PEPPERELL -- With level funding for fiscal 14, Lawrence Library will have a shortfall of $20,247 to meet the minimum state requirement for library certification. At a one percent increase to the budget, the shortfall is $15,851. Library Director Debra Spratt broke down the numbers at the Library Board of Trustees monthly meeting last week.
The Finance Committee has asked each town department to submit budgets for fiscal 14 at zero and one percent increases over last year. As is required by Massachusetts General Law, the library will also be submitting a budget of a five percent increase. The state refers to this as the municipal appropriation requirement (MAR).
"Part of the process is we have to present what would be a fully acceptable budget by state standards in order to apply for accreditation," said Spratt. "Five percent is what we need in order to maintain accreditation."
At five percent, the budget would be $459,850. At one percent, it would be $443,999. A level budget would put the library at $439,603.
"Zero percent is just sad," said Spratt. "It means we'd be at a net loss."
The net loss would be due to contractual obligations, said Spratt. Union contracts will receive an increase of an average of one and a half percent over the course of the fiscal year. Those eligible for steps will also receive them on their anniversary dates.
"Would we take a loss at one (percent)?" asked trustee Fred Kobs.
"We don't take much of an increase," said Spratt.
If the town does not vote to appropriate a five percent increase for the library, thus meeting the municipal appropriation requirement, the library will be eligible to apply for MAR waivers through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
Three years ago, the state authorized that any library in Massachusetts could be granted as many MAR waivers per year as necessary. The waivers are issued "upon demonstration of fiscal hardship," according to the MBLC.
However, prior to that, they issued no more than eight to 10 waivers, said Spratt.
"If they go back to that number, there's no guarantee that we'll get a waiver," she said.
Without the waiver or the municipal appropriation requirement, the library would lose their certification. There would be no interlibrary loans and the library would no longer be eligible to receive state aid. As it is, state aid has gone down over the past several years.
"Last year, the funding we got from the state was just over $10,000," said Spratt. "When I first started working here six and a half years ago, it was closer to $17,000."
"That's kind of depressing," said Chairman Pen Burnham.
The board will be submitting items for capital planning to address structural issues within the library. In addition to submitting items to repair some mortar, they will also be submitting items to repair or replace areas in the roof that are becoming weathered. Leaking could lead to mold both in the books and in the building structure itself.
"A leaking roof is a disaster for us," said Burnham.