Voters will have their say Tuesday on the Albany Public Library’s roughly $7 million budget proposal for 2019.
Albany Public Library Executive Director Scott Jarzombek says the spending plan would increase the total tax levy by 2 percent, meaning a home assessed at $150,000 would pay about $4.89 more for an estimated annual payment of $250.
“We loan about 57,000 books, we see about 66,000 visitors, we host about 5,000 people at APL programs at community events and we offer up to 700 meeting rooms. This is not in a year, this is in one month,” says Jarzombek.
The more than $7.1 million budget, which goes before voters May 15, was approved by the Albany Public Library Board of Trustees on March 13. Board President Karen Strong said in a statement: “People continually ask us for more service hours, more programs and activities, more digital books and materials, and more meeting room availability. The 2019 budget allows our libraries to meet those needs.”
At an information session Monday at the Pine Hills branch on Western Avenue, Jarzombek said under the spending plan the Pine Hills and Howe branches would open earlier and the Washington Avenue location would stay open later four nights a week. He also said the library received a clean audit from the state comptroller last year.
“I think that shows a commitment to fiscal responsibility. Also due to careful and prudent stewardship, when we refinanced our bonds, the library got a credit rating from AA1 for Moody Investor Services. It’s the credit rating that most cities get,” says Jarzombek.
Jarzombek says 90 percent of the library’s operating budget is paid for by taxpayer dollars so it is vital to keep the community informed and continually ask for input. Following public outcry over the possible closure of the North Albany location, the proposed budget keeps the branch open while the nine-member library board continues discussions with staff and the public about how to best serve the neighborhood. Jarzombek says use at the North Albany branch has declined. He adds modern library services offered at the other branches are not easy to implement at the North Albany site.
“It’s a small room, it is not much bigger than this program room. There’s no study rooms, there’s no program space. When the librarians there do programing, they do it at a table right in front of the circulation desk,” says Jarzombek.
Branch Manager Rebecca Lubin says one community request is children’s reading programs that are easier to fit into parents’ schedules.
“Twice a month is the bedtime story times, we call ‘Juice and Jammies.’ Also we have Saturday family story time that is going to be once a month. Some of the responses to the community might be created over time, more programming for adults,” says Lubin. “Building on the collaborations we have with the North Albany Academy and the Albany International Center.”
Lubin says library board members and residents are brainstorming ideas to boost branch visits.
The library vote is held in conjunction with the City School District of Albany’s board and budget vote on Tuesday, May 15. There are no library trustee positions up for election this year.