RTM restores Pequot funding

The Pequot Library received a stay of execution at the April 22 meeting of the Representative Town Meeting. The members voted 43-3 to restore the $350,000 town contribution to the Fairfield library’s budget.

However, that doesn’t mean everything is all clear for the nonprofit association library.

“That is just to get us back in the game,” said Pequot Executive Director Martha Lord. “They still have to review the budget at the May 6 meeting and vote.”

Monday night was the library’s only shot at getting funds restored after the Board of Finance proposed cuts on April 2. Lord said the library might be able to withstand a 2% to 5% cut from the town and survive. The Board of Finance took away everything.

Lord fears that going beyond the 5% outer boundary could create a downward spiral for the library. With reduced hours of operation and fewer funds to use as seed capital for fund raising events, she worries that fewer benefactors would be willing to contribute.

The Pequot Library is an association library, offering services to the public and run by an nonprofit organization. Like the two municipal libraries, it is open to the public and even operates on the same cataloging system. In practical usage, the Pequot Library is a branch of the Fairfield Public Library.

However, being an association library and not a municipal run one created a perception amongst some that the town should not be involved with funding of the Pequot. When the Board of Finance met to deliberate how to present a budget with as minimal an increase as possible in the mill rate, the Pequot Library ended up on the chopping block.

Lord noted that association libraries are common in Connecticut, with 47% of all public libraries in the state fitting the bill. Westport’s library, for example, in a large two story building overlooking the Saugatuck River and complete with it’s own little coffee shop is an association library.

The $350,000 cut from the Pequot Library’s budget is a third of their overall operating budget, the rest comes from fund-raising and an endowment. The largest fund-raising event supporting the library is the annual book sale, which nets nearly a third of all raised funds.

This year’s summer book sale will be held July 26 to 30. Admission is free. Information is available at pequotlibrary.org. Two smaller fund-raisers loom in the more immediate future. The fifth annual Derby Day Party will be on Saturday, May 4, from 4 to 7 p.m. Ticket information is available on the library’s website.

At the end of May will be the eighth annual Golf Outing Fund-raiser. The event takes place May 28, from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Registration is available on the library website.

Contributions from the town to the Pequot Library budget are nothing new. Lord believes the town has been contributing to the library since the 1930s. She sees continued support as a wise investment in the social culture of Fairfield.

“For every $1 in funding we receive we provide $3 worth of programs,” Lord said.

Restoring the $350,000 to the Pequot Library budget was a decisive victory for supporters. However, it was a battle, not the war. The RTM could still vote to reduce the amount of town contribution at the May 6 meeting. Any reduction from this point forward to adoption of the budget, cannot be appealed.

Lord said she is guardedly optimistic there will not be any last minute surprises and the library’s budget will survive relatively unscathed. She also hopes this does not become an annual battle.

“I hope any of the people wanting to propose cuts will come to us with questions first,” Lord said.

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