DYLAN J. BAKER
MANCHESTER -- The Mark Skinner Library will request a level funded appropriation of $153,200 in financial support from the town for the fourth consecutive year.
The request, if OK'd by the town's Select Board, will become part of the public expenditures that will eventually be discussed and voted on at March Town Meeting.
Despite mounting pressures due to increases in library use and expenses, the library's executive director, Betsy Bleakie, thinks that with the economy still in flux it is the responsibility of the library to find other means of income without raising taxes, such as applying for roughly ten grants per year. "Because we are a very valued community resource and used by Manchester residents, along with folks that live outside of Manchester at a higher fee, many libraries enjoy the support of their town in the state of Vermont. We do not receive any funding from the state of Vermont," she said.
Added Bleakie, "There are some other opportunities out there that I can try to bring in some revenue without asking the town for more money right now because everyone is feeling the pinch from the economy."
If the level fund is approved at the Town Meeting in March, the appropriation amount will provide the library with 45 percent of its 2013-2014 operating budget from local taxes.
"I think it is welcome news to the selectboard that they decided to level their fund," said town manager John O'Keefe.
According to the Vermont Public Libraries 2012 annual report, of the 183 public libraries located in Vermont, an average of 82.8 percent of their operating budgets came from local taxes. Of libraries in Mark Skinner's official size category, serving populations of 2,500 to 4,499, libraries average 78 percent of operating funds from local taxes. Mark Skinner Library is at the high end of the size category group, serving a population of 4,391.
The next size grouping, with a population of 5,000 and up, average 87 percent of operating funds from local taxes.
Towns of Middlebury, Williston, Stowe, and Shelburne are four communities in Vermont where close to 100 percent of their operating budgets come from local taxes.
"We know that the taxpayers are stretched in this economy and I felt like now that I still needed to figure out the other opportunities for fund raising before I go back and ask the town for more money," Bleakie said. "I feel that I needed to develop a sustainable fund- raising plan."
This also comes at a time when the Mark Skinner Library is making a transition to a new building, but Bleakie stressed that none of the taxpayer dollars will be going towards the construction of the new building and that they will be using the money received from the town only for purposes at their current location.
"We are not asking the town for any financial support to construct the new building," she said. "Now, once we are in the new building and we are performing our unique role in the community...we are going to have an operating budget for that building so we will probably be asking the town for the support that we have experienced in the past." The new library building is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.
Bleakie wanted to thank the town and the taxpayers for their continued support throughout the years as Town Meeting approaches.
"We wish to convey how grateful we are for the support the town as given us," said Bleakie.