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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Library board trims $44,000 from 2013 budget proposal

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MASSENA - While some Massena Town Board members had requested that the library cut anywhere from $120,000 to $130,000 on top of $37,500 that had already been trimmed by Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray in his 2013 budget proposal, library board members were able to make approximately $44,000 of cuts Wednesday night.

“That’s it. There’s nothing left to cut. There’s absolutely nothing,” board President Mark Englert said after he and fellow board members had sharpened their pencils and knocked down some line items in their budget.

“We met Mr. Gray’s budget and exceeded it by $7,000. We cut $44 (thousand) from our presentation to him. We’ve gone beyond Mr. Gray’s budget cuts and we have nowhere left to cut. Basically we’re balancing the town’s budget on the back of the library,” he said.

But it wasn’t anywhere near what some town board members had requested earlier in the evening.

“They’re looking for $120 to $130 (thousand) above and beyond the $37,500,” library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer said.

In addition to using a portion of their $35,000 fund balance, library board members agreed to drop their equipment line item from $4,000 to $2,000, their resources line item from $60,000 to $45,000 and their supplies line item from $22,000 to $20,000.

Among suggestions from town officials to cut costs was to reduce the number of hours the library was opened, which they suggested would result in lower overhead and personnel costs.

But that wasn’t necessarily the case, according to Ms. Dunne-Thayer.

“A 40-hour week is not going to save that type of money,” she said.

“I for one am totally opposed to any reduction in hours for current staff and opposed to any layoffs. There’s little savings in salary,” Mr. Englert said. “We’ll decrease services just to save a few dollars.”

Board member Emily Hutchison suggested they round up facts to support that claim.

“I think we should show the impact of layoffs times the number of people, and we’re open this amount of time and it’s not 40 hours,” she said.

Ms. Dunne-Thayer said she would get a list together for the board containing the salaries and hours of employees.

Ms. Hutchison suggested that, in order to meet the town board’s request to cut $120,000 to $130,000, they would be keeping the library’s doors open fewer than 40 hours a week.

“In order to cut staffing we’re not talking about keeping the library open 40 hours a week We’re talking keeping the library open two to three days a week,” she said.

The library is currently open 60 hours per week during the winter and 52 hours per week during the summer. The staff includes both full-time employees and part-time employees who receive no benefits, and three individuals staff the library when they’re open, she said.

Their latest hire, Kimberly Holmes as a part-time children’s librarian at a salary of $15.50 an hour, is an integral one, according to board members.

“We have to save the children’s librarian position,” Mr. Englert said. “We hired her with the green light of administration.”

“And we all want to keep her,” board member John “Jack” Bain said.

“I’ve said it before, the backbone of any library is children. The people you want in the library are young families and children,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.

In the Massena Public Library’s case, the computer room is also a valuable asset that’s in constant use, she said.

“It’s constantly used. So many people don’t have a computer, don’t have a working computer or don’t have a printer,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.

With nowhere else to cut, board member Robert Manning suggested they approach entitles such as the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and Alcoa to seek out grant funding to show town board members they were making en effort to increase their revenues. But he acknowledged any funding they might get would be after this year’s budget was approved.

“Sure, it takes time. A process is a process. It takes some time. If you give me the green light I’ll approach the casino. I would also like to go to Alcoa,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any objection,” Mr. Englert said.

For now, board members agreed to present their cuts to the town board during another budget workshop on Oct. 17 and go from there.

“I say we go with this. If they cut it, we’ll have to tailor our service after. I think the ball is in their court,” Mr. Englert said.

“I say we should go and say this is all we can do,” and negotiate with board members, Mr. Manning said.

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