NEW GLOUCESTER — The New Gloucester Public Library may lose 28% of its operating budget in the coming fiscal year, trustees were told Monday night.

Chairman Tim Terranova said interim Town Manager Paul First advised him that every town department is taking a hit because of a $550,000 spending gap in the 2020-21 municipal budget.

The budget is not available to the public. Selectmen expect to finalize it Thursday, hand it to the Budget Committee for review Feb. 19 and 24-26, and bring it to a public hearing March 5.

About 15 people attended Monday’s trustees meeting to express their concerns about the library’s future.

Budget Committee member Penny Hilton said selectmen are taking a number of steps to reduce the library’s funds, including cutting hours of operation from 40 to 30 per week and reducing the hours for the assistant librarian. The reduction in service would impact part-time librarian Carla McAllister’s position and, if approved, eliminate her benefits.

Though salaries are in the library budget, benefits in the municipal budget.

This year’s library budget is $106,000. Trustees are asking for $116,000 for 2020-21, Terranova said, to compensate the longtime library director and assistant librarian for their years of service.

“There is a clear lack of understanding what we do,” he said. “We’re advisory to the town and we’re not an association. This library is a town department.

“The library has been asked to cut before,” he said. “The library is a continuous target and we successfully dealt with it in the past and hope we will again.”

Trustees are working on dealing with potential cuts and plan to address the Budget Committee and selectmen about the differences between trustees, Friends of the Library and volunteers, and library service.

This year, the library loaned 14,180 books, magazines and movies, provided passes to local attractions through funds raised by the Friends group, provided public access computers and Wi-Fi service, and provided 1,700 volunteer hours of service.

“The library is the fabric of this town,” resident Richard Vieira said. “This is one of the tangible things that makes the community.”

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