This past October the Library held a Community Conversation and Open House week to present its recently completed Strategic Plan to the community. President of the Board Nick Kepple and several Trustees including Kate Randolph, Allegra Griffiths and Denise Easton reported on the goals of the Strategic Plan, the Library’s financial situation and a proposed addition to the building to make the Library accessible and ADA compliant.
Since the Community Conversation, the Library has continued an advocacy campaign to town leaders and submitted two funding requests to the town. The first request was for an increase to the Library’s annual municipal funding, which supports Library operations. The Library’s current annual budget (2017-2018) is $568,009. Funding sources are the Annual Appeal ($177,000), the Town of Stonington ($147,000), the Borough of Stonington ($24,000), the endowment draw ($152,109) and other income ($67,900). The Library requested a 75% increase to annual funding from the town for fiscal year 2018-19, as the current funding model cannot support the 21st century library requested by the community during the strategic planning process. The requested increase would put Stonington on a path toward a funding level consistent with libraries in comparable communities.
The second request was for town capital improvement funds to assist with making the building accessible and ADA compliant. The estimated cost of the building project is $420,000. The Library asked the town to fund two-thirds of the project or $280,000 with the Library raising the remaining $140,000 privately. The addition would redesign the entrance on the east side of the building with a new ramp, elevator and accessible bathrooms on both levels, while also allowing the repurposing of the middle rooms of the Library.
After submitting these two requests, Library board, staff and supporters attended and advocated for the Library at a number of Board of Finance meetings between January and April. The Library recognizes that the town is coping with numerous factors in crafting a budget for fiscal year 2018-2019. Uncertainty about state funding levels, increasing debt service and the tax impact of the recent town-wide revaluation are but a few of the challenges.
Given these uncertainties, the Library thanks the town profusely for supporting its accessibility and ADA compliance project at a total of $50,000. An annual funding increase was not received, but we thank town leaders for signaling their recognition of the need to reconsider the town’s level of support to the Library and for their willingness to continue the conversation towards a solution to meet the needs of the residents we both serve. In the meantime, the Library will continue to tirelessly (and creatively) pursue private sector support. All recent efforts to educate the community about the Library’s financial constraints and increase annual operating revenue work toward Goal C of the Strategic Plan: Ensure the sustainability of the Stonington Free Library for future generations.