Montauk library funding increase approved by voters

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Voters approved the Montauk Public Library request for a $56,460 increase in its revenue stream from school district taxpayers on Saturday, voting 85 to 6 to approve a new total stipend for the library of $652,895 for the 2008-2009 year of operation.

The cost of the district support of the library budget on their tax bills will be $20.42 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up $1.60 per $1,000 from last year. This year’s budget is 9.5 percent higher than last year’s allotment.

The largest portions of the new budget are for salaries, $350,084 for 12 part-time and summer employees; $87,000 for professional fees including lawyers and accountants not on staff, and $25,000 for the capital reserve fund.

Library director Karen Rade explained that, six years ago, the library realized that their employees’ salaries were significantly lower than average salaries in Montauk. Since then, the library has tried to boost workers’ salaries so they are closer to the average.

The library’s capital reserve is supposed to include three to six months of operating funds for the library to use for building repair and other unanticipated and extraordinary expenses.

“The capital reserve fund is the biggest way that we can pay for maintenance,” Ms. Rade said. “You just never know when you’ll need repairs and you’re responsible for the state of the building, which is why we need the capital fund.”

Last year, the library dipped into its capital reserve to replace windows and repair the elevator. The elevator alone cost $38,900, half the reserve fund.

The library’s budget committee, which includes several members of the board of trustees and the library director, is trying to build up the capital fund in the next few years. With the library’s operating costs per year about $480,000, the ideal amount for the capital fund would be between $120,000 and $240,000, Ms. Rade said. Any unused portion of the budget will go into the capital reserve.

Almost all the revenue the library receives is from property taxes in the school district. It receives $1,500 from New York State in local library services aid.

Last year’s budget increase was passed with a vote of 63 to 12. “The voting public has always supported us and we’re grateful for that,” Ms. Rade said.

Loranne Burkey, 74, a full-time Montauk resident for six years, voted for the budget increase. “This is such a valuable library to the community,” Ms. Burkey said. “It has so many services for all ages.”

Some of those services and activities include the summer reading program for kindergarten to sixth-grade students, as well as poetry readings and concerts. The library is also the only one in the area that hosts and discusses American opera. The library’s opera series will run from the end of July to early August.

“We’re a little library often doing things on a grand scale,” Ms. Rade said.

Besides voting for the budget increase, residents returned Susan Raymond and Perry Haberman to their positions as trustees, with 90 votes each.

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