Library budget challenges remain

Dear Editor:

Thank you for the recent coverage of the Ellsworth Public Library’s budget prospects heading into next fiscal year [“Library prepares for budget season,” Feb. 3]. The article highlighted well the various complexities of the library’s budget. As a city department, we are funded primarily through municipal sources but have been working to steadily increase our outside sources of funding (fundraising, endowment interest and grants) each year. City funding now represents 80 percent of our total operating budget, down from more than 90 percent five years ago. Our percentage of city funding has steadily declined each of the past five years.

One important detail that we would like to add to the information presented in the article is the fact that we are heading into the budget season already in a funding deficit. The city’s budget cut last year of $83,000 was minimized when city councilors agreed to a one-time carryover of $60,000 in unused FY21 funds. These were one-time cost savings due to COVID and we are not likely to have access to carryover funds this year. While we are grateful that the budget cut was minimized for this year, this means that going into next fiscal year we are facing a $60,000 budget shortfall just to maintain our current level of funding. Unfortunately, our costs have also risen and demand for our services continues to grow, so we will not be able to maintain our services with a level budget. The shortfall going into next year is significant, and we are hopeful that our current City Council will recognize the importance of library services to our growing community.

As the elected governing body for the library, the Ellsworth Public Library Board of Trustees is committed to responsible stewardship of public funds in order to best serve the needs of our community. The library director is responsible for managing library operations within the budget parameters set by the board. We look forward to the budget workshop with Ellsworth City Council this spring.

Amy Wisehart

Director, Ellsworth Public Library

S. Craig MacDonald

Chairman, Ellsworth Public Library Board of Trustees

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