The Manhasset Public Library budget hearing held Tuesday, March 31, began with Trustee Jim Peltzer reading category totals that, taken together, equaled the 2009-2010 proposed budget of $4,464,035, an increase of 1.9 percent over last year's budget.
Thereupon the floor was opened to public discussion for the seven residents attending the meeting. Relentless questioning by one community member, in certain categories, uncovered a reluctance for specifics. The budget document itself is one page listing major categories, sub-categories, with two columns of numbers -this year's, and last year's for comparison.
When asked how numbers were arrived at one answer was the board examines last years' numbers and attempts to come in lower. A resident was told he could view the worksheets used to arrive at the numbers in the director's office. Pelzer said they do not do zero based budgeting, rather, they work from experience to determine what they can reduce. Last year the same discussion occurred with the suggestion that the following year more transparency would be provided
"Salaries, retirement, Social Security and insurance" totaled $2,584,180, more than half the proposed budget, and our questioner wanted a breakdown of salaries. Told the board had never been asked for that information before, the gentleman was initially asked to FOIL for the information, in the end, Director Marion Robertson went to her office and retrieved a list of the top professional salaries. The list of salaries with names was read, some mentioned were: children's librarian $96,256; head of reference $99,721; and director $139,000. Also noted was employees do not contribute to their health insurance.
The cost of "microfilm, periodicals" held steady at $12,000, yet was mentioned because someone questioned the use of microfilm. The New York Times and the Manhasset Press, it was explained, are maintained in the archives on microfilm because of the local history they contain. The Times has a Long Island section and goes back to 1927; the Manhasset Mail dates from 1927 and the Manhasset Press from 1934. Pelzer said after vigorous debate they took the recommendation to maintain those papers in the archives.
The library has a reserve fund ($770,000) and last year transferred funds ($153,300) to keep the budget lower. More funds will be transferred this year ($83,000), but not as much because, it was said, the library must begin to pay for itself. The board suggested $400,000 is a prudent level for the reserve fund. The board acknowledged this library is much more expensive to run than the old one.
The library budget hearing pales in comparison to the information available at school board budget hearings. The community has become accustomed to a very efficient school district business department that operates under the guidance of Rosemary Johnson. Yet, even the school district at times has their accountant on board. Granted, library trustees are volunteers, but a public budget hearing is to answer questions. The library accounting firm is Baumenn Dennis Hochule, LLP, located in Floral Park.
The board felt they had presented a reasonable budget with an increase of 1.9 percent. The questioner disagreed. Difficult economic times, he believed, required more severe cuts to the budget. If the budget did not pass and an austerity budget of 4 percent was mandated it would actually be higher than the proposed budget.
The board said they were mindful of the economic downturn and made major reductions in several areas. In a push to Go Green the newsletter will no longer be mailed out four times a year at a savings of about $35,000. They intend to print only one-quarter the amount of newsletters, to be picked up at the library, as a courtesy to those residents not comfortable on-line. "We are using technology to save money," Pelzer said.
As highlighted last year, membership in the Nassau Library System creates a significant reduction in the costs of the core database collection.
As the heating and air conditioning systems become better regulated there are cost savings, although, as previously stated, the new library is more costly than the old one.
Health insurance, a mandated expense, is reduced by more than 7 percent due to rebates from the health insurance company.
The board meets about 20 times a year and the public is invited to attend the meetings, although few ever do. The board believes if the community was not happy they would attend with torches and pitchforks.
The board voted to approve the budget.
The timing of the library budget hearing on Tuesday, March 31, does not permit an article to appear before the budget takes place a week later.
On April 7 the community voted on the budget, and for one uncontested trustee position, results appear in a box on this page.