The Long Beach Public Library has proposed a 2.4 percent budget increase for 2011-12, citing the rising costs in health insurance and contributions to the state retirement system.
The proposal, which was unanimously approved by the library’s board of trustees on March 30 and is up for public vote on May 17, shows a budget increase of about $79,000, from the current $3,227,173 to $3,306,100.
The library is seeking a 2.6 percent hike in the amount of taxes it needs to raise to support the proposed budget.
The hike is driven mainly by health insurance, which is going up from $270,137 to $292, 951, and the NYS Employees Retirement System, from $180,210 to $219,162.
Without those two components the budget increase would drop to under 1 percent, said George Trepp, the library’s director for 30 years. During the past two years, the budget increase averaged 1.52 percent and the tax hike 1.56 percent.
“Those two line items still drove the budget,” Trepp said of retirement and health.
The library actually managed to reduce the health insurance hike from 13 percent to 8 percent by having some employees opting out and others contributing more, Trepp said. Budgeting for the retirement system depends on the performance of the stock market a year ago. “That’s obviously beyond our control,” Trepp said.
He said the tax rate would not be set until August when the county’s property assessments are known, but the estimated monthly library tax is expected to be $15.04 for each homeowner, based on 2010 assessed valuations. Trepp, a Long Beach resident, said he paid about $180 this past year in library taxes and doesn’t see any homeowner shelling out more than $300.
“I think it’s very cost-beneficial to taxpayers,” said Trepp, who added that residents could assess the library’s value to them by using the calculator on the library’s website.
Library officials have looked at different ways of saving money, including the installation of solar panels on the third floor of the building to cut down on heating costs. The total $106,000 project, which was completed in September, cost the library $10,000 after a LIPA rebate and construction grants, Trepp said. LIPA has increased its fuel delivery charge almost 2 percent so the solar panels will come in handy, he said.
The library has managed to swing discounts on DVDs and other purchases as well, he added.
For the next year, the library has decided to shift some of its resources from print to non-print and programming, the director said.
“I think for our solid core of readers we have budgeted sufficiently,” said Trepp, whose library boasts 28,000 cardholders. “We have funding to satisfy the demands of our readers.”
To keep up with demand, though, the library has budgeted more for DVDs, CDs, recorded books and electronic books.
“I think it’s a great budget considering the rise in health insurance and the retirement system,” said trustee Fran Adelson. “I think it’s a very solid budget considering the economic times and the value the library gives to the community.”
Adelson said the library has received a 26 percent reduction in state aid over the last two years.
Library events that are scheduled include a cabaret festival, blues festival, jazz festival, Folk 2 Funk Festival and even a hip-hop program. The library also runs many important events such as a job fair, which is slated for May 24 at 10 a.m. The fair is being run in conjunction with the school district’s Adult Learning Center.
In addition to the budget, registered voters will be asked to fill two trustee seats and both candidates, Carol Arnone and Ira Grushack, are running unopposed. Eugene Colon retired from the board after serving eight years, leaving three years remaining on his most recent term. Adelson decided not to run for reelection after 10 years on the board, leaving a five-year seat open.
The candidate who receives the most votes will win the five-year seat and the runner-up will be given the three-year term.