Revenues

On the revenue side, there are no unexpended funds to roll over. State aid, which was scant to begin with, at $8,500 in 2009 and at $7,800 this year, is estimated to be the same next year.

The biggest drop comes in the money the library takes in from fines and fees, which was at $90,000 in 2009, declined to $75,000 the next two years, and is estimated at $50,000 next year. Asked to explain the drop, Nichols Randall said, “There are two possibilities: Either people are watching their pennies, or the notices are making people more prompt.” The library has started e-mailing patrons, to remind them three days before materials are due.

Fees for non-residents were projected at $37,500 in 2009, then at $15,500, and then at $15,000 last year; they are estimated at just $6,000 for next year.

Nichols Randall says this reflects reality. The library follows the lines of the Guilderland school district — which includes most of the town of Guilderland as well as small parts of Bethlehem, New Scotland, and Knox — and raises taxes from residents in that area. People who live outside the school-district boundaries, and who therefore don’t pay library taxes, were asked to pay a fee for using the library. The fees are: $25 for the data base, $50 for a single user, and $75 for a family with four cards.

Another large drop is in interest payments, which were at $20,000 this year and are estimated at $5,000 for next year. “Banks just aren’t paying much,” said Nichols Randall, noting the current Money Market rate is 1.09 percent; that had been 9 to 14 percent before the recession, she said.

Revenue from the copier is estimated to hold steady at $9,000. Nichols Randall noted that library patrons may send material from their home computer to be printed on the library’s copier in either color or black and white. “If your printer at home is down,” she said, “you can go to our library website and send it — it holds a job for 24 hours — and then come in and print it.”

Two revenue sources are up slightly. Grants were figured at $10,000 this year and estimated at $12,000 for next year. This is money from a state grant that will pay to move the library’s sewer line, which is necessary for the expansion project. Half of the over $200,000 project is paid for by grants. It is expected to be completed by late August, said Nichols Randall. “We’ll also re-do the parking lot and add an outdoor book drop that you can drive to,” she said.

Finally, the Book Nook, which raised $12,000 in 2009 and $18,000 in each of the last two years, is slated to bring in $25,000 next year. Run by volunteers, the Book Nook sells donated books.

With just $114,800 from all those revenue sources, down from $273,363 in 2009, the library will raise the remainder through local property taxes.

Expenditures

The biggest cost — at $2.5 million — is for salaries and benefits. The library employs 36 fulltime and 25 part-time workers, said Nichols Randall. The costs for salaries and benefits will increase by $120,835 next year. The current four-year contract with staff expires in June 2013. “I don’t anticipate it being an easy negotiation,” said Nichols Randall of upcoming talks.

The cost for materials will go up $12,320 to $379,850. A November survey showed that most people use the library for books. “The board added $5,000 for sort of a new category — inspirational fiction,” said Nichols Randall. The spiritual literature is very popular, she said.

The materials costs also include purchase of CDs, DVDs, and electronic books.

The American Library Association, Nichols Randall said, continues to work for “equitable access” to electronic books. HarperCollins, for example, was using a model where just 23 people could read an electronic book before the library had to purchase it again.

Calling J. K. Rowling “a smart cookie,” Nichols Randall went on to say that the library can own electronic Harry Potter books for five years, and then may renew.

Costs for programs and planning are down by over $47,000 to $22,500. Programming is popular and is staying virtually the same but the cutback is because last year about $47,000 was budgeted for working with architects on the planned library expansion, said Nichols Randall.

To stay under the tax-levy limit, $2,000 was cut from the human resources budget, bringing it down to $13,300 for next year. This means Nichols Randall won’t attend a conference she usually goes to, and the training budget has been cut.

The cost for professional services will decrease by $320 to $77,700. The decrease, said Nichols Randall, is because the Upper Hudson Library System has come up with a new formula that benefits libraries with good collections from which many patrons borrow, so Guilderland is getting a discount on its membership.

The budget for technology and communication is cut by $34,910 to $56,085 for next year. This is because money was added last year to purchase a new phone system.

Costs for the physical plant are down $1,500 to $168,000 largely because of a change in the water and sewer tax.

The cost for business operations will increase by nearly $15,000 to almost $108,000. This is to cover additional postage and printing costs for a monthly calendar, said Nichols Randall.

Again to meet the levy limit, $15,000 was cut from the equipment budget, bringing those costs down to $22,000. This means, for example, that worn chairs won’t be recovered.

Also, new shelving won’t be purchased. “We’re out of space,” said Nichols Randall.


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