Port Jeff and Comsewogue library budgets overwhelmingly passed by community

Port Jeff and Comsewogue library budgets overwhelmingly passed by community

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The children's section of the Port Jefferson Free Library. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The community sent a resounding message of approval for two different library budgets April 4 — a vast majority of voting residents are happy with the services provided by their local libraries and are willing to pay for more.

The Port Jefferson Free Library’s $4.2 million budget passed with a 143 to 10 margin. The 2017-18 financial plan is about 1.2 percent more than last year’s version and will cost homeowners on average about 49 cents more monthly in property taxes compared to last year.

“We are very flattered and pleased at the support we get,” Library Director Tom Donlon said in an email. “This year we juggled a few budget lines around, and tried to focus on where our community wanted us to go. We increased the book budget as well as the programming budget in order to deliver the materials and services that Port Jeff has come to expect.”

More than 1,000 children participated in summer reading programs offered by the library in 2016, and 270,000 items were checked out during the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to a budget newsletter sent out to the community. Library administration was also proud of a teen garden established in 2016, which allowed children and teens to grow vegetables for local soup kitchens. A new, easy-to-use website was launched by the library last year, and the board also plans to update the community on some possible improvements to the facilities coming in the near future.

Additional books and programs, along with an increase in staff salaries, benefits and retirement payments represent the largest drivers of the budget increase. The gap in those increases is closed in large part by a near $200,000 savings compared to last year in transfers to the capital fund and debt services fund. The library also will offer fewer print and nonprint newspapers and periodicals this year.

The Comsewogue Public Library’s budget was passed with 102 yes to 14 no votes. The total operating budget for 2017-18 will be about $5.6 million, up 2.7 percent from last year. Like its Port Jeff counterpart, Comsewogue Public Library’s budget increases can be attributed for the most part to increases in staff salaries and benefits. Additional money was also factored into the current budget for some furniture and equipment upgrades. The library will see a savings in the coming year in computer equipment and supplies, as well as in debt service payments.

The average homeowner in the district will be required to pay about $4 more in taxes for the 2017-18 fiscal year compared to last year.

“The 2017-18 proposed operating budget is designed to ensure that the library continues to provide a high quality service program at a reasonable cost,” a letter to the community from the library said. “The public library serves everyone in the community, from babies to seniors.”

Port Jefferson Station resident and library trustee Edward Wendol was also elected to remain in the position on the board that he’s held since 1972. Wendol, who ran unopposed, has previously served as the board president and was named a Port Times Record Man of the Year in 2003. Library administration said he “has provided guidance and oversight to the organization,” in a letter sent to residents along with an informational budget newsletter.

“I’m very happy to be on it, and I’m happy to be elected continuously,” Wendol said in a phone interview. He added his primary objective in his next term is to move along a heating and air conditioning plan for the library. “I think we’re a good asset to the community.”

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