Potsdam Public Library will continue operating in the red, despite funding boost
Friday, June 13, 2014 - 5:33 pm

By MATT LINDSEY

POTSDAM -- The Potsdam Public Library will continue operating at a deficit despite a $40,000 increase in funding approved by voters this week, according to library director Patricia “Pat” Musante.

The increase passed with a majority vote of 271-132.

“A special majority vote of 60 percent is needed when asking for more than a 2 percent increase,” Musante said. The proposal received 67 percent approval from voters.

“The increase will be used to pay the bills. We are operating in a $52,000 deficit and expect there to be more cuts,” Musante said.

The library board has been working up ways to make the library more financially stable.

One way is through an annual capital campaign fundraiser. “

“We are planning a capital campaign every year where an appeal will be made not only to our school district taxpayers but to encourage all our patrons who live outside the taxing district to contribute,” Musante said.

The library receives many donations now and will look at those individuals who can help, to possibly help more, according to Musante.

All of these measures are being done to keep taxes down.

“I understand taxes are a big issue. But there is a community to consider too,” Musante said.

The increasing in funding is from $465,000 to $505,000.

The current library tax rate is 89¢ per thousand of assessed value in the Town of Potsdam. The proposed rate was 97¢ per thousand.

For a home assessed at $100,000, the increase is $8.

This is the first raise the library as requested since establishment of a library taxing district in 2006, largely because they were able to secure grant funding. While grant money is not to be used in the operating budget, it did impact they operating budget, according to Musante.

In 2008, the library received $18,000 from Bill and Melinda Gates grant to purchase eight laptops and eight desktop computers, one server and two wireless access points.

In 2010, the Potsdam Library was one of 30 libraries in the state chosen to establish a Public computing Center, and received $244,513 to install video conferencing equipment, 12 additional laptops and 3 desktop computers, two HD projectors and software packages and upgrades for 25 computers.

Musante says the Potsdam Computer Center has been well-received; noting that a grant writing workshop turned out 75 people.

“We will look into what we can charge for other programming,” she said.

“The biggest expense is employees. We have a relatively small staff of six full timers, nine part timers, four substitutes, four volunteers, eight work-study students and nine board members and 12 friends.

The staff pays a percentage of health insurance premiums. A single person pays 7 percent, a two-person plan is 9 percent and it is 11 percent for families. This is higher than governmental and school contributions in the area, according to a press release from the library.

For the 2015 fiscal year budget, contributions will increase to 9 percent, 11 percent and 13 percent. As of May 14, the library will only pay for new full time employee single coverage. It can no longer afford two-person or family coverage. It will be one of the first taxing entities in the area to do so, the release says.

The library has saved money through the Friends of the Library annual contribution of $20,000, plus additional contributions for publicity and community newsletter.

Other cost-saving measures according to Musante include not outsourcing human resources operations for payroll or billing and using student volunteers to teach computer classes and individual technology training.

Mustante said the library might close two hours earlier in the winter as another cost saving measure.

Through the efforts of then patron David Bradford, the library was able to get an energy audit.

The auditors found that not only the library’s lighting was outdated and energy inefficient but the whole Civic Center ‘s was. They made a contract with the Village of Potsdam to overhaul most of the Civic Center lighting at a cost of $20,000 which was 70 percent underwritten by National Grid. The new lighting was to save the Village taxpayers $8,000 a year and the library 24 percent or $1,920 a year of that, according to the release.

“We are looking into larger businesses hosting video conferences through library which would generate more money,” she said.

Musante said the library board and management will continue to discuss ideas to raise money.

“We are glad it passed. Potsdam residents have a good sense of community,” Musante said.

The second purpose of the referendum was to elect three trustees to the library board. Maureen Taylor received 251 votes, LouAnn Lange 228, Erin Cheney 200 and Kathy Love 177.

Taylor has lives in Potsdam since 1983 and is currently employed at SUNY Potsdam as the business manager for the Student Government Organization.

Lange is a long-time resident of Potsdam and is currently retired from teaching at both SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University.

Cheney lives in West Stockholm and works part-time in the History Department at SUNY Potsdam while pursuing a master of arts degree in public history.

Mustante said Kathy Love would still be involved with the library through children’s programming. Love is a retired library worker who is also a self-published children’s author.