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Norway Library Trustees grapple with budget challenges
NORWAY — Norway Memorial Library officials and staff often spend most of their time examining circulation numbers, ordering new materials and being the bearer of good news to library patrons.
On Tuesday night, the library's Board of Trustees spent 90 minutes figuring out numbers on their spending budget. Those figures included how to best address a five-percent decrease in the library's budget, including the possible furlough of library staff and cutbacks on magazine subscriptions, among other possibilities.
A reduction of $12,755 of the town's subsidy to the library was included in the trimmed-down town budget approved by voters in June. The town's total subsidy to the library this year is $242,348.
"When do we have to have that check to them?" Trustees Board President Pat Brophy asked Library Director Beth Kane.
Brophy's concern was echoed by several of the board's seven trustees in attendance. They discussed every possible contingency, from seeking out additional funds in its fall fund-raising drive to asking a nearby hot-dog vendor to contribute.
"That seems like a substantial request for a hot-dog vendor," another trustee quipped.
While the hot-dog reference was a tension breaker of sorts, the trustees spent most of the meeting grappling with the prospects of cutting staff hours, asking people to work fewer hours and going without two normally popular holidays, Memorial Day and Labor Day. They would still be off on those days but they would no longer be paid vacation days.
In addition, the possibility of asking donors to cough up a little more this November was mentioned but several trustees seemed to have reservations about tapping into a source for general operating costs.
Kane stated that it's totally different to ask potential donors for funds directly for the library, even though that is what is being done in routine fund-raising drives.
Kane noted that one magazine subscription the Library pays for, Sports Illustrated, costs $89 annually. The same magazine's on-line version costs $30. This comes at a time, Kane said, when there's a noticeable drop in the readership of magazines at the library.
"Aren't you glad you're not a magazine publisher?" Brophy chided.
Sports Illustrated isn't alone. Kane said some of the library's most expensive subscriptions, National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal (newspaper) aren't used as much as in the past but they still cater to specific library users, and would be missed if they were dropped.
The trustees bandied about the possibility of increasing overdrawn and late fees. Kane said the cost of mailing a late notices costs $.46, while the fine the library is seeking to recover is much less than that, as little as five cents. Augmented by library users with late materials or overdrawn fees is users who know about the library's monthly "fine-free day."
The meeting took on a more somber tone when Kane explained how staffers' work hours, including her own, could be diminished by amounts of two to five hours, as well as the library possibly being closed on Saturdays.
Kane said if the budget issue isn't resolved, she will go from a 40-hour week to a 38-hour week, while others will go from 35 hours to 33 hours.
Over the course of an entire budget year, that will result in a loss of about two weeks of pay, something that led Trustee Tom Curtis to ask if that would lead to disgruntled employees.
"Disgruntled is a strong word," said Kane, who praised her staff for its dedication, professionalism and loyalty.
The idea of Saturday closings didn't sit well either.
"There are many people in our community who can only come into the library on a Saturday," Kane said.