Mike Dignan, director of the Paris Public Library, makes his case for increasing the library budget during the annual town meeting Monday night. Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc

 

PARIS⁠ — At the Paris Town Meeting June 17, Raymond Glover, vice president of the Paris Public Library Board of Trustees, said that over the past two years, the appropriations recommended by the Selectmen have been inadequate.

So Glover made a motion to increase the $175,500 recommended by Selectmen to $179,000 at the Town of Paris Meeting on June 17,. The amendment passed.  Voters approved giving the public library $3,500 more than the recommended $175,000, and the Hamlin Memorial Library $500 more than the $4,000 recommended. 

According to Paris Library Director Mike Dignan, budget-wise, the library tries to run a tight ship, but 90% of the library’s funding comes from town appropriations.

“We (the Library Board of Trustees) have always have tried to be as frugal as possible. The Selectboard is very focused on spending, but we’ve been focused on spending for years. Much of our board is made up of retirees that know money is tight and paying property taxes is hard … as my parents were on fixed income, and property taxes are expensive. I know it’s hard for people to pay, so we’ve always tried to be as frugal as possible,” Dignan said Tuesday.

At the library, above bookshelves, laminate signs in red typeface encouraged patrons to attend the meeting.   

Dignan said that if the budget recommendation from the Selectmen passed, the library would have had to cut services, and wouldn’t have been able to maintain a reasonable wage after new minimum wage is implemented state-wide in January of 2020.

Dignan said the state minimum wage will increase from $11 to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020, meaning every library employee, including some who have worked at the library for 15 years, will only make $1.25 above minimum wage if the extra money the library requested is not approved by voters. Library Director Mike Dignan said the library pays its two full-time and five part-time employees $13.25 an hour.

“Asking them to get a 75 cent raise is not unreasonable,” he said at the town meeting. “If we are held to this amount, the library quite frankly is going to have to cut services. We run a very, very tight budget. There’s no fat, except on me. That’s why the board felt strongly that we should make this case tonight.”

At the meeting, Rusty Brackett, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said selectmen did not recommend the amount requested by the library because it included a 6% raise for two full-time staffers and five part-time staffers, while town employees get a 2% annual raise.

“I’m not saying it’s not deserving, but I’m saying why would it be more than the 2% everybody else gets?” Brackett said.

“I don’t want to turn this into an us vs. them,” Dignan said Tuesday.  “I think the town office staff is great, they’ve always been very helpful and supportive, and I don’t want them to think we’re getting this and we’re getting that. That’s not the point. The point is we work hard, and they work hard, and they should be adequately compensated for their time.”

They have  responsibility to question what we do; that’s just their duty. We understand that. In that instance, we disagreed with them, and asked at Town Meeting for more. They’re doing their job, and we’re trying to do ours,” said Dignan.

But still, the prospect of the up-in-the air funding being continued next fiscal year is troubling to Dignan.

“We’re going to have to be going back next year. When they had the vote last night for the appropriation increase, out of the three Selectmen that were there, two voted against it, and the incoming Selectmen voted against it … that’s going to be sad, troubling,” said Dignan.

Residents at Monday night’s annual town meeting voted to add $200,000 to the Capital Improvement account for roadwork and $4,000 to the Social Services account for the Paris Public and Hamlin Memorial libraries.

Selectmen recommended $720,245 for the Capital Improvement fund. Resident Bob Jewell made a pitch for $200,000 more to cover crumbling roads, particularly sections of Paris Hill Road.

Selectman Gary Vaughn said parts of the road were dug up for construction and not put back properly.

Jewell said the Capital Improvement account has grown over the past three years, but none of the money has been used to address Paris Hill Road issues.

Vaughn said roads are not selected by the population along them or the number of drivers using them. Instead, repairs are based on repair needs.

Jewell said that method ignores the tax base on Paris Hill Road, which has been passed over for repairs for the past three years.

“I think this town should step forward and go with the amended amount to send the selectmen a message that we need this stuff fixed,” Jewell said. “You can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

The amended article passed 38-36.

Former Town Manager Vic Hodgkins said the $200,000 will likely add 60 cents to the town’s tax rate, an amount Selectman John Andrews said could be drastic for some residents.

At the Paris Town Meeting on voters passed an amended budget for the Paris Public Library. Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc


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