Berne library presents budget

BERNE — Although it has seen some increases this year, Berne’s library is still working toward a goal of receiving more funding, in the hopes of adding more hours to serve the public.

The Berne Public Library is a municipal public library, and is controlled by the town of Berne. It has no taxing power and receives much of its funding from Berne, but also some from the town of Knox.

The library received $37,972 from Berne for 2017, said the library’s manager, Judy Petrosillo. This covers salaries and operating expenses. An additional $9,025 is budgeted for utilities, sewer, and other building expenses.

The library received $5,700 from Knox, an increase from last year. Petrosillo said that the goal for 2018 is to receive from Knox the same amount that was allotted to the Altamont Free Library in 2017, which was $7,500 for the second year in a row.

“They gave up their increase to Berne, which we appreciate,” said Petrosillo, referring to the fact that Knox kept the amount given to Altamont’s library the same rather than increase it, and thereby increasing the amount to Berne’s library.

The library had increased its hours of operation from 28 a week in 2016 to 32 in 2017. The goal, said Petrosillo, is to increase hours each year until the library is open for 40 hours each week, noting that she has heard of patrons unable to go to the library because it is not open when they need it to be.

Petrosillo presented the library’s expenditures and funding for 2016 at both the Berne and Knox town board meetings in March. According to her data, Berne funds 70 percent of the library budget, or $37,530. Knox funds just 8 percent, or $4,500. The town of Knox does not have its own library, and so partly funds both Berne and Altamont libraries, which its residents use. Last year, representatives of the two libraries went before the Knox Town Board to request more funding, saying the town is not paying its fair share considering how many Knox residents use both libraries.

The total funding of the Berne library for 2016, including money from a state construction grant, was $68,629.

Berne’s library is also funded by state and county grants, such as a flood-relief grant due to flooding that occurred last spring, and a grant for construction on the new library building; library charges such as late fees; and donations and fundraisers.

Using the town’s population of 2,794 and totaling the costs, Petrosillo estimated that a Berne resident paid approximately $17.21 in taxes for the library’s funds in 2016.

“That is the cost of one DVD, or not even the cost of a new book,” she said at the meeting in Berne.

She compared this to the cost of Guilderland’s public library on its taxpayers, which, despite having a higher population, is over $100 per person, she said. Guilderland’s library, unlike Altamont’s and Berne’s, has the power to tax residents.

Using this same formula, with a population of 2,692 according to the 2010 census and funding totaling $4,500, Knox residents are each paying $1.67 in taxes for the Berne library.

Petrosillo also went over what those funds went into: salaries and Social Security for employees, utility bills, supplies and equipment, a special building project, and books and other loaned items.

The library saw a slight decrease in active patrons last year, 1,220 compared to 1,233 in 2015. Of these, 820 were from Berne, or 67 percent, and 343 were from Knox, or 28 percent. The remaining 5 percent were from other areas.

In a statement to The Enterprise, Petrosillo noted that 28 percent of the library’s operating budget in 2016 — $50,920, which doesn’t include building expense — would be $14,258.

It was important to understand, she said, that use of the library by patrons increases library costs.

Friends of the Library

Part of the funding for the library comes from the Friends of the Town of Berne Library. The group was founded in 2003, and works closely with the library to raise funds for the library.

“We really can provide the extras for the library,” said Donna Gwin, president of the Friends of the Library. “So it’s not just a bare-bones book place. It really becomes more a community center because we’re able to support the programs.”

In 2016, the Friends of the Library raised $10,360 for the Berne library, said Gwin. Of that, Petrosillo told The Enterprise, the library used $6,116 in 2016. From 2013 to 2016, she said, the group contributed $63,337 to help purchase the current building, and renovate and furnish it.

The library itself, as a municipal library, can only have trustees from the town of Berne. But its Friends of the Library can have members from both Berne and Knox. Gwin herself is from Knox.

The group holds fundraisers through events like its book sale, which was held this past weekend at the Berne senior center.

“We had an enormous amount of donations,” said Gwin, of the amount of books given for the sale. Likewise, she said, there was a large amount sold. Jewelry was sold, too. The sale raised $2,200 in total.

The group also holds events like its photography contest, which Gwin describes as not as big of a fundraiser but “a nice community experience.”

Other fundraising events include “Bowl for Books,” in which pottery bowls are painted and glazed and later serve soup at a fundraiser, a membership drive, and selling snacks at a music event hosted in the spring by the library as well as at Berne’s Summerfest.

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