BERLIN — The Berlin Public Library was the main focus of what was a light budget session for the city council Monday night.
The fiscal 2020 library budget request is $203,501, up $3,208 or 1.6 percent. Most of the increase comes in salary and health insurance costs.
Librarian Denise Jensen reported that 21,657 people walked through the library doors in fiscal 2018. She said 213 new library cards were issued, making a total of 4,129 library members.
The library put on 383 sessions of children’s program that drew 1,400 kids and 830 adults. Including Jensen there are three full-time and three part-time staff including a janitor. There are three other staffers who work on a per diem basis as needed.
Services include books, microfilm, movies, audiobooks, fax and copier, on-line catalog, New Hampshire downloadable audio book consortium, access to newspapers, journals, magazines and academic searches though the N.H. State Library. The library also has 10 adult computers and three children's computers available for research, homework, on-line tax information and banking, plus one Wi-Fi connection.
Jensen pointed out that the library budget represents less that half of 1 percent of the total city budget. She said a recent patron who used the library for a week told her how much he appreciated having a nice quiet place to work.
“Libraries are the only place left where you can go and don’t have to buy something or believe something,” Jensen said the patron told her at the end of the week.
City Manager James Wheeler said he eliminated any capital improvement funding for the library because the city is having a comprehensive assessment of the 1903 building done. The city is reviewing proposals for the assessment. He said the assessment is not likely to be done in time to do a project this year. The N.H. Preservation Alliance is providing $4,500 for the assessment, and the city has $10,000 appropriated for it. The Berlin library is a so-called Carnegie Library, one of many across the nation funded by a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Endowment Fund.
The council also reviewed the administration, mayor and council, and airport budgets.
The mayor and council budget of $71658 shows no increase. The bulk of that budget is the $60,000 city audit. Salaries for the mayor and eight-member council total $8,600. The administration budget request of $996,483 shows a decrease of $27,476 or 2.7 percent. Wheeler explained a retirement will allow the city to reduce a full-time position to part-time status.
The city manager said he will be meeting with Eversource officials to discuss the Smart Start Program. The city entered into an agreement with Eversource in 2017 to changing lighting in city buildings to the more efficient LED lighting with savings covering the upgrades. Wheeler said, however, the city is not seeing a reduction, and in fact, the cost is up slightly.
Berlin Regional Airport Manager Marcel Leveille presented a budget of $200,136 with an increase of $43,691 or 28 percent. Mayor Paul Grenier suggested Leveille get together with the city manager to revise the budget. Grenier said he could not support an increase of that size.
The council was scheduled to discuss requests by outside agencies Wednesday night and next Wednesday, March 20, will review the public works budget.