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Library officials plan meeting with town to discuss budget needs

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MASSENA - Massena Public Library officials will be meeting with town officials on Oct. 23 to talk budget after they proposed a $714,752 spending plan for 2014 that called for $671,800 in revenue from taxes and town officials countered with $613,068.

That would mean more use of the library’s fund balance for the second consecutive year. Library officials used $55,000 in 2013, leaving their total fund balance at $183,017, and they are anticipating a 2014 fund balance of $128,000, according to figures prepared by library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer.

“Keep in mind what adds to the fund balance is yearly surpluses. We’re already bare bones,” she told members of the library’s Board of Trustees Tuesday night.

However, she noted, “Historically, our fund balance is considered very good.”

Board President Mark Englert agreed after seeing a comparison of fund balances from 2006 to 2014 that had been prepared by Ms. Dunne-Thayer .

“Realistically we’re at the second highest fund balance we’ve had since ‘06,” he said.

“I would say it’s more of an issue after 2014 than it is heading into 2014,” board Secretary Emily Hutchison said.

Coupled with the request for $671,800 from the town, the library’s 2014 budget calls for $42,952 of non-municipal revenue, including $14,500 from fines and fees, $25 from bank interest, $3,427 from the state, $9,000 from the town of Louisville and $16,000 from other sources.

On the expense side, they’re anticipating $277,623 for salaries, $61,377 for retirement, $17,213 for Social Security, $4,026 for Medicare, $5,064 for workers compensation and $207,349 for hospitalization. They’re asking for $4,000 for equipment, $50,000 for resources, $20,000 for supplies and $63,100 for maintenance.

“I don’t think this is a bad budget,” board member John Bain said.

“I don’t think it’s a bad budget either. I’d really love to see the children’s librarian come back (as a full-time position), but I don’t think this is the year for that,” Mr. Englert said.

However, he added, given a drop in circulation numbers, he would like to see $5,000 more devoted to resources so the library could continue to built its collection. That was a $45,000 line item in the 2013 spending plan.

“I’m worried about circulation numbers dropping,” he said. “That’s my suggestion.”

Ms. Hutchison agreed.

“I’m saying we go to the budget meeting and in addition to the $613,068, ask for $5,000 to bring the resources up. I think the conversation with the board and community is, this is what we need,” she said.

“I agree,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said. “We’ve been very frugal.”

She suggested they also needed to consider reaching out to the community and promoting their services to boost their circulation.

“If they’re unable to come to us, we should go to them. We need to show them the different ways they can come to the library and utilize the library,” she said.

Ms. Dunne-Thayer said, for example, that a magic show that’s part of the summer reading program draws crowds of people who might not typically use their services.

“You see people you’ve never seen before,” she said.

Councilmen Albert N. Nicola and Charles A. Raiti, the town’s liaisons to the Board of Trustees, said library officials were welcome to ask for additional funding for resources.

“All of our agencies are doing what you’re doing now, making legitimate cases,” Mr. Nicola said.

“You can ask for $5,000. The board’s going to say yes or no,” Mr. Raiti added.

But, Mr. Nicola pointed out, the town “had a sizeable tax increase last year. Sizeable. In the 20s,” he pointed out.

Even with a drop in taxes in 2014, he said that wouldn’t make up for the increase they had asked residents to foot in 2013. Mr. Nicola said town residents within the village would see a 5 percent drop, while town residents outside would see a 414 percent drop.

“That’s still well below what the tax increase was last year. It was in the 20s. Taxpayers are still in the hole,” he said. “The town board is in no mood to raise taxes again.”

Mr. Nicola said other departments have also had to make do with less funding. In the Highway Department, he said, “We haven’t been able to do what we want to do. Frank (Diagostino, highway superintendent) is piecing together equipment.”

He also pointed out that the town’s fund balance had taken a beating in an effort to keep the tax increase lower than it could have been.

“Our fund balance last year was perilously low. We dropped $1 million off our fund balance last year and then we cut it more,” he said.

Mr. Englert said he still wanted to address an increase in funding for resources, as other organizations have done in pleading their need for additional monies.

“I think last year was a learning experience for us. As I walked away at the end, I felt like I did the wrong thing. I watched other agencies make a please for money. I walked away ashamed,” he said.

He compared it to a Christmas list, with one person asking for an iPod and another asking for a Lego set.

“We’re asking for a Lego set,” Mr. Englert said.

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