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Proposed Brunswick library budget cut could require weekend closings

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Proposed Brunswick library budget cut could require weekend closings

BRUNSWICK — Curtis Memorial Library could be open one or two fewer days a week if the Town Council endorses a proposed reduction in the library subsidy.

The council is also considering cuts in staff salaries and the elimination of a popular inter-library loan service, according to library Director Elisabeth Doucett.

"It would be pretty substantial," said Doucett, who added that the proposed $107,000 reduction represents about 10 percent of the town's overall subsidy.

The cut in library funding is included in a fiscal 2011 budget proposal recently introduced by Town Manager Gary Brown. The Town Council began mulling that proposal Monday, a process that will attempt to balance declines in state revenue with a mandate from the council for no or little increase in the property tax rate.

The proposal could cost several municipal employees their jobs, and require other program reductions. The proposed cut in the library subsidy is part of a 10 percent reduction for several town-subsidized agencies, including People Plus, the Teen Center and the Brunswick Downtown Association.

However, the library cut could potentially be the most controversial, particularly if it results in a reduction of service.

The library is currently open seven days a week. However, it could have to close on Sundays, and perhaps Saturdays, to bridge the funding gap.

"We're still trying to figure it out, so I can't say for sure," Doucett said. "But ($107,000) is about 10 percent of our subsidy. So it won't be easy. ... My wall is filled with different scenarios. Each one depends on how much they decide to cut."

According to Doucett, the library's total operating budget is about $1.28 million. It receives funding from several sources, including Harpswell, which recently approved the library's request for $116,000 at Town Meeting.

The library receives about $25,000 from its endowment. However, Doucett said spending that money is often less discretionary because it depends on the wishes of an individual donor.

Other funding sources include late fees, fundraising – about $80,000 a year – and donations from Curtis Friends.

The town subsidy is the most significant. It's current allocation is $1.08 million, about 83 percent of the library's $1.28 million operating budget.

Doucett said a 10 percent reduction could be felt in a variety of areas, including staff and available hours. For library users that could mean fewer author talks, children's programs or computer classes for seniors. One-on-one time in the job center built three years ago could also be reduced, Doucett said.

Doucett said she was heartened to learn that some citizens have already begun speaking against the proposed cut.

"The (Town Council) can hear from me over and over again," she said. "But it's much more powerful coming from residents who use the library."

It's unclear if councilors will be persuaded, particularly since the reduction could save one or two municipal jobs or other services.

On Monday, Chairwoman Joanne King said the council will take public comment on the proposed budget during its April 26 meeting.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net