Private Raymond Library, the only one in town, asks again for a public funding boost

Montville — The board of the Raymond Library, the only library in town, is asking for a $15,000 boost in town funding to help cover several construction projects and try to bring its finances back into the black.

The library, which is privately owned but gets funding in the town budget as the only publicly-accessible library in town, has been dipping into its $1 million endowment to pay for its staff’s salaries, operating costs and construction projects for years.

Last year, when the library’s board of directors asked the town for $65,000 from the town budget, they said a recent audit had revealed the library would have to shut down in 10 years if it keeps relying on withdrawals from its endowment.

The library has paid for a new well and an expansion to the parking lot, and soon will need a new roof and heating tank.

The Town Council finance committee, which hosts a round of budget meetings and makes its own cuts before sending a draft of the budget to the full council, cut the library’s request back to $45,000, keeping the funding level between the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

This year, the board has asked for $60,000 from the town budget — a relatively small line item, but one they say would help them stop dipping into the endowment.

“We’re running in the red every year, and we’ve been doing that for ten years,” library board member Ray Coggeshall said this past week.

The $45,000 from the town covers less than half of the library’s basic operating costs — for payroll, books and heat — which come in each year at about $110,000, Stacia Miner, the library board’s treasurer, said last year.

The $60,000 request this year was an attempt to move some of the responsibility for the library’s financial health onto the town, Miner said.

“We’re trying to cover at least the payroll for the year,” she said. The library employs two full-time workers and five part-time workers. “We can’t cut that back without cutting hours,” she said.

Town Council finance committee Chairman Chuck Longton, who also serves as the council’s liaison to the library board, said he would support the $60,000 request but couldn’t predict whether the request would hold up in the committee’s budget deliberations.

“It’s important to stop the bleeding,” Longton said.

The town is required by state statute to provide its residents access to a library, whether through an agreement like the deal with the Raymond Library, paying another town for access to its public library or establishing its own public library.

"That would ultimately cost a lot more than the little bit that we give them every year," Longton said. "It's in our best interest to keep the library solvent."

m.shanahan@theday.com

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