WATERVILLE — The Waterville Public Library is asking the city to contribute $214,000 more than it did in the 2018-19 budget, with library officials saying the facility has been operating on an inadequate amount of money the last several years.

Tammy Rabideau, who has been the library’s director since November after Sarah Sugden resigned, said Tuesday that in preparing her first budget she did extensive research on libraries and how they operate and discovered that the facilities maintenance budget line for Waterville “has not accurately been reflecting what it should, to proactively and responsibly manage the facility.”

“There just isn’t enough money allocated to properly care for the reactive and proactive maintenance needs of the library’s facilities and grounds,” Rabideau said.

The library’s budget for 2018-19 is $667,000, and the proposed budget for 2019-20 is $761,000. The library is asking the city to contribute $690,000, or 90% of the budget, as opposed to the 70% it contributed to the current budget, according to Rabideau.

The proposed increase in the budget is primarily reflected in facilities maintenance, technology resources, personnel and more funds necessary to run the operation.

Rabideau and Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s Board of Trustees, addressed the City Council at a budget workshop Tuesday night to present the case for library funding. The Chace Community Forum downtown was packed with people, many of whom were library Board of Trustee members and library supporters.

Mayor Nick Isgro said he appreciated Jacobs’ keeping city officials and councilors apprised of the library’s status, all along the way, so there were no surprises. Council Chairman Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, agreed, saying Jacobs is “one of the most ambitious presidents of the Trustees Board I’ve ever met in my life.”

Mayhew said Jacobs works day and night, and he has received phone calls and emails of support for the library, likely due to Jacobs’ influence. He said it is amazing the amount of effort she puts into making calls and “beating a path around our neighborhood” to advocate for the city-owned library.

“I would be the first person to say we have an obligation or responsibility to take care of that building, and we have woefully not taken care of that building,” Mayhew said.

Earlier Tuesday, Rabideau described the library’s situation, noting that this would be the first time she was to present a library budget to the city and she wanted to humbly, respectfully and clearly state the truth of library finances.

“This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life, and it is the most important thing,” she said.

A maintenance facilities budget is supposed to be 1 to 2% of the value of the building and its contents, according to Rabideau and Jacobs, who said that would put the facilities maintenance budget between $60,000 and $120,000.

“We’re well below the recommended threshold with the $50,000,” Rabideau said.

The facilities maintenance budget line in the 2018-19 budget is $15,000, and the year before that it was $10,000. The library is asking to increase that line to $50,000 in the 2019-20 budget. Already, the library has exceeded the $15,000 because of sprinkler system, elevator and fire panel repairs, among other things, according to Rabideau.

The budget allocation for Lithgow Library in Augusta is $800,000 a year and none of that money includes facilities maintenance, which is in a different city budget, according to Rabideau, who said she also looked at per capita costs for other libraries. Waterville’s library receives $27 per capita for its municipal appropriation, and the library has been using various buckets of money to try to raise that to $38 per capita and “a lot of those buckets have run out,” she said.

Augusta’s budget equates to about $43 per capita invested, but the facilities maintenance budget is not included in that $43 per capita, she said.

Jacobs said that, seven years ago, the library started using leftover money from the capital campaign (which was for Americans With Disabilities Act improvements including an elevator, handicapped entrance and two-hour fire proof stairwell) to help fund the library.

“When we did that, we were instructed to set the money aside to use to maintain the facilities and expand programming for the community,” Jacobs said.

The library, which is very frugal, has exhausted all forms of outside funding that it can use to fund the library, which in 2017 won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, for outstanding service to the community, according to Jacobs.

“I’m really hoping that the City Council sees the value and the need for the library in this community, based on its use,” she said. “I also hope they remember that four years ago when (City Manager) Mike Roy went to everyone to ask for a 1% budget reduction, Sarah Sugden voluntarily took a 5% reduction to help the community.”

Jacobs noted that the library budget represents less than 2% of the city budget.

“When you consider the value of what the library provides to the city — technology, jobs and career and programs — and it is open to everyone in the community for free, we’re hoping the community realizes that it’s a valuable asset,” she said.

The Waterville library has a variety of revenue sources, including card memberships, copying, printing and fundraising, and officials have been drawing from its endowment, according to Rabideau, who said the library has had about a $200,000 budget gap over the last several years. The library has and continues to pursue grants, though philanthropic groups are typically not interested in funding facilities maintenance and daily operating costs, she said.

The 114-year-old library employs six full-time people, one of whom is a facilities person, and 11 part-timers, according to Rabideau. Thousands of people visit the library per week, and it has averaged 100,000 visitors annually over the last several years.

The library has programs for children, teens and adults and last year partnered on more than 150 career and networking programs attended by more than 2,000 people. The facility has a jobs and career center and provides visitors access to technology and staff expertise in technology.

Rabideau said preserving and restoring the mahogany woodwork in the library is on a list of projects the library hopes to do.

“I care a lot about this facility— I think it’s a precious facility in Waterville,” she said.

Roy said Tuesday that personnel costs in the proposed budget are up $32,200, or 8%, from the $395,200 in the current budget. The increase is due, in part, to benefit increases and minimum wage increase.

“Thirty-three percent of the increase of $214,000 is due to loss in revenues — $71,000 less than last year,” he said. “The bulk of that $71,000 in revenues comes from the fundraising line.”

Roy said that a year ago, the library estimated it would get $107,000 from fundraising, but the proposed budget estimates $41,000 from fundraising, a difference of $66,000.

Councilor Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5, asked at the budget workshop why the fundraising line had gone down in the proposed budget.

Jacobs said that, over the past two years, officials had a “wishful” fundraising goal but are being more realistic.

“We tried our darnedest to be able to raise it and were unsuccessful,” she said.

Rabideau told councilors that while the library has a full-time facilities person, with the 100,000 visitors to the library each year, the library, in an ideal world, would have a part-time person so that the full time person could take a vacation. Just the bathrooms alone present a significant issue, and vacuuming the library takes hours, she said.

Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, asked why the proposed budget shows a drop in the endowment figure.

“We’ve been taking endowment income to the tune of $1.2 million over the past five years,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been taking as much as we can out of the income, not the principle.”

Mayor Nick Isgro asked Roy if the city has the capacity to use public works or parks and recreation employees to help at the library, or whether union contracts or time do not allow that. Roy said the union is not an issue.

“Time is what the problem is, so we can’t always provide a reliable response as they sometimes need because they’re doing other things,” he said.


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