PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors have restored some funding to the Plattsburgh City Library budget for now.
The 2014 budget plan presented Oct. 1 by Mayor Donald Kasprzak had slated $751,000 for the library, which is $120,000 short of what it received for this year.
At a recent budget meeting, councilors and councilors-elect expressed concern that the library would be underfunded.
Councilor-elect Rachelle Armstrong said that if at least half of the $120,000 were not restored, it could affect the library's ability to pay its employees under the union contract they have with the city.
"I would also like to have more information about what operations at the library that other $60,000 is needed for," she said.
Councilor and Mayor-elect James Calnon said that restoring the library's funding would drastically cut into the city's general fund balance, which he said is already dangerously low.
It would also leave the library budget with a higher fund-balance percentage than the city's general-fund balance.
"I'm uncomfortable with that," he said.
Library Director Anne de la Chappelle said that about $500,000 of the library's budget goes for salaries. The rest of the funding goes for programs and maintenance of the building.
"There just aren't a lot of things to cut," she said.
Councilor-elect Becky Kasper said she wanted to restore at least $60,000 and consider adding more.
AT TAX CAP
The outgoing council has been working on the budget since the mayor presented it. It does not have to be approved until Jan. 15, 2014.
The new councilors take office on Jan. 1, and the Common Council will probably vote on the budget at the Jan. 9 meeting, Calnon said.
"The new council can make changes to the budget, but any increases in spending without corresponding savings or revenues could mean they will flirt with exceeding the tax cap," he said.
The state cap for tax-levy increases is based at 1.66 percent but can be adjusted for a variety of factors. Under the formula, the city's cap for 2014 is 2.32 percent.
Kasprzak's budget proposal calls for a tax-levy increase of exactly 2.32 percent. It also features a tax rate of $10.59 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is down 1.5 percent.
The $54 million plan uses about $1.8 million in fund balance to keep the tax-levy down, leaving the city's general-fund balance at about $722,000, which is about 3 percent of the general fund, below the state-recommended 5 to 10 percent.
The library is different from other Plattsburgh departments in that it is funded by the city but run by an independent Board of Directors. The setup is required by the City Charter.
Calnon said the library saved money last year because it went four months without a director after Stanley Ransom retired.
He said he would support adding $60,000 to the library budget and suggested the library use money from its fund balance to restore the additional $60,000 that was cut in the mayor's spending plan.
"I think the library can maintain the same level of service," Calnon said.
When asked if the library could operate without the final $60,000, de la Chappelle said it could.
"We could live without it," she said.
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