Written by Michael Scro, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:00
The Village of Garden City Board of Trustees held its first budget session for 2014 on Tuesday evening, hearing reports on the Garden City Public Library and the village’s building department.
The library report, given by part time library monitor Steve Ilardi, compared its financial status in 2007-08 and 2009-10 to the current year, and displayed significant decreases in almost every category.
“Over the past several years, the library hours have been reduced from 62 to 53.5 per week — a 13.7 percent reduction,” Ilardi said. “Since the 2009-10 budget year, the library materials budget has dropped $167k ($456k to $289k)—a 36 percent reduction.”
Other factors Ilardi gave were the library’s inability to buy all the latest editions available, a lack of part-time pages, and most library-sponsored adult programs having been eliminated.
Circulation items were also presented as down almost across the board, except for CD music, E-books and self renewals.
According to Ilardi, the total library budget for 2009-10 was $3,745,101—reduced 11.5 percent by 2013-14 to $3,315,070. The village contributions to the library also decreased 10.7 percent from 2009-10, coming in at $3,117,335 in 2013-14.
The library had 24 full-time employees in 2007-08, and are currently down to 19. The part-time staff in 2009-10 was 46, which is now down to 26, and the part-time budget has decreased 82 percent since 2009-10. Part-time hours are anticipated to be 4,500 this year, an estimated reduction from 17,165 in 2009-10.
Overtime hours are also down an estimated 52 percent to 11,000 from an estimated 23,000 in 2009-10.
Trustee Robert A. Bolebruch questioned the reports’ comparisons to the years 2009-10, and called the budget presentation “misleading.”
Bolebruch cited the reason for the decrease in village contributions as the library having “so many reserves at the time, the village decided the library didn’t need to maintain hundreds of thousands of dollars in reserves when the taxpayers were sitting there—if they weren’t spending the money, that’s why they brought the budget down.”
Chair of the Garden City Library Board of Trustees J. Randolph Calahan said, “(2009-10) is the last year before severe cuts were taken—back in 2009-10, we put through numbers that were presented and didn’t rely on the surplus.”
Calahan also disagreed with Bolebruch’s assessments, saying that at the time, the library had an assistant director who was never replaced after they left.
“Their salary was $100,000 plus benefits on top of that, and the assistant director was there for years in case the director was unavailable,” Calahan said. “We now have a library director that is leaving, and we’re scrambling to find out who is going to take that position.”
Calahan also said the library had an excess of almost $150,000, which they chose to save.
“That’s why the surplus was there—we weren’t spending because we decided we’re not going to hire an assistant director,” Calahan said, who also indicated that there is an assumption built into the 2014-15 budget that there will be lower staffing.
Current Library Director Carolyn Voegler added to the presentation by stating the library is asking for an additional $29,000 based on anticipated costs of mandated health increases, added outsourcing for cleaning services, fees, increase in electrical costs and from the Citizens Budget Review Committee, their recommendation for increasing library materials.
“One step that the library board recently undertook was staffing differently on Sundays, so we’re looking at a savings and an incentive for someone who is going to put in for retirement,” Voegler said.
Concluding the library presentation, Calahan read a prepared statement, saying that due to reductions in budget funding, revenue and expenditures over the last several years, the amounts spent for staffing and library materials “has been particularly hit hard.”
“The library is unique in the village by being overseen by a village board of trustees consisting of resident volunteers who pay taxes and want to control those taxes,” Calahan said. “The library board feels that the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 is fair, and is what is required to maintain current levels of service without any so-called ‘fat’ being eliminated.”
Superintendent Michael D. Fillippon delivered the building department budget report and stated “our revenue figure was very robust this year—we’ve had a number of big projects,” however he said he doesn’t expect it to be “the norm going forward.”
Fillippon said that figure represents a total value of construction of “well over $48 million that we have serviced by the time the year closes.”
Trustee Richard Silver asked Fillippon if he has noticed an uptick in construction in the village “as we move further from 2008,” which Fillippon said, “we’ve been pretty flat, not withstanding variations in the general economy.”
“I attribute that to the tremendous amount of confidence in the real estate market here,” Fillippon said. “People are still willing to invest in their homes, buy homes at market rate, tear them down and build new houses. If you look at the analysis going back, there have been no major anomalies.”
One issue that was brought up with the building department is the cost of repairs to some of the department’s 1995 model vehicles, which Fillippon said “we have pretty old vehicles that are spending more time in the shop and have more expensive repairs.”
He said the department has four sedans, and at the suggestion of Bolebruch to lease cars at an estimated $200 per month per car, the superintendent responded “if we folded in a new car at a certain regular interval, we could keep that car until it reaches at least 16, maybe 20 years old, and still have it functional.”
He added that it would require the department setting aside money each year to do that, and the department “has never been allowed to do that.”
Silver asked for data to be submitted on what the village is spending on cars as the issue will be further examined.