FOSTER – Cutting the budget to Foster libraries to fill a more than $400,000 deficit in the Foster 2022-2023 budget would cause both libraries to close, said Foster libraries Board of Trustees chair Matthew Haynes during last week’s Special Town Council Meeting.
Haynes said should the town not level fund the libraries at $167,000, the libraries would be forced to close. He said much of the libraries’ funding comes from state and federal funding that requires that towns level-funding libraries.
Originally, the libraries requested a 2.7 percent increase in the budget, or $171,000, to assist in purchasing and building a new library on Route 6. After the meeting, Town Councilors made it clear it was unlikely it will receive an increase.
Should the library not receive the $167,000 in funding, it will be forced to close, Haynes said.
“We wouldn’t be able to go on without the state funding,” he said.
Once all town-funded libraries close, Haynes said it will not be as easy as driving to another town to check out books or use services. Residents in towns without a library are required to pay a $100 membership fee to use another library, he said.
He added that Foster libraries are well-used. Some residents are still using dial-up internet, and use the library’s services for homework and other needs.
Haynes said that the library received a donation that will pay for the Foster Feed property, and pay for a portion of the build-out for a new library. The Foster libraries will sell the Tyler Free Library, 81A Moosup Valley Rd., to assist in the build, and close the Foster Public Library, 184 Howard Hill Rd.
Haynes said neither library is ADA compliant, and could use significant upgrades to meet the needs in Foster. Haynes said the library is prepared to fundraise for any additional money needed to purchase the new library.
“Our intent is not to close the libraries,” said Councilor Cheryl Hawes.
Members of the Town Council agreed. Town Council President Denise DiFranco said the purpose of the hearing is to find ways to close the gap in the budget.
Additional budget issues
Town Treasurer Kelli Russ said that the Foster Ambulance Corps lost volunteers during the pandemic and over the years, and is in dire need of financial assistance. She said the Ambulance Corps recently requested an additional $440,000 to pay for services to make it through the end of the year.
The amount is on top of what was budgeted for 2021-2022, Russ said. With a four percent increase in tax revenue equating to approximately $500,000, Russ said supporting the Ambulance Corps means cutting into services elsewhere. The purpose of Thursday night and other budget meetings is to look at where those services could be cut.
When it comes down to it, residents agreed that ambulance service is more important than libraries.
In addition to the Ambulance Corps dilemma, Russ explained that the Foster-Glocester Regional School Department requested a two percent increase this year, leaving Foster with a total appropriation of $5,808,469.
“It’s eating up a good portion of our budget,” Russ said.
Russ explained that the town has no choice but to pay the whole appropriation.
Russ said the town provides funding for two libraries, the Land Trust, the rescue services, and full garbage removal. The town is considering removing garbage removal services, as well, though many senior or disabled people in Foster rely on the removal service.