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Library seeks OK on $875,056 budget: Would raise taxes by $6.96 for most homeowners

Voters will be deciding on a $875,056 library budget proposal for 2022 when they vote Oct. 30.

That’s $31,830 more than the current budget. Taxes will account for $719,806 to cover the spending as compared with $687,166 from other sources.

Tax money accounts for about 82% of spending, with contributions and fundraising activities for the rest. The efforts of the Trustees and Friends of the Library enable the library to maintain its level of services. 

Increases in technology costs accounted for most of the increase, new library treasurer Donald Regan said during a meeting at the library Oct. 14. There are also increases in the cost of health insurance for the staff.

In 2020, when the staff had to realign thinking about how to function during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no raises. The new budget would see an increase in salaries, employee taxes and benefits from $586,331 to $599,232.

What that means to those taxpayers whose property is assessed at $824,000 is an anticipated hike of $6.96 for the year, according to information provided by tax assessors.

The approximate cost of library services currently runs about $246 per person, Mr. Regan said. That’s significantly less than the cost to taxpayers in other East End towns to operate their libraries, he said.

More than a year and a half after the library responded to limits the pandemic imposed, the staff still talks daily about how to function, according to Library Director Terry Lucas.

What’s prime in the discussions is how to ensure activities are safe for the community and the staff, she said. Right now, that means masks are to be worn by those entering areas where children are and many programs remain virtual.

There are ongoing cleaning needs and those visiting the library will find products in bathrooms they can take home for their use, such as mouthwash, toothpaste and other materials. With so many families struggling because of job losses or cutbacks in jobs, not all families have been able to keep up with the costs of these basic but significant products, Ms. Lucas said.

New air handlers were installed to provide enhanced safety against the airborne illness.

Those still uncomfortable with entering the building can arrange to pick up books and materials outside and return them in the same way.

Despite added spending to make the building safe, there was no increase in the budget and no vote on a new spending plan. The Library’s Board of Trustees was unanimous in deciding to hold spending steady during the height of the pandemic.

Contributions still reached the library from grateful residents who had the resources to help.

Despite the pandemic, the library offered many services in addition to lending books and materials including:

• Delivering of “care packages” of themed books on request

• Providing “Take and Make” craft kits to children and adults

• Ongoing Passport and Notary services

• Collaborating programs with Sylvester Manor, Mashomack Preserve, the Shelter Island Health and Wellness Alliance and Town recreation services

• Offering English as a second language and computer programs for the Latino community

• Holding vaccination clinics for those in need of COVID-19, shingles and flu inoculations in cooperation with Shelter Island School and nurse Mary Kanarvogel.

Looking ahead, space for the many activities the library offers is increasingly tight and in the future, there will have to be an expansion program to accommodate all the needs, Ms. Lucas said. “This is an effort of love on her part,” Mr. Regan said about Ms. Lucas. It’s the reason why he agreed to step up and serve the library as its treasurer after the retirement of former treasurer Bill Martens.

“It makes me proud to be a part of it,” Mr. Regan said.

The same can be said for the rest of the staff and all of those who have served as Trustees and Friends of the Library,  Ms. Lucas added.

Everyone cooperated to keep the library flourishing and finding innovative ways to serve the community, she said.

Children’s programs are thriving under the direction of Sara Garcia and Jocelyn Clapp Ozolins oversees adult programs, Ms. Lucas said.

The vote on the budget is set for Saturday, Oct. 30, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Library.