SHIRLEY — Voters approved a $21,334 Proposition 2 1/2 override for the Hazen Memorial Library budget, but narrowly rejected a $16,010 override request to operate the Council on Aging’s new senior center.
The library question passed 502-383 and the Council on Aging request failed 454-429.
Council on Aging Director John Oelfke shook his head and Library Director Debra Roy sighed in relief as Town Clerk Amy McDougall read the results.
The funding allows the library to resume operating 36 hours weekly, effective immediately, and maintain its certification with the state Board of Library Commissioners, Roy said. It has been operating 25 hours a week since the start of the fiscal year in July.
“I’m very happy that the town has opted to support the library,” Roy said.
Fundraising for the Council on Aging will start soon, Oelfke said.
“I’m obviously disappointed,” Oelfke said. “I thought we had made a case for the value of the building and the value of the service we bring the people. Obviously, we didn’t.”
The increased library budget will add $4.95 to the taxes on a $150,000 home and $11.55 annually to a home valued at $350,000, according to the assessor’s office.
The Council on Aging request would have added $3.75 to the taxes on a $150,000 home and $8.75 to a $350,000 home.
The election drew 887 residents to the polls — 23 percent of the 3,908 registered voters in town.
Without the override, the library was in danger of losing its certification.
The state Board of Library Commissioners uses a formula to certify libraries that factors in the average of its last three budgets multiplied by 2.5. The $165,478 budget approved during the annual Town Meeting was $21,334 short of the $186,812 needed to meet the formula. Last year’s budget was $182,478.
The library’s hours of operation are also part of the guidelines for certification. For a community the size of Shirley, the library must remain open 25 hours a week. After its budget was reduced, the library cut its hours from 36 to 25 a week to maintain the minimum, Roy said.
Certification opens the library’s eligibility for $16,000 in state aid annually and allows it to apply for grants, she said.
Fran Stetson, of Clark Road, pointed to Fitchburg as an example of what happens when a community does not fully fund a library. Fitchburg’s library hours were cut and residents cannot borrow books from other libraries now, she said.
“People don’t understand what happens when your library is decertified,” said Stetson, who works at the Ayer Public Library.
Stetson voted against Question 1, which requested $16,010 for the Council on Aging’s operating expenses.
The Council on Aging wanted the funding to operate its new Senior Center on Parker Road for the rest of the fiscal year.
The center was expected to open sometime between late October and mid-November.
The school district donated the former school, and the town provided about $125,000 from mitigation money it receives for hosting the state prison.
An out-of-town friend called Gil Dupre, of Groton Road, to remind him to vote and he made it to the polls where he voted in favor of both questions around mid-afternoon.
“I know some seniors,” he said in explanation of why he voted for the measures. “I know what the whole world wants to do with the elderly and that’s flush them down the toilet and get rid of them.”
The library needed a $17,000 override last year as well, Roy said.