NAUGATUCK — A plan to slash hours at the Whittemore Library was averted after officials shifted money around in the budget.
In June the library announced that it would be cutting the number of hours it’s open each week from 44 to 29 starting July 1. The cuts included closing on Mondays and Thursdays.
Slashing the hours was part of several cuts planned to balance the library’s 2014-15 budget. According to library officials, an additional $68,000 is needed in order to maintain the status quo this year.
Library Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Marenghi said closing Mondays and Tuesdays would have saved $22,000.
However, Marenghi said, after the cut in hours was announced there was an outcry from library patrons.
“We shouldn’t be punishing our patrons. That’s what it was coming down to,” Marenghi said.
Last Friday, the library announced that most of the hours planned to be cut will be restored, including hours on Monday and Thursday. The library will be open 41 hours a week.
The library’s new hours are 12 to 6 p.m. on Mondays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Marenghi said the library was able to restore the hours by moving $20,000 from its repair and maintenance budget.
“In the past few years we did not go near the $27,000 we have set aside for repairs. Barring any major disaster we should be OK,” Marenghi said.
Marenghi acknowledged that if something major happens, such as a significant storm, money would have to be moved back into the repair and maintenance budget. If that happens, he said, the library could have to revisit its hours.
“We are gambling on [actual numbers from previous years] that we can cut $20,000,” Marenghi said. “This is something to get us through this year, and it’s not the best way of going about things. We will have to reassess at the end of the year.”
Despite shifting money to restore hours, the library is still implementing some cost-saving measures to cover the shortfall. There will be no raises for library staff, and employees covered by the library’s health insurance will pay a premium share in addition to office co-pays and a deductible.
“All the programming will be funded through fundraising. There is no money set aside for programming,” Marenghi added.
The joint boards of mayor and burgesses and finance approved giving the library $582,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, which is an increase of $5,000. The increase is the first the library has received in a number of years. The budget does not include about $21,000 set aside for capital projects at the library.
The library will also receive an additional $166,500 from the Whittemore Trust.
The borough will also provide snow removal for the library this year which, according to Marenghi, will save at least $2,100.
“We discussed the possibility of in-kind assistance during the budget process, and are open to further collaboration, which would help the library while not burdening taxpayers,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “Mr. Marenghi is an articulate and passionate advocate for our library, and this would not have happened without his willingness to work together in a creative and cooperative manner.”
Marenghi was thankful for the help. However, he was concerned the library would not be able to offer as many programs and may lose staff, since it cannot afford to give them raises.
“In a nutshell we are still way underfunded. We are not going to grow in the manor you’d like to see it grow,” Marenghi said.