Library, youth services face deep budget cuts

Selectmen are pouring over budgets with a fine-toothed comb. Last night it was Southborough Youth and Family Services and the library, among others, that were on the chopping block.

Selectmen proposed a 4.5% decrease in the library budget, which would mean a loss of $18K to the library. Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf called the cut “fair.”

But Library Trustee Betsy Rosenbloom said reducing the budget that much would put the library’s state certification in jeopardy. The state requires that towns fund their libraries a minimum amount in order for them to be certified. In Southborough’s case, that minimum amount is just shy of $400K. The 4.5% cut proposed by selectmen would bring the library’s budget down to $384K.

In order to retain their certification, the library would have to apply for a waiver from the state. Rosenbloom said as long as the state feels the library budget is not being cut disproportionally to other town budgets, they’re likely to receive the waiver. Libraries need to be certified in order to participate in reciprocal borrowing with other libraries.

Library Director Jane Cain said if Southborough has to apply for a waiver this year, as far as she knows, it will be the first time ever.

“Each year our portion of the town budget goes down, and each year we come to you showing that our usage is up,” Trustee Fred Williams told selectmen. “It’s hard to do more with less.”

Southborough Youth and Family Services
At $127K, the SYFS budget is not huge by town standards, but even so, they may be asked to carry a larger than average share of the fiscal burden.

Phaneuf proposed eliminating $17K from the department’s budget. That’s a reduction of more than 13%.

“$17,000 is an enormous cut to our little budget,” Laurie Sugarman-Whittier said. She said among other things, the reduction would force SYFS to eliminate their summer program for kids and cut hours for the department’s assistant director.

“It would have a huge impact on what we could offer the most vulnerable members of this community,” Sugarman-Whittier said.

Phaneuf suggested the department might be able to save money by refering families to state-provided social services instead of providing them directly. She called some of the services SYFS provides “a duplication of services.”

Phaneuf also said there maybe other ways to fund the summer program, and suggested Sugarman-Whittier talk with the town’s Trust Fund Committee.

For their part, selectmen Bill Boland and Sal Giorlandino said they weren’t comfortable with such a steep cut. “I am very apprehensive about cutting this budget too far given the time we’re in now,” Boland said.

Both Boland and Giorlandino recommended cuts in the 3-4% range.

Other budgets
There were proposed cuts to other budgets last night, too, including police, fire, and DPW. I’ll tell you more about those in a future post.

Selectmen will continue their budget discussions at a special Thursday meeting next week. By that time they also hope to have firmer budget numbers from the schools.

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Al Hamilton
14 years ago

Here is a quick snapshot of one of the budget scenarios that is being evaluated. It involves pretty steep cuts in municipal budgets but keeps the schools at the requested levels. The school budget shows a 1.9% increase due to the fact that school debt service declines.

It should be apparent that the biggest problem is not on the expense side but on the income side with a very substantial decline in other income (this includes a $500k transfer from stabilization or it would be even worse. The big drivers are reductions in free cash, overlay reserve and transfers from stabilization.

Note that this scenario still requires a prop 2.5 override.

This is merely a snapshot and a scenario. The advisory committee has not finished its work vetting the budgets

Budget Snapshot ($000) Steep Municipal Cuts Scenario
2010 2011 Pct Chg
Municipal Budget 15,979 15,169 -5.3%
School Budget 29,273 29,842 1.9%
Total 45,252 45,011 -0.5%

Prop. Taxes within Prop 2.5 30,938 32,464 4.7%
Prop. 2.5 Override 314 100.0%
Other Sources 14,314 12,233 -17.0%
Total 45,252 45,011 -0.5%

Total Property Taxes 30,938 32,778 5.6%

Property Tax on a Median Home $7,823 $8,250 5.2%
a Median Home

Steep Cuts in Warrant Articles
Steep Cuts in Municipal Services
$500k from Stabilization towards K-8 Schools
No Funding from Telecoms Money in Overlay Reserve

De M
14 years ago

Prop 2 1/2 override? Again? If there is an income problem then there is a spending problem.
We can’t override 2 1/2 forever and keep raising taxes. Private schools don’t offer several things public schools do. Extras should be exactly that. Children can learn in larger classrooms if they want to learn. That is, if teachers are allowed to do their jobs and not have to be babysitter,cop and parent. We were over budget a few years ago with the new schools and renovations. How much more can we really spend to make it be enough? RE values have dropped and people are digging out from the economic disaster. In the past it seems we voted every override that came along. Maybe we need to do without for a little while and see exactly if and how we survive. And then we can take a fresh look at the situation.

John Boiardi
14 years ago
Reply to  De M

De M,

Consider the following. If the school committee votes for an increased budget (pick a % ,it doen’t matter). As Al Hamilton outlines in previous posts that an override will be needed in any budget scenario to date. Should the override fail, which is highly likely in this economic enviornment, then the town would be forced to cut the budget by the amount of the override currently estimated at $900,000. The school budget approved by the school committee would be untouchable. Therfore the $900k cut would have to come from the other town budgets. We would probably have to cut police/fire and DPW. So we would maitain our precious student/teacher ratio, while police may be slow to respond, we will probably only have one ambulance, box calls for the fire department would be hampered and the pot holes in our streets will enlarge. Yes I get it. Why should the schools sacrifice temporarily until the economy recovers. I love to eat cake.

