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POB Library Board of Trustees Holds 2011 Budget Meeting

(Editor’s Note: Due to how the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library presents its budget, references to increases and decreases in dollar amounts refer to the difference between the proposed 2011-2012 budget and the anticipated expenditures of 2010-2011, not the 2010-2011 budget as it was originally proposed.)

The board of trustees of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library had a difficult task ahead of them on March 2: to attempt to present a “bare bones” budget that would satisfy a recession-weary public, yet still maintain the five-star service said public has come to expect.

While the board discussed the rationale behind various minor increases, the most significant increase in the budget concerned something that the board has no control over: New York State Retirement Benefits, which will cost the library 47 percent more next year, an increase of $173,100. Several board members expressed frustration with the size of this increase. “It’s horrifying as a taxpayer, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said trustee Michael Polansky. “[It’s] the 800-pound gorilla in the budget,” said Polansky later in the meeting.

Other increases similarly beyond the board’s control include the MTA Payroll Tax, which, while it only increased $150 from last year, will cost the library $12,000, and the controversial Nassau County sewer tax, which is projected to cost the library $700. Many schools and municipalities, including the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, are currently involved in legal action against the proposed tax.

Another significant change in the budget is a $25,000 increase in Special Projects; this is in order to cover the cost of the continued RFID tagging of the libraries collections.

On the other side of the budget equation, several decreases in the budget are due to the fact that patrons are interacting with the library more and more through their computers as time goes on. Due to more books being taken out via downloaded digital copies, especially within the last year, fewer books are being taken out at the circulation desk proper, meaning fewer part-timers are needed to man the desk; the reduction in part-time staffing pay is listed as $41,650. In addition, the library is mailing out fewer overdue slips due to the increased usage of online communication, lowering some postage costs- although the budget for postage has gone up $500 due to a predicted increase in the cost of stamps.

While the cost of Publicity and Printing has remained the same ($28,000), library patrons’ changing technological habits have led to new strategies in that area as well. Instead of the library mailing out announcements, Creative Consulting in Hicksville will be managing the library’s e-mail, Facebook, and other social media accounts, in order to switch event publicity to a web-based, paperless form. Browne said that while she was reluctant to cut the Publicity and Printing budget during this transitional print-to-web phase, it’s an area that may be seeing cuts in subsequent years- presuming that the change to Internet marketing proves cost-effective, as anticipated.

Other significant reductions include an $8,500 decrease in community services, such as trips (bus trips that have been under-subscribed recently will no longer be offered, and those that are offered will have a minimum attendance requirement), and a $3,000 decrease in Automated Library Information System (ALIS) costs, since ALIS will no longer be charging the library borrower fees.

In other news, library patrons may soon ask for help from “roving librarians”; instead of replacing outdated laptops and other computers, Browne said the library was considering giving some staff members iPads, allowing them to take book information with them onto the floor.

The next meeting of the board of trustees will be 6:45 p.m. on Monday, March. 21.