PEPPERELL -- The Lawrence Library's state certification may be on the chopping block if a Proposition 2 1/2 override does not pass to avoid harsh budget cuts.
After three years in which the library has been underfunded according to state standards, Library Director Deb Spratt said that if further cuts are made, the state may stop granting a waiver that has kept the library certified during that time.
"I'm fairly confident, and I use that term cautiously, that if we were to eke along with an override and a level-funded budget, they would look at that as a show of good faith that the town is trying and a waiver would be likely. If we cut 5 percent, I think all bets are off," Spratt said.
Celeste Bruno, spokesman for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, said that while she can't speculate on whether the board would continue to grant Lawrence Library waivers or not, the board tends to revoke certification from towns that cut their library's funding at higher rates than other town services.
If an override vote were to fail, the library would not be disproportionately targeted compared to other town services.
"Nothing is automatic. The commissioners look at all the information they are given and make a decision, but they certainly do like to see libraries that are well-funded and are meeting the requirements," Bruno said.
"But the program is such that there are accommodations; there are waivers, and those exist for a reason.
The minimum funding requirement for each town, referred to as the Municipal Appropriation Requirement, is calculated through a formula based in part on a town's population.
The MAR for Pepperell for fiscal year 2014 was $459,850. Last year, Pepperell was $16,683 below the MAR. If an override fails this year, they would be $47,276 short of the MAR, according to Spratt.
If a library does lose accreditation from the MBLC, it can no longer be a part of the inter-library loan program, residents can no longer use their library cards at libraries in other Massachusetts towns and state aid may be revoked.
"Essentially you become an island of yourself," Spratt said.
Beyond the possible loss of accreditation, the cuts would mean a reduction of hours, a smaller materials budget and at least one furlough week.
"We've been working with bare bones for many years now," Spratt said. "Anytime there's a drop in funding, it affects our overall ability to offer services, programs and materials."
Spratt said the library would no longer be able to afford any magazines or more than one or two newspapers.
Hours would be reduced as well, but at 43 hours per week now, the library can only cut down to 40 before it falls below another state standard.
The cuts could have far-reaching effects for not just the library, but the town as a whole, Spratt said.
"I think it'll be a town people aren't going to be looking at coming to. It will depress home values, there will be people moving out, people who want to move out but can't because the values have gone down," Spratt said.
"I don't know of anyone who would move to a town that wasn't funding their library and town services," she added.
Fred Kobs, of the Lawrence Library Board of Trustees, said that rather than pointing fingers, voters need to determine whether they believe the library is worth funding.
"It's a town problem, and the town has to either decide to work together to solve it or not," Kobs said.
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