14 years ago

Ridiculous. More unfunded state mandates in the topic oif the library. Again, selectmen should stick to tought decisions and and we will support you. Tell the state to go to h___ and we support you. the well is dry folks. Bonnie is doing the right thing. We already have five libraries in the schools. If people want to read let them buy their own kindle and downloads. Buy used books like we do. And as far as family assistnaace this and that. get a life. If you made mistakes in your personal decisions then deal with it but dont keep coming to me the working tax payer for more dough. I bet they have cable dont they? And De M is right on the school thing. if the wealthy parents want all their serivces then let them pay for them. Or move to wayland where the taxes are 40% higher. if they dont like it move. And why the heck do you need an assistant SYS Whittier? Dont cry me a river, we cant pay any more and it needs to stop. why are we subsidizing summer programs? let the parents do what they are intended to do and take care of their own kids. This is maddening. Dog gone nanny state. If you want a nanny get your own and pay for it. if you dont want to dont have children. But dont ask me to take care of another child in this state I did not father.

Kathryn Marous
14 years ago

Without commenting on the difficult budget decisions the town is facing, I’d like to make a few points:
I love our town library. Kim Ivers does a great job fostering a love of reading for children in our town. There are no school libraries available to preschoolers outside of the Finn preschool (which has a limited enrollment). The Finn school library only allows 1 book per week and the Woodward only allows 2.
Southborough Youth and Family Services already lost an employee in 2009. I have seen some of the thank you letters they have received for helping families with uninsured prescription costs, heating bills and basic clothing needs and the notes are heartbreaking.
I have also been the beneficiary of the wonderful police and fire departments in our town and I think they are amazing. No one who has been through the police station can argue that it is not in dire need of renovation.
Finally, I think all children want to learn, some just learn differently than others, and a large class can be devastating to some kids. My three children have all had wonderful teachers who did ‘do their job,’ even in the face of challenges.
The cuts have to come from someplace Even if we cannot pay for everything, the departments are still doing important things. I don’t know what the answer is to these tough budget calls, but I know this: Southborough is not a ‘nanny state.’ Most of the parents I know in this town DO take care of their own kids. We are all neighbors here and the people of this town have been wonderful to me. Let’s not forget: We are all in this together.

14 years ago
Reply to  Kathryn Marous

Hear, hear, Kathryn. Many moms I know agree with you. Good points.

@mike: “Let the parents do what they are intended to do and take care of their own kids.”
Please elaborate. At first I was offended and was going to shoot off a snippy reply … but then I thought that maybe I’m making assumptions. So – what do you mean? And what is a “nanny state”? I am not a nanny and don’t have one. If Southborough is supplying nannies, sign me up. ;-)

14 years ago

I would like to ask why we are considering cutting the Library and Youth Serivces but the Town Recreation Department budget has offered a small 3% decrease in their town funding request from last year. The Recreation Department is not self funded as has been previously suggested and indeed receives over $100,000 in support from the Town each year. With such tough times, I would rather keep an additional teacher in the school system and sacrifice some of the fun stuff. It would be easy to re-expand the Recreation Department in the future as the economy turns around.

Sue Grinblatas
14 years ago

As a regular user of the Southborough library for the past 12 years (yes, I’m a newcomer as I’ve only lived in this town for 12 years), I cannot say enough about what the library adds to our community. Yes, maybe many of the families in Southborough could purchase a Kindle for their preschoolers, and school kids could do their research projects solely on Wikipedia, and seniors who do not own a computer and have no income to buy books and movies, well, they can go to the Senior Center until we cut that, too. With all due respect to our fabulous library staff (truly great), the Southborough library is an embarassment. Towns that many of Southborough’s residents would never deign to live in and that have lower per capita income have far superior libraries. Examples include Hudson, Marlboro, Framingham, Natick. The only thing more embarassing than the scantness of our library’s resources would be to due away with it. One way to offset the some of the library’s budget is for the library crack down on all overdue materials (myself included) and that we allow the funds to be kept as part of the library’s budget rather than going into the general town coffers.

14 years ago

“…SYFS to eliminate their summer program for kids..” Why in the world is SYFS in the business of running summer program and teen nights? Wasn’t this all once a part of the Recreation? If it isn’t, shouldn’t those functions be consolidated so SYFS can concentrate on providing services to families in need?

Hats off to Bonnie for holding the line. If the Library can absorb a 3% cut and NOT plan to cut staff or hours, well perhaps the cut should be substantially more! EVERY town department has some fat.

Last – absolutely cut the school budge to the bone until the teachers give back. Shame on the school committee for being fear mongers about this budget. Ifthe teachers gave back, there would not be a tax increase.


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