BANGOR, Maine — Facing an unexpected reduction of $39,000 in next year’s budget, the Bangor Public Library has decided to close for six days rather than cut staff hours or salary.
Library Director Barbara MacDade said staff and library board members have debated potential changes at length since city staff informed them of the budget reduction but ultimately settled on furlough days.
“We didn’t want to lay anybody off, but one of the only things left to cut is people,” she said this week.
The $39,000 cut from the library budget was part of $1.3 million that was trimmed for the entire municipal budget to keep the City Council’s promise of a flat tax rate, City Manager Edward Barrett explained.
Some councilors have been approached by library board members and patrons about reconsidering that particular cut, but Council Chair Gerry Palmer said that he and his colleagues were unlikely to change their minds.
“Our job is to set policy for the city manager and staff,” he said. “We gave up the right to cherry-pick the programs we think should be funded or not.”
Councilor Richard Stone agreed.
“At the end of the day, staff members live and breathe the functioning of city hall,” he said. “We’re qualified, but we’re not as knowledgeable about the day-to-day operations, so we have to trust them.”
The library is unique in the sense that it’s the city’s public library but only about 60 percent of its budget comes from the city. The rest comes from state funding and the library’s endowment.
“We are a nonprofit, technically, but we provide a valuable public service to the city,” MacDade said.
The library’s initial proposed budget was just over $2.4 million, about $1.6 million of which would be appropriated by the city. Barrett said the library’s request was a 5 percent increase over the previous year. The $39,000 reduction effectively cut that 5 percent increase down to 2.5 percent.
In other words, the library is still getting more money this year than last. The current library operating budget is exactly the same as the previous year.
MacDade said the library board has not decided which days the library will close in the next fiscal year and likely won’t make that decision until the city budget is officially approved.