Voters will weigh in on the Shelter Island Public Library’s 2011 budget levy on October 16. At $460,500, the levy is up $16,750 or 3.5 percent over the current levy. If approved, property owners will pay 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, to fund 79 percent of the library’s total $583,100 budget for the year.
Library Director Denise DiPaolo and Jo-Ann Robotti, president of the library’s Board of Directors, invited public comment about the budget at a hearing on Monday evening, October 4. Questions and answers are summarized below.
Why are 2011 fundraising revenues expected to be less than half that in 2010?
Ms. Robotti answered, “This is a transition year” in which fundraising is increasingly being taken over by the non-profit Friends of the Library. Annual fundraising in 2010 was set at $43,500 but is estimated at $20,000 for 2011. Most of the 2010 proceeds were donated through three events: the annual Book and Author Luncheon (which featured Nelson DeMille this past June), the library book sale and the annual appeal. In 2011, the Friends of the Library will be taking over the book sale and the luncheon, directing much of the proceeds from those events back to the library through grants.
Has the board given any consideration to asking the taxpayers to fund all of the operating budget?
Grants, donations and fundraising revenues for 2011 are estimated at a total of $115,000 or 20 percent of the budget. The Shelter Island library is the only public library in Suffolk County that does not ask tax payers to fully fund operating costs, Ms. Robotti said. Other libraries can dedicate donations and fundraising efforts to endowments and capital improvement projects.
Asking taxpayers to pay for all operating expenditures, estimated at $555,035, would increase taxes “higher than ever,” Ms. Robotti said, too much to ask in one fell swoop.
Sue Hine, president of the Friends of the Library, commented from the audience, “To me, it’s a no-brainer. It is a public library. It’s open to all,” and should be fully funded through the tax base.
What budget lines will change the most in 2011?
The programming and event line is increasing from $7,700 to $11,700, Ms. DiPaolo said, to bring more programs to library patrons, including a high school Battle of the Books team, a competitive reading program. One source of program funding, the Betsy Jacobson Memorial Fund, which has supported the Friday Night Dialogues, will run out mid year.
Personnel costs are up due to increased medical insurance and payroll taxes and an expansion in operating times — the library is now open until 7 p.m. on Friday evenings, two hours more per week. An IT expert, previously a contract consultant, will be a part-time position in 2011. Only two library employees currently receive medical benefits. Salaries, benefits and payroll taxes will total $388,932 in 2011, compared to $356,690 in 2010.
Utilities are expected to go down when the library’s boiler is replaced with a new, more efficient one funded through a $13,500 special legislative grant.
Miscellaneous administrative expenses will decrease dramatically from $12,350 to $3,200, as the Friends of the Library take on the costs of advertising and postage for fundraising efforts.
What happens if the voters reject the budget?
The library trustees will have two options, Ms. Robotti explained. The board can either default to the last budget approved by the voters (i.e., a repeat of the current 2010 budget), or opt for a second budget vote.
The fiscal performance of this library is good to excellent compared to other libraries on the East End, trustee Phyllis Gates commented. Ms. Robotti credited that to library volunteers. “When we need new shelving, we call Paul Mobius or Wade Badger. They make it in their workshops” at no cost to the taxpayer.
“I’m so impressed that the library will pick up the phone and call you when your book on reserve comes in,” audience member Fred Hills said.
Patrons can also request to receive a text message or email instead, Ms. DiPaolo said. Currently 4,100 patrons have library cards.
Absentee ballots are available from the School District Clerk, in the main office of the Shelter Island School, Ms. Gates noted. The easiest way to cast an absentee ballot is to visit the clerk during her office hours, fill out and submit your ballot application and cast your vote on the spot. “It takes about 5 minutes,” she said.