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The Port Washington Public Library presented its 2003 budget at a sparsely attended public hearing and board of trustees meeting on Wednesday February 13. The budget contained no surprises, with the most significant increases in the categories of salaries and benefits, insurance and utilities. Said Director Nancy Curtin, "we have tried to reduce the impact on the taxpayer." Julie Geller, board president, added that the board is aware of the probability of other tax increases, especially Nassau County, "so we tried to keep the increase as low as possible. It's a very tight budget."

The library budget is $5,199,309, which represents a 5.2 percent increase over the previous year. This results in a proposed library tax increase of 4.99 percent. For the homeowner with an assessed valuation of $10,000 this would amount to $15. To minimize the impact on the taxpayer, $75,000 from the Library Funds will be appropriated. This amount, says Geller, is well within the auditor's guidelines for use of fund balances. This leaves the fund balance at 4.3 percent of the total budget.

The lion's share - approximately two-thirds - of the budget is for staff salaries and benefits. Curtin and Geller pointed out that the staff association contract, which ended on June 30, 2001, is still under negotiation. In preparing the new budget, the library took into account the probability of a new contract agreement. The 2003 budget line for salaries, terminal leave accruals and employee benefits is $3,297,036, a 15 percent increase over 2002 projected actuals and approximately 4 percent over the 2002 budget.

The budget for fuel, utilities, insurance, building repairs and alterations is approximately $37,000 over 2002 projected actuals and $90,000 over the 2002 budget. Curtin said that this is attributed to rate increases and to the fact that the library is now in a much larger facility. The budget for printing is up by about $8,000, which she said was mainly due to the need to print new library stationery.

Joan Kent, previous president of the library board of trustees, inquired about usage of the new library building. Curtin responded that there has been a consistent increase in usage, and a sharp increase in media usage, which is up about 150 percent. She added in a later interview, "People have really embraced the new building."

There will be a second public budget hearing on Wednesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m.

The library budget vote and trustee election will take place on Tuesday, April 9 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Thomas Lapham meeting room at the library. Anyone may vote who is at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Port Washington School District for at least 30 days prior to the vote.

Geller and Curtin understandably declined to predict the outcome of the budget vote, but both are hopeful. Curtin said, "We generally enjoy public support, and I don't see anything controversial here. We've kept the increases to under 5 percent." Geller added, "We do a lot of wonderful things for the community, and I think that the people know we are doing our best to keep the costs down."


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