Rockingham Selectboard discuss library budget proposal

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed the Rockingham Free Public Library budget and future maintenance for the Town Hall.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that three flat sections of the Town Hall roof needed new membranes costing $120,000 and other repairs included brick pointing for $16,000, and the clock area for $10,000.

Chair Gaetano Putignano said that brick pointing was in the budget.

Library director Celina Houlne presented the fiscal year 2022 library budget proposal of $428,286 level-funded with tax appropriation of $379,250 with a total budget decrease of $13,425.

She explained that last year fiscal 2020 ended up under budget, but she projected that the current budget of fiscal 2021 would be over by $8,600 due to the unplanned cut to tax appropriation. She said the library would continue fundraising with the annual appeal and book sale.

Peter Golec appreciated that salaries were consistent, but was “confused that with Covid [the budget was] still at 25% of salary and benefits.”

Putignano wondered if there were any custodial, heating, and cooling savings and asked, “Wouldn’t it be under budget?” since with the library was closed.

Houlne explained that although the library was closed to the public through July, they offered curbside service in April, which was “labor intensive,” and library staff worked in the building every day, Monday through Friday. She felt the budget was responsible and explained they were very busy offering online services.

Houlne said, “We did cut materials, but we didn’t want to be too drastic,” and said about next year, “I hate to cut any further than this when the demand is going to be even greater.”

Putignano said, “I’m personally not prepared to accept this budget.” He explained that many of the town’s departments were “providing 100% service…at a significantly reduced budget.”

He continued, “Through hard work…we’ve reduced spending. I don’t see that here in this budget.”

Susan Hammond clarified, “Library staff were very busy working on reaching out to community members, accessing Covid-19 relief programs,” during the beginning of the pandemic.

Putignano said the majority of spending on fiscal 2021 was on the facility and staff.

Houlne explained they provided information for Rockingham Help and Helpers. “We answered a lot of reference calls to support local community groups and our residents…We need the staff to provide all of these services.”

Ben Masure said, “I agree the budget seems high for what’s going on right now. I personally think the library budget has been way too high for years.”

Peter Golec suggested instead of going line by line, the board give reductions to each department. Pickup agreed they could work on that but explained that further reductions might eliminate programs.

The Selectboard’s next meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 5. The Joint Board meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 6 p.m.

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