BAR HARBOR — Councilors unanimously approved a $54,656 increase in the town appropriation for the Jesup Memorial Library in the next fiscal year’s budget Tuesday, subject to final approval through the budget process and at town meeting.
The Jesup is a private nonprofit organization but has always received a portion of its operating budget from the town. “It’s a private institution but a public library without secrets,” library treasurer Tom Crikelair said.
The town’s library contribution per resident is far less than in neighboring towns, according to a memo to councilors from the Jesup board of directors and its director, Ruth Eveland.
The Southwest Harbor Public Library currently receives $31.04 per resident, the Northeast Harbor Public Library receives $31.17 and the Ellsworth library receives $26.65.
The Jesup receives $3.80.
The current budgeted town contribution is $20,344, and the council approved a jump to $75,000 in fiscal year 2018.
Councilor Matt Hochman said he wondered about that disparity when serving on the Warrant Committee. “I was always told, ‘Well, they didn’t ask,’” he said.
He said the library’s collections, services and programs are bigger and better than when he was growing up here. “Now there are e-books and audiobooks that you can access with your library card, and online materials for learning dozens of languages.”
The library representatives also are requesting an increase the following year, to an annual $150,000 appropriation. Councilor Gary Friedmann asked if it would be possible to spread the increase over three years instead of two. Crikelair said one of the board’s goals is to slow down what’s now an unsustainable draw from the Jesup’s endowment. With the two-year move to a $150,000 town contribution, they’ll be drawing 5.8 percent. “It should be four percent,” he said.
He also said the library has adopted a fund accounting budgeting system and invited town finance director Stan Harmon to join the board’s finance committee, “so there’s no question as to what we’re doing with the town’s money.”
The Jesup also is engaged in a capital campaign for a planned major expansion. Board chair Ron Beard said the institution does not plan to ask for any town support in that effort.