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Trustees reluctant to cut costs, FinCom unsure of increases

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HARVARD — A new facility and standard increases are expected to boost library operating costs by $179,739 in FY08, though benefits for two new employees could push that figure closer to $200,000.

The topic was debated by the Finance Committee (FinCom) and library trustees on Jan. 30.

The new library will be approximately two times larger than the current facility. Trustees projected an incremental increase of $162,939 for moving, primarily in energy and personnel costs.

The FinCom previously requested fiscal year 2008 projections for the new and existing facilities so it can track what’s driving the cost increases, said Chairman Deborah Ricci.

Trustees said those numbers represent the baseline of what’s needed to run the library and are hesitant to deviate or compartmentalize the bottom line.

“We need 585,000,” said trustee Ginger Kendall.

Kendall was referring to the $585,397 budget request for FY08, up from $422,458 in FY07. As per the FinCom’s request, a budget of $466,826 in the current building was also provided in the event the library didn’t move, though Kendall questioned why that’s necessary.

Ricci said her group wants to better understand the increases being sought by the library. She said the committee needs to explain to them and its town meeting recommendations, and it wants to hear the trustees’ case.

With the town facing a $1.2-million override this spring, Ricci also asked if the trustees have a plan for what happens if the funding isn’t forthcoming.

Library Building Committee Chairman Roy Moffa said they don’t.

“I think the trustees would really need to evaluate everything we could do,” he said. “We don’t have an answer for that.”

The expectation is that new library expenses will be presented as an override request, though it’s unclear exactly what form that will take.

The options include one override for all of the funding requests, a tiered override that would offer the town a choice from a handful of levy benchmarks and allocate funds according to what passes, or separate overrides for the schools, town and library.

The question is open, said FinCom member Cynthia Russo, who asked what the trustees prefer.

Splitting the requests by department would pit groups against each other, said Kendall. The tiered approach could be similarly divisive, she said, and carries the possibility of facility costs being granted but not the new personnel requests.

“I guess I’d prefer one override for all the requests,” she said.

The groups parted after the FinCom said it would need more time to review the library numbers.

The direct cost of the new facility was delineated by Moffa, who said $59,677 is for new personnel and $37,360 is for increased energy. The state also requires that 16 percent of the library budget go toward the collection to retain the library’s accreditation, which would amount to another $28,700 after the increase.

The new positions include a 15-hour-per-week facility supervisor, an assistant children’s librarian for 30 hours per week, a part-time custodian and an additional 19 hours per week for library assistants.

FinCom members said two of the additional positions will be benefits eligible, which would add another $20,000.

The bottom line rose to $179,739 when annual increases to the library budget were included. Moffa said that was projected when the new library was approved by town meeting two years ago. He said the town is getting a great return on its investment.

“We’re about 3 percent of the (omnibus) budget, and that’s up seven-tenths of a percent for the facility,” he said.