ELLSWORTH — Supporters of the Ellsworth Public Library plan to gather before a budget workshop at City Hall on Thursday evening to “make a visible public statement” in support of the library, which is facing a $100,000 budget cut.
The demonstration is planned from 5 to 6 p.m. on the lawn next to City Hall on State Street, across from the library. Participants are asked to bring signs and wear masks.
The meeting will be a discussion between library trustees and city councilors about the “rationale which prompted the recommendation to reduce library funding,” according to the agenda. The meeting is slated to start at 6 p.m. at City Hall but will not be open to the public due to restrictions on gathering sizes; it will be streamed on the City of Ellsworth, Maine Facebook page and YouTube page, as well as recorded and made available live on Spectrum Channel 1303.
Trustees and councilors will discuss the proposed $100,000 budget cut, “review data” and look into “opportunities and barriers to achieving the stated goal,” according to the agenda. No formal actions or votes are planned.
Councilors decided unanimously last month to cut $100,000 from the city’s appropriation to the library, reasoning that surrounding communities should pay more to be able to use library services.
While most towns whose residents use the library do make a contribution, those contributions bring in only $40,000 or so total. That figure has remained unchanged for several years, said Councilor John Phillips at a meeting in June, and doesn’t look likely to change unless towns are forced.
“Without them being forced to pay more, they’re not going to,” said Phillips. “This is kind of a frill to the other governments, the other towns.”
But trustees have said they were surprised by the amount of the cut and had already made reductions and planned to implement cardholder fees in an effort to bolster outside support. Library Director Amy Wisehart said last month that to her knowledge, “Library trustees never heard directly from City Council about plans to cut the budget to this extent.”
“That is pretty dramatic,” said Wisehart. She said if the funding cut does go through, it’s likely that cuts would “have to come from the expense side,” in the form of hours, programming and staffing.
“There’s not a lot we can make up in revenue,” Wisehart said. “We’re months past where we could possibly request any more from the towns. Those deadlines were pre-COVID.”