Voters could determine the fate of the Belgrade Public Library on Friday.

Residents of the town will take to the polls Friday, voting at Town Meeting by secret ballot on whether to approve an $82,094 budget request for the library.

All members of the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommend the library budget, according to the annual report.

Voters at the 2018 Town Meeting approved hiring a full-time librarian and increasing the library’s hours of operation, by a 179-162 margin. This added $20,990 to the approved library budget, which was $59,532.

Ernest Rice, a long-time resident and former selectman, worries that extra funds each year is money the town doesn’t need to spend when there are pressing issues, like the fire department needing a new station and the salt contamination in area wells from the former storage.

“Rather than give $20,000 to a position that only needs to be part time,” said Rice, referencing the library director position, “I’d rather put that $20,000 into an account that’s going to support issues in Belgrade.”

Trustees of the Belgrade Public Library and library supporters feel differently. For many, the library is an asset to the community.

“A lot of people in Belgrade can’t afford to buy their books and can’t afford to travel to another library and pay for non-resident use of that library,” said Barbara Allen, who chairs the trustees of the library.

The library offers not just books but Wi-Fi and computer usage, along with other resources.

“These are the sorts of things that add to life of the town and encourage young people to come to Belgrade,” Allen said.  

The town is not a wealthy community, Rice said, though it appears that way because there are people on the lake who are.

“My concern is for the people of this town that cannot afford any more,” Rice said, recalling homes lost because taxes couldn’t be paid. “It’s just unacceptable to me.”

If voters do not approve the library’s spending plan in the election, they will need to vote on a contingency article during the Town Meeting Saturday that would pay salaries and operating expenses of the library through the rest of March.

After March 31, the library would shut down — unless funding is offered to the library from outside the town.

If the town wants to get it back in the picture, said Michael Barrett, vice chair of the Board of Selectmen, voters would have to approach town officials in order to have a new article placed on the June warrant.

The town is in the process of hiring a full-time library director. Applications were accepted through Jan. 25. Library trustees Allen and vice chairperson Dianne Dowde interviewed candidates Wednesday and feel as though they can make a recommendation of a candidate for the town manager to hire if the spending plan is passed.

The 2018 budget request was $80,522, and the actual budget was $68,600. The 2018 tax rate for Belgrade residents is $14.60 per $1,000 of land valuation. The taxes on a home worth $150,000 would be $2,000 before exemptions.

 

Abigail Austin — 621-5631
[email protected]
Twitter: @AbigailAustinKJ

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