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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 25, 2010
Includes funds to design expansion
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND After a two-year hiatus brought on by tough times, library trustees are taking a tentative step towards planning for a future expansion.
The proposed Guilderland Public Library budget for next year is $3.45 million, up about 10 percent from $3.13 million this year, as the trustees, in a split vote, added $125,000 to pay for a design for an addition.
If the budget is approved no library budget has been defeated in Guilderland’s 22-year history Guilderland residents would pay an estimated nine cents more per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a total of $1.06. That means, if the budget passes on May 18, a resident with a $200,000 home would pay $212 in library taxes next year.
In 2008, the trustees had unanimously supported plans to renovate the library and nearly double its size, at an estimated cost of $11 million to $12 million.
The library, built on Western Avenue in 1995, is heavily used and architect Frank Craine of Peter Gisolfi Associates who worked with the trustees in planning the addition said it should function for another 20 years or more.
The recession halted the board’s plans to expand.
Eight trustees were present at the library board’s March 11 meeting. Five of them Douglas Morrissey, Diane Rosenbaum, Carroll Valachovic, Vishnu Chaturvedi, and Robert Ganz voted to proceed with a schematic design, and two Michael Fox and Barbara Fraterrigo voted against the measure. The president, Brian Hartson, does not vote, but he favored proceeding. Trustees Michael Borges and Robert Feller were absent.
“Everybody agrees the time is not optimal,” said Barbara Nichols Randall, the library’s director. “They’re trying to be leaders of the community and be future-looking.”
Referring to a proposed $100 million residential and commercial development, she went on, “Glass Works Village is going to be next door to us. There will be people who can walk to the library from their residences, including retired people who have a lot more time.”
Fraterrigo, who has been a trustee ever since the public first elected a library board in 1988, said this week, “We do need more space. Deep down in my heart, I know that. But so many people in this town, which is called affluent, are suffering greatly. My whole love is learning and libraries, but I couldn’t see ignoring the taxpayer and pushing ahead….
“My fellow board members were saying, ‘You have to be a visionary. You have to be a leader.’…Our staff has done a phenomenal job with the resources we have. I want to urge our expansion when the time is right.”
Nichols Randall stressed that paying for a schematic design does not mean the library will expand. “Without a schematic design…you can’t think about raising money,” she said. “We couldn’t go up for a bond vote without that information, or we couldn’t start a fund-raising campaign. With additional information, we can talk to the community more about what the expansion will be, if there is one.”
In their discussion, Nichols Randall related, the trustees said the public’s approval of the budget would be a sign to go forward. She also noted that bond approval for local school projects have allowed more “bang for the buck” as contractors have come in with lower bids during the recession, which might allow the library to complete the project for several million dollars less.
More use, high satisfaction
After a public hearing at the library on May 13, voters will decide on next year’s budget on May 18, at the same time they vote on the Guilderland School District budget. Elections will also be held for school and library board members.
The library district follows the school district boundaries but is completely separate, governed by its own 11-member board of trustees. The board currently has just 10 members, so four vacancies need to be filled in the May 18 elections. Candidates’ petitions are due by April 19. Two posts are for the regular five-year term and the other two, because of appointments to fill vacancies, are for three years and four years.
Nichols Randall said she was heartened by information Fact Finders learned from a community survey last year. In the Fact Finders’ original 2003 survey, as the library was developing its strategic plan, 65 percent of those in the library district said they had been to the Guilderland Public Library in the past year. In 2009, that number jumped to 80 percent. Also, when asked to rate the library as poor, fair, good, or excellent, 27 percent rated it as good, and 65 percent gave it the top rating.
“We feel good about that,” said Nichols Randall. “We try to listen to what people want in their community library.”
Last year, she stressed how library use had increased during the recession as unemployed workers used library computers and services in their search for jobs, and as residents sought a wide variety of inexpensive entertainment at the library.
Use has continued to grow, said Nichols Randall, as collection use went from 566,959 to 592,537. Visits also increased, from 327,658 to 330,448.
One of the most popular series of events this past year, she said, was the Disney Family Friday program during which the library screened free films and served free popcorn and donated pizza.
The lion’s share of the library’s budget is for salaries and benefits, which are slated at $2.5 million next year, up from $2.2 million this year. The increase is because of contractual obligations, said Nichols Randall. The library employs 55 people both full-time and part-time workers.
The second largest expense is for materials; that will hold steady at $360,500. The library uses the Consumer Price Index as an indicator, which did not rise, she said. “We’ll be able to buy what we need,” said Nichols Randall.
The costs for human resources at, $15,500, and for library operations, at $94,000, are also steady while equipment costs went up about $4,000 to $46,567. This will pay for a new self-checkout system, which will also save space. “We’re always looking to save space,” said Nichols Randall.
Costs are being cut for the physical plant, from $205,000 to $178,000. “We hope we didn’t cut back too far,” said Nichols Randall, noting the board was eager to make cuts where it could, especially because of the added $125,00 for the schematic design for expansion.
“We’re hoping our solar panels will make a difference,” she said. The library received a $121,500 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the photovoltaic panels now on its roof, turning solar energy into electricity.
The library also cut its cost for properties by about $10,000 to $20,100. This is because, in July, the library will have paid off its mortgage on the neighboring property it bought five years ago with an eye to expansion.
On the revenue side, Nichols Randall said, “It is sort of bleak, but we don’t get a lot of revenue outside of the tax levy. We wish we did.”
State aid is expected to decrease by $500 to $8,000. Unrestricted gifts and grants are expected to hold steady at $10,000.
Fines and fees are expected to decrease about $15,000 to $75,000. Nichols Randall attributes this to e-mail reminders that are now sent out two days before a book is due. Patrons are fined 20 cents for each day materials are late. “I’m sure the economy is having an impact, too,” she said.
The money expected from non-resident fees is also down from $37,500 this year to $15,500. This year, the library began charging patrons who are not taxed an annual fee of $25 per person; it estimated half of the non-resident patrons would pay the fee. “Fewer people did; this number is based on almost a year of experience,” Nichols Randall said of the projected $15,500.
Estimates of investment income are up $10,000 to $30,000. “Because we get our money in one big chunk,” said Nichols Randall, “we’re able to keep it longer.” The library primarily uses money market accounts, she said. “We just really keep a close eye on it.”
For its $3,449,997 budget, the library expects to collect $3.16 million in local property taxes compared to $2.86 million last year.
Most of the library district, following school district boundaries, is in the town of Guilderland. Small parts are in three other towns. The current tax rate in Guilderland is 97 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. In Bethlehem, it’s 84 cents; in New Scotland, 82 cents; and in Knox, $1.46 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Nichols Randall calculated the estimated increase of nine cents for Guilderland residents based on the assumption that property values will remain exactly the same.
“We’re here for all of the taxpayers,” said Nichols Randall. “If they say, ‘There’s nothing for me,’ I urge them to come and see. We don’t serve just one age or one socio-economic stratum. We have something everyone can benefit from. And, if you don’t have time to visit the library, you can go to our website [www.guilpl.org]. We have lots you can do with your library card on our website.”