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Library To Spend Down Fund Balance By 2024



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The C.H. Booth Library Board of Trustees plans to utilize all its surplus funds by the end of the 2024 fiscal year according to minutes from the April 18 Board of Trustees meeting.

The decision comes in the wake of an April Legislative Council decision to deny a requested increase in the library’s budget and instead grant it $100,000 less in the 2023-24 budget year than it received in the 2022-23 budget year.

The library will be using $168,000 of its surplus to supplement its operating budget, replacing both the $100,000 less it’s getting than its previous year’s request, as well as the additional money it had asked for as an increase. The library’s initial ask of the town was $60,000 more than its previous year’s budget; however, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal reduced that to a $40,000 increase

The Board of Selectmen then cut it to a $20,000 increase and the Board of Finance cut it to a $10,000 increase, before the Legislative Council removed the increase entirely and cut their budget request by an additional $100,000.

Library Board of Trustees member Don Studley said that the board “heard loud and clear the council’s comments about our large fund balance so we developed a plan to use our surplus funds over the next year.”

Library Director Douglas Lord told The Newtown Bee that the board of trustees and the council have been in discussion for the past three years on the best way to proceed with the library’s surplus. Lord said that while the library is an “outside agency” it is also the town’s library, and not wholly separate like a YMCA or the Lake Authorities.

“At the same time, we’re grateful for the roughly 85 percent of our operating budget we get from the town each year,” said Lord.

Lord says the library does need to keep some amount of money as a reserve, as it is not a town budget, but he does acknowledge that the library is covered by town insurance and the town has been paying for large capital projects.

With the library spending $168,000 of its reserve to plug this year’s budget, Lord expressed concern over a “fiscal cliff,” as the cut to their budget means that they need $100,000 to get back to their budget from two years ago and haven’t seen an increase in years. Now the library will not have a fund balance to help cover the gap if the town continues to cut its budget.

“This will be a hard year but I’m more concerned with the future,” said Lord. “The delta between what the library needs to run and what it is receiving is getting larger over time.”

Lord said the library gives the town a “large bang for its buck” with the services it provides, saving townspeople roughly $4 million per year in resources borrowed from the library instead of purchased.

Studley said the rest of the reserve would be used by spending about $200,000 to cover current capital projects that the town’s CIP is not covering, and to retain ten percent of its annual budget in an operating reserve as proposed by the Board of Finance’s new policy on fund balances.

“We think we have developed a thoughtful plan that both addresses the council’s concerns and allows the Library to operate without a significant cut in services,” said Studley.

Lord said that it was good that the Legislative Council “lit this fire,” and that the library understands the demands on the taxpayers given recent financial hardships. Library representatives plan to go to the council at a future meeting to discuss the library’s plan to use its fund balance.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

After a succession of spending increases were eliminated by elected officials and a further reduction totaling $100,000 was removed from the C.H. Booth Library’s 2023-24 budget request, the library’s trustees agreed to spend down a corresponding fund balance of $100,000 by 2024. —Bee file photo
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