Woodstock Library trustees voted last Thursday for a November vote on the bond for a new building. Despite some reservations about the economy, trustees decided it was best to continue with the timeline for a new 12,000-square-foot building. Any resolution to the current condition of the building is going to require a bond.
“The real question is do we do something about the library building now or do we wait until the future,” trustee Jeff Collins said at the June 18 trustee meeting. He noted the cost of borrowing money is low and a construction project in the heart of Woodstock will stimulate the economy. “It is time to move forward,” he said.
Though Collins didn’t have exact numbers, he said the cost to the average taxpayer less than $6 per month. The construction cost is estimated at $4.4 million and the architecture contract is about $585,000, bringing the total to nearly $5 million. This doesn’t include costs such as furnishings, security, telecommunications infrastructure or a temporary library.
“I’m on the fence,” said Barry Miller, who abstained from the vote on the timeline.“I think we live in a bubble. We are so immersed in wanting to do this, we don’t see what is happening across the country. The pandemic is spreading.” Miller was worried about people moving here, then losing work if the economy crashes.
Trustee Liz Rosen said things might get worse if it is delayed. “I really see us possibly going into a real recession and maybe things getting worse in the next few years, and therefore, this might be the better time to propose rather than waiting for a deeper economic problem,” she said.
While unemployment has increased dramatically, trustee Bobby Bui said, things can look different in several months. We’re just putting it out there so the community can decide. That’s not irresponsible,” he said.
Trustee Selman Kaplan said passing a bond will open the opportunity for more donations to offset the cost. Without a bond approval, people are hesitant to donate. “It will clarify to the town and to community members and potential donors this is going to happen,” Kaplan said.
Trustees merely approved the bonding timeline. A separate vote will be held to place the matter on the November ballot.
Zero library levy increase
Woodstock Library director Jessica Kerr presented an operating budget with no tax-levy increase at the first of three required discussions before the budget is approved for the ballot.
Expenditures are up from $660,149.96 to $664,459.00, and the levy remains at $585,544.00.Salaries and benefits are up 1.27 percent. Utilities are down due to lower costs, while custodial supplies are up because of Covid 19-related precautions.
The library tapped $21,615 from the fund balance, but former trustee John Ludwig said more should be used. He said the full $52,758 surplus from 2019 should be spent to lower the levy. “The voters passed your budgets and expected that you would spend the money as approved. But each year, for various reasons you’ve explained along the way, you’ve spent less than the voters approved and paid in their taxes,” Ludwig said. Applying last year’s surplus to this or next year’s spending was just common sense, he added.
Board president Dorothea Marcus argued that it was bad practice to reduce taxes because of possible increases in future years.
Voters will decide this fall on the budget and elect trustees. Trustees moved the election to the first Thursday in October last year, but may decide to hold it in September or November this year.