The Board of Trustees is dismayed by the decision by City Council to cut $100,000 from the Ellsworth Public Library’s Fiscal Year 21 budget, and particularly in the way that public statements by city councilors mischaracterize the use of the Library by non-residents. As was discussed at a meeting of the Board of Trustees earlier this year, the Library has already changed the policy to require surrounding towns to either (1) contribute a standardized per capita fee for use of the Ellsworth Public Library by their own residents, or (2) the Library will charge each resident of that town the standard non-resident card fee. In fact, the surrounding towns have, for the most part, been paying into the Library operations budget for many years; it has never been the Library’s policy for surrounding towns and residents to use the Library for free. The City Council had already expressed a desire to see a greater contribution of funding from surrounding towns, and this plan was designed specifically in reaction to that conversation. The new policy will take effect October 1, 2020. Library trustees originally approved this policy to take effect July 1, but due to the COVID pandemic decided to postpone implementation by three months because of the hardship it would impose on many of our longstanding patrons and community members, and the fact that many towns have simply not been able to hold town meetings and vote on this change to their funding.
Decreasing the city-provided funding by this amount will necessarily reduce the entire Library budget. The $100,000 shortfall cannot be made up by user fees, and is likely to result in significant reduction of Library services. After the Library Board’s December 17 meeting with both Councilors Phillips and Hamilton, we proactively removed more than $34,000 from the budget to avoid this situation, as they had already mentioned the possibility of a six-figure reduction. This made for a $57,000 decrease from the 2019 budget. At a time when so many community members are in desperate need of Library services, The Board of Trustees believes that this action by the City Council will harm children, adults, and senior members of Ellsworth. There remain many possible solutions to the Council’s need to decrease the overall City budget, and propose that a smaller percentage across City departments may be a more fair and equitable way to decrease city funding.
It is our sincere hope that this decision is reversed, and we are grateful to the residents of Ellsworth and surrounding towns for expressing their own dismay.
Board of Trustees, Ellsworth Public Library