Library proposes 3M budget with 5-cent tax hike

GUILDERLAND — As the library trustees plan to expand and renovate their building, they have proposed a $3 million budget for next year where the largest increase is for planning that expansion.

The spending plan is up from $2.8 million this year and would bring an estimated tax increase of 6.67 percent, or five cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. tonight at the library; it goes to public vote on May 20.

”We’re all very aware of the pressures people are under,” said the library’s director, Barbara Nichols Randall. The trustees put together a budget with few increases beyond inflation, she said.

“Because of our space limit,” she said, “we see next year as keep doing what we’re doing and not a year of innovation.”

Building constraints limit services, she said.

Typical of library use in tough financial times, Guilderland’s circulation and attendance has been increasing. In the past year, Nichols Randall said, patrons have numbered about 1,100 a month and usage at the Guilderland library has increased an average of 4 percent each month.

Last month, for the first time, she said, the library had over 60,000 items in circulation. For 2006-07, total library loans — including everything from audio books to fishing poles — numbered over 627,000, she said.

The biggest jump in the budget is an increase in programming and planning from $38,375 this year to $70,225.  The bulk of that, just over $37,000, will go for a “schematic design” for the library expansion project, said Nichols Randall. A sub-surface survey will cost $7,500.

While library construction grants are available from the state, she said, architecture and engineering costs are not reimbursable. The library currently has a grant, she said, to expand the auxiliary parking lot.

The lion’s share of the budget, as always, goes for salaries and benefits, which will be up from $1.9 million this year to $2.1 million next year. The library currently has 57 full- and part-time workers, said Nichols Randall.

The human-resources budget will increase $3,000 to $18,750, mostly because of more staff training as senior members retire. 

Library materials for next year are up about $10,000 to $345,483, “keeping at the inflation level,” said Nichols Randall.

“We’re doing a few new things,” she said. This includes purchasing the popular Playaway audios, which she described as “stand-alone books you can listen to.”

This year, too, the library started buying more bestsellers, not letting some of them be reserved to create a “serendipity effect” for those who want to read them.

The library also plans to have downloadable audio books by the fall so people with iPods can download them, said Nichols Randall.

The equipment budget is down about $3,000 to $50,885. While the library will continue to buy replacement furniture, she said, “We have no place to put any more shelving.”

The increasing circulation, she noted, has eased the crunch for shelf space. “If everyone brought everything back the same day,” said Nichols Randall, “we’d be in trouble.”

The technology and communications budget will increase about $4,000 to $60,575. ”We can’t have everything everybody wants,” said Nichols Randall. “As we replace the computers used by the public, they get moved to the staff.”

Soon, the library will be getting FIOF, a fiber-optic connection that is more than twice as fast as its current connection. “We hope that will increase the number of people that use our computers,” she said. Library patrons are allowed an hour of computer use at a time; last month, the average time was 38 minutes. By upgrading the connection, the hope is user time will be shortened so more people will have a chance, said Nichols Randall.

Property and physical plant costs will remain the same.

On the revenue side, investment income will be down from $45,000 this year to $30,000 next year. “The interest rates have continued to drop,” said Nichols Randall. “We’re looking at a worst-case scenario.”

State aid is listed as the same at $10,377. “Actually,” said Nichols Randall, “it’s probably not staying the same; Governor Paterson has said there will be a 2-percent cut...We don’t yet have the final word from the state.”

The lion’s share of the funds — $2,784,744 — will come from the local tax levy.

The area served by the library follows school district boundaries and, while most of it lies within the town of Guilderland, pieces of it fall in three other towns. The tax rate varies from town to town based on assessment practices and a state-set equalization rate.

The library estimates these tax rates if the $3,014,786 budget passes:

— Guilderland residents would pay 95 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, up from 89 cents this year;

— Bethlehem residents would pay 83 cents, up from 78 cents;

— New Scotland residents would pay 80 cents, up from 75 cents; and

— Knox residents would pay $1.39, up from $1.30.

“We try to do the best we can and keep the levy low while keeping the service as good as it is,” said Nichols Randall. “We think we’ve got the best library in the Capital District and we want to keep it that way.”

More Guilderland News

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  • On Friday, the library issued a statement saying investigation has shown the problems were “not driven by discrimination based on any protected class” but rather from disagreement “about roles and responsibilities for library staff versus cafe staff,” and that internal procedures would be overhauled “to ensure that future vendor relationships are cordial and collaborative.”

  • “In the end,” Superintendent Marie Wiles said of flag football, “we felt it was fairest to our existing programs and to the overall process that we use to make really tough decisions about what ends up in the budget to put it in the queue for next year.”

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