Librarian Doreen Judge, left, stands back as Becky Cooper returns books Wednesday on front steps of the Hubbard Free Library on Second Street in Hallowell. This week the library reopened for curbside service only with staff allowed inside. Judge said that patrons can call or email with requests and librarians will find and bag up the items. Patrons will be given an appointment to stop by and pick up during regularly open hours. Returns are being put into a box, and set aside to be quarantined for a week before staff returns them to shelves, she added. For more information visit hubbardfree.org/updates. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — The historic Hubbard Free Library is requesting more funds from the city during the next budget cycle, despite the city staring down uncertainty with vital revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials from the Hubbard Free Library met with the City Council’s Finance Committee on Wednesday to discuss their request for $68,040 from the city in the next fiscal year, an increase from the $42,000 in funding they received in the current fiscal year. Also during the meeting, the committee discussed a number of items in the community services budget.

President of the library’s Board of Trustees Ken Young said  that the $26,040 increase would allow the library to open the library Monday and Friday, which were cut from their weekly schedule in years past due to budget constraints. Young said ahead of the meeting that the “primary goal” was retaining the $42,000 in funding that the city allocated to the library in the current fiscal year in the case the city cannot afford to increase their contribution.

No decisions or public comments were made on the request during the Wednesday meeting.

The library — a nonprofit that is partially supported by the city, but not formally affiliated with it — has been strapped for cash since the Great Recession and has asked for increased municipal funding in each of the last two municipal budget cycles. In June 2018, the Kennebec Journal reported the funding bind was the result of a number of factors that included the Great Recession and ensuing economic uncertainty.

In fiscal year 2020, the city allocated $15,000 in TIF funds, on top of its previously-customary $27,000 contribution, for a strategic planning consultant to help the boards of trustees gather information to determine the best way forward for the library. That strategic plan showed an uptick of use of the library, but also the need for more private and municipal funding. Also last year, the city formed a joint working group between the library’s trustees and the City Council.

A draft budget available ahead of Wednesday’s finance committee meeting included two different figures for estimated municipal revenue in fiscal year 2021: $919,907 and $860,257. Both are a reduction from the current $991,315 in municipal revenue estimated in fiscal year 2020.

Fiscal year 2021 figures are subject to change in the coming months, as Councilor George Lapointe said those estimates were “very preliminary” due to uncertainty in a number of areas, including revenue sharing and excise tax.

The expenditure side of the draft fiscal year 2021 budget has two estimate totals, $6,788,855 and $6,490,218. Those are both higher than fiscal year 2020’s estimated expenditures of $6,286,038. The expenditure and revenue budgets are expected to go before the full City Council in June for a first of three readings before the budget is finalized.

The community services budget is projected to be reduced up to 67.22%, from $72,087 in fiscal year 2020 to a recommended $23,633. That cut is smaller than it seems, has the $42,000 line for the library has been moved elsewhere in the budget. The draft budget cuts funding for community dinners, Old Hallowell Day and the Luthier’s Weekend. Half of the $5,500 for the city’s Summer Concert Series has also been cut.

Young said the library’s funding, which has been scant in the past, has been pinched due to pandemic. Young said the library’s endowment has been reduced by about 15% after a reduction in the stock market. Young also said the library’s general fund, which is made up of donations, is $5,800 lower this March 15 to May 15 than last year through the same period , despite a positive trend earlier in the year. Exact figures for both the endowment and annual fund donations were not available Wednesday.

Young said the library received a $12,577 Payroll Protection Plan loan, which Young said would pay the library’s staff for eight weeks. Library staff has been working to deal with returned books. On Wednesday, the library announced in an email that it would be opening for curbside pickup after previously being closed. Young said Wednesday that there was a “robust response” to the opening.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: