Library proposes $4M budget for next year, levy under state-set limit

— Enterprise file photo from the Guilderland Public Library

A wifi hotspot is one of many objects available to borrow from the Guilderland Public Library’s Library of Things.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Public Library will ask voters to decide on a $4 million budget for next year, with all but about $100,000 to be raised through property taxes.

The levy — an increase of 2.25 percent over this year — is under the state-set cap, requiring a simple majority of residents to vote yes on May 21.

Typical of libraries, the lion’s share of Guilderland’s budget is for salaries and benefits, which rose from $2.7 to $2.8 million. The increase included a 2-percent contractual raise as well as an increase of 13 percent in health-insurance costs, said the library’s director, Timothy Wiles. Sixty people work at the library, he said, 24 full-time and the rest part-time.

Wiles told The Enterprise about some of the numbers that have changed year-to-year from the current to the proposed budget of $3,987,713.

Library materials are up $20,000 from the current year’s $375,000, itself up $10,000 from the $365,000 where it had been for the previous three years, Wiles said. These increases were made in response to a strong preference by library users for expanding the traditional collection of books, movies, recorded music, and books on CD, said Wiles.

The amount to be spent on library materials covers all types of books and any other items the library lends, such as objects in the Library of Things, which includes folding tables, virtual-reality glasses, kitchen gadgets, ukuleles, and many other items, Wiles said.

The library’s core brand, Wiles said, is always going to be books, including print books and e-books. E-books are digital books that, when borrowed, are downloaded onto a library user’s computer or other device.

A year ago, Wiles told The Enterprise, he was astonished to learn that in 2017 there had been a 28 percent increase in borrowing of e-books at Guilderland. But the following year, during 2018, the increase was much greater, at 58 percent.

The average wait time for a hold on a print book systemwide — throughout the Upper Hudson Library System, to which Guilderland belongs — is a week, Wiles said. The average wait time for an e-book is nearly six times as long.

The library system is committed to e-books, Wiles said, but doesn’t want to buy them at the expense of traditional books.

Library users like e-books, but publishers “aren’t so enthused,” Wiles said, about allowing libraries to purchase e-books to lend them out to customers. So not only are e-books expensive, but they also “go away” after a certain number of people borrow them. They can only be borrowed a certain number of times — 15 or 20, Wiles said — before they simply disappear.

Wiles said of the e-book, “On the one hand, it’s a technological marvel. On the other hand, it’s a challenge for an institution with limited funds.”

Building and equipment maintenance saw an increase from about $73,000 to $89,000. That includes three rooftop units for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning that the library has been putting off replacing; in December 2018 two of the units failed and needed expensive repairs, at $4,000 or $5,000 each. Those repairs were done, said Wiles, but a decision was then made to replace them.

Another cost in this category is the leasing of a radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tracking system that offers increased security and also allows the library to organize and locate materials more easily. The library will try leasing the system for $1,000 a month instead of buying it for about $240,000, Wiles said.

The cost for professional services is down greatly, from $307,751 budgeted this year to $83,000 next year. Although $300,000 was budgeted this year, the library actually spent about $100,000, Wiles estimated, having architect Paul Mays work on the proposed capital project.

Next year, even if the bond passes, less money will be needed because “the heaviest lifting in designing such a project has already been done,” Wiles said.

The budget line for capital improvements has risen from $100,000 to $234,0403. The $243,000 is being moved over to cover “anything that might happen with the building,” Wiles said, “but the goal is to use as little as possible, and transfer it into capital reserve.”

In the income column, the sales of used books continues to generate more revenue for the library, Wiles said. In 2017-18, this brought in $12,000. That figure rose to $18,000 last year and is projected to be $20,000 next year.

“We think it will actually be over $20,000,” Wiles said, “but you give yourself leeway, so you’re not under.”

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