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Director’s Blog: Annual Town Meeting

This year’s Annual Town Meeting is Monday, June 6th, at 6:30 p.m. It will be held at the Academy Hill School cafeteria. The library, though not a Town department, receives nearly 80% of its operating budget from the Town. The rest is made up through fundraising. The last two years we have been funded at $108,600; this year, my budget request to the Selectmen and Finance Committee was $110,100.

If you read the Town Warrant for this year’s budget, Article 38 reads: To see what sum the Town will vote to raise and appropriate for the Wilton Free Public Library. Adopted 2010-11: $108,675 / Proposed Budget 2011-12: $105,000 / Selectmen and Finance Committee Recommend: $105,000.

This appears to be a new way of doing business. In the past, the Proposed Budget 2011-12, would be just that: the amount I proposed to the Selectmen and Finance Committee ($110,100). Below that, the Selectmen and Finance Committee recommendations would appear. It seems that this year the Selectmen chose to amend my proposal to match their $105,000 recommendation. And that is the way it is printed in the Town Warrant, making it necessary to amend the proposal after it is read out at the Town Meeting.

The impact of this is that people who are not familiar with the process will assume that the Library is asking for $5,000 more this year, rather than $1,400. The truth is, I’ve been trying to get our budget up to $114,000 for the last four years, because that is how much we actually need to run the Library. As it is, even at $108,675, it is sometimes hard to make payroll, and I have to “borrow” money from funds set aside for books and programs.

There was a time, before we did our handicapped access project in 2008, when we had enough money in endowments to make up for lean times. The building project and the recession brought our endowment funds to almost zero, which is an uncomfortable place to be. National library standards specify that public libraries should have adequate endowment funds to meet unexpected contingencies.

I encourage everyone who uses the library to attend this meeting and voice their concerns. In fact, everyone who pays taxes to the Town of Wilton should be concerned about library funding. Although adding a few thousand dollars to the library budget would very minimally increase your taxes, consider this: Wilton is losing population, especially in the demographic category of those who own houses and pay property taxes and those who buy newer cars that have higher excise tax. The Town needs to go after more revenue by attracting people in this category. Cutting Library funding is NOT the way to do that. Peter Nielsen, the former Town Manager, used to tell me that new families moved to Wilton for three reasons: the schools, the park, and the library. Think about it, and support the services that support the town.

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