Library Supporters Fight Proposed Hartford Budget

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    Nariah Broadus, of White River Junction, Vt., looks for a new book to check out on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at the Quechee Public Library in Quechee, Vt. Town Manager Leo Pullar has proposed cuts to the town's library budgets. "Any time there's a cut, then there's choices to make," Broadus said. "It's a real shame." (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Charles Hatcher

  • A flyer informing residents about proposed budget cuts to Hartford town libraries seen on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, at the Quechee Public Library in Quechee, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Charles Hatcher

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    Paula Pitts, of Quechee, Vt., checks a book back into the Quechee Public Library on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Pitts said she has been volunteering at the library for 12 years. "I would hate to see it happen," she said about proposed budget cuts to Hartford libraries. "I think we'd lose a lot of programs and hours." (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Charles Hatcher

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2017 12:16:22 AM
Modified: 12/22/2017 10:30:48 AM

Hartford — Nearly three dozen library supporters asked the Selectboard to turn the page on a proposed budget that would include a 10 percent cut to the funding for various town libraries.

The Selectboard made no decisions about library funding, but members said the decision will be a difficult one in the face of several competing needs in the municipal budget they present to Town Meeting voters in March.

The Quechee Library, Wilder Library, West Hartford Library and Hartford Library, which also operate a reading room in White River Junction, have requested a total of $366,625 in funding, a slight increase from the $360,690 that they receive under the current year’s budget.

A draft budget proposed by Town Manager Leo Pullar includes cuts of 10 percent from the requests of the Hartford, Quechee and Wilder libraries, and an additional $5,000 from the $15,000 currently spent on the White River Junction reading room.

The West Hartford Library, which operates under a different governance structure, is not currently being considered for cuts from its budget request of $59,900; it received about $60,800 in the current budget.

If the Selectboard decides to adopt the cuts, the Hartford Library would lose about $9,700 from its $97,000 request; it was funded at $93,000 in the current year’s budget.

The Quechee Library would lose about $16,600 from its $166,000 request. (It received $163,000 in the current year). And the Wilder Library would lose about $2,900 from its request of $28,900. (It received $28,000 in the current year).

Town officials already have expressed doubt about their ability to bring in a budget beneath a targeted 6.1 percent increase to the municipal tax rate.

Early in the discussion, Selectboard member Alan Johnson said that as he joins his peers in wrestling with the town’s fiscal challenges, he wanted to know more about the impact the proposed cuts would have on the broad range of services that the libraries provide to town residents.

“I’d be surprised if there was anyone on the board that doesn’t have a full and complete appreciation of the value of the services the libraries provide... ,” Johnson said. “I need help from the public. I need to understand what it is we’re going to lose specifically.”

Nadine Hodgdon, director of the Hartford Library, said the town doesn’t fund library services at the same level as other Vermont towns with comparable populations.

“We would likely have to cut staff hours, which would limit our children’s programming. ... We would have to cut our book budget, so we wouldn’t have so many new materials,” she said.

“We will have to make drastic and painful cuts to hours, services, resources and programs,” said Dave Izzo, president of the board of trustees for the Quechee and Wilder libraries.

Izzo, Hodgdon and other library officials stressed how heavily the libraries lean on volunteerism and funding from other sources to provide services that include programming, community meeting space, internet access and support for the town’s home-schooled children. The Quechee and Wilder libraries, for example, rely on an average of 68 volunteer hours each week, according to Izzo.

The public show of support for the library capped a letter-writing campaign that has resulted in an estimated 30 letters urging the Selectboard not to trim library budgets.

Hartford Selectboard Chairman Dick Grassi praised the libraries for supporting one another, which he said is a contrast to previous years in which library officials have striven against each other in a competition for limited municipal funding.

But Grassi offered no assurances that the library budgets would be taken off the chopping block.

“The reason we need to make these tough decisions is in fairness to everybody else,” he said, noting that the town is also struggling with the potential closing of the municipal pool, maintaining sustainable cemetery associations, addressing a crumbling retaining wall near Fairview Terrace, and maintaining town properties including the recently opened Maxfield Sports Complex.

“The Fire Department has come in and said they need at least one more personnel. Communications and police, they need help. And there’s road maintenance, where we always seem to go when we need money,” Grassi said. “As a board, we take this very, very seriously, but everything we do is going to affect people, affect services.”

The Selectboard is in the midst of a series of budget workshops, during which it is hearing presentations from various department heads about possible funding increases and cuts.

A public information night is scheduled for Jan. 8 in the Town Hall, followed by a budget discussion and candidates night on Feb. 26.

The public will vote on the Selectboard’s proposed budget during the March 6 Town Meeting.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at or 603-727-3211.

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