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GN Library Board Adopts 2011 Budget And Signs Station Branch Lease

The Great Neck Library Board of Trustees held a public budget hearing on Tuesday, April 20 at the Main Library. The 2011 proposed budget was approved unanimously by the board and will be presented to voters on May 18. This sixth and final draft of the budget was prepared in accordance with the direction given by the board of trustees at the April 15 Special Board Meeting and incorporates the recommendations and input of the library director, staff, and comments made by the public at the budget workshops over the past several weeks. 

At the April 15 special board meeting, board President Andrew Greene had asked library business manager Neil Zitofsky to include $36,000 of the unallocated surplus fund balance of 2011 general operating expenses (associated with moving the Station Branch to the 6,400-square foot space on the second floor of the Gardens of Great Neck shopping center) charged to the general fund reserve for unanticipated and emergency needs, and to include the applied balance of $110,000 (which is equal to the 2011 tax increase earned between July 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010 as the tax increase would become effective July 1, 2010) to keep the potential tax increase as low as possible. The unallocated fund balance is approximately $415,000 and is set aside for unanticipated and emergency needs. In this case, the emergency need is the cost of build-out for the new Station branch space.  When this unallocated fund balance is added to an applied balance surplus of $110,000 (applied to operating funds), an approximate total of $525,000 of accumulated surplus funds will be sitting in the library’s general operating funds at the close of business Dec. 31, 2010.

Mr. Zitofsky had previously outlined a $147,000 operational cost increase for a total tax increase of approximately $218,000. This total increase is a combined result of lower operating revenues for the library and contractual salary increases. Had the library not made a 6.9 percent across the board cut for library materials and programs, allowed for early retirement incentives, reduced health and insurance premiums, delayed Saturday morning openings, and reduced evening staffing (to be implemented in June 2010 for 2011 budget), the tax levy would, in fact, have been much higher. The library has actually decreased the budget by 2.2 percent to $8,372,000 from $8,414,000 in 2010. However, according to Mr. Zitofsky, surplus funds available to offset the 2010 budget increase are not an option this year, and a 2.8 percent tax increase ($220,000) is necessary to balance the budget.

This tax appropriation is the first increase in five years, and translates to approximately $10 per year for the homeowner of a property assessed at $1,000,000. The budget’s interest income has been decreased from $50,000 to $40,000 as interest rates have fallen. Total staffing has been decreased from 89.2 to 85.2 full-time-equivalent employees. The retirement incentive program will save approximately $26,000 in 2010 and $113,000 in 2011.  Delayed Saturday morning openings at all branches will save approximately $9,000 in 2010 and $20,000 in 2011. Reduced evening staffing at Main Circulation and Reference desks will save approximately $56,000 in 2011.  Salaries will decrease 3.6 percent from $4,746,300 to $4,576,500. Because of New York State’s direction for budgeting 2011 Retirement System and Health Insurance premiums, employee benefits increase by 5.3 percent or $88,600. Library operations have a net decrease of 2.4 percent from $279,800 to $273,000, which includes reducing the issuance of the library newsletter from bi-monthly to quarterly while allowing for an $8,000 increase in computer equipment maintenance costs. Building operation expenses have increased by $116,000, due largely to the Station Branch expansion. Furniture and equipment funding decreases from $40,200 to $25,000 and takes into account computer replacements with the assistance of Gates Grants. Additional technology will need to be funded from the automated library fund. Normal repairs are in the maintenance budget but there is no provision for repairs to major systems.

Before reaching unanimous consensus to approve the budget for presentation to voters in May, board treasurer Varda Solomon asked what would happen with the Station Branch lease if the budget were not approved in May. Although the budget has historically never been voted down, the question did highlight the fact that if the budget were to not be approved, the branch fund reserve could be used to cover the $330,000 ($110,000 applied balance plus $220,000 tax revenues) that the library would then be short.  Mr. Zitofsky pointed out that in a hypothetical situation of an unapproved budget, the library would not lose the prior year’s approved amount, only the increase in funds.

Upon approval of the proposed 2011 budget, Mr. Greene concluded that the “budget process worked. It was a lengthy, complicated, detailed process among all members of the board. Thanks to [Ms. Marino] and [Mr. Zitofsky] who are the unsung heroes…We are raising taxes a modest amount in five years…My kudos to this very long process that has worked.”

The approval of the proposed 2011 budget also meant approval for the signing of the Station Branch lease. Earlier in the meeting, Mr. Greene commented, “the process of the lease has been overseen by our lawyer, Kevin Seaman.  Not withstanding that, I plan to sit with the director after the meeting [and after approval of the proposed 2011 budget] to go through the lease and to sign it.”