DATE: February 12, 2008
Bridgewater Denied MAR Waiver
At their February 7, 2008 Board Meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) denied Bridgewater Public Library's petition for a waiver of FY2008 Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR). MBLC Chairperson Em Claire Knowles stated, "I know this is a difficult decision for the citizens of Bridgewater. I urge the local government officials and citizens of Bridgewater to become more aware of the value of their library and more cognizant in making sure that the library meets the minimum standards to gain state certification in the future."
Bridgewater Public Library's FY2008 budget suffered a disproportionate cut as compared to funding in other areas. The deep cut resulted in the library's inability to meet the Municipal Appropriations Requirement necessary for State Aid certification. On average municipal departments in Bridgewater received a 10.7% cut in funding while the library budget was reduced by 38.3%. "Short of closing, this is as bad as it gets." stated MBLC Vice Chairman George T. Comeau.
Carlton Hunt, Chair of the Bridgewater Public Library's Board of Trustees, appeared before the Board last month to explain Bridgewater's efforts to meet the MAR. He stated that although two Proposition 2 1/2 overrides failed, local residents support the library.
During Thursday's meeting Mr. Hunt was again in attendance and presented letters of support from local residents. He was joined by Bridgewater Selectman Dennis Gallagher. It is not standard practice for the Board to allow further statements after the initial waiver presentations but Chairperson Em Claire Knowles noted, "We were concerned last month when no local official was here on behalf of Bridgewater. We appreciate your presence."
Mr. Gallagher spoke of the work the town has done to address shortcomings in school issues, including building a $70 million new high school and renovating other school buildings. He is hopeful that the town will now be able to turn its focus on building up other areas that have sustained cuts or received insufficient funding.
The MBLC is hopeful that town officials and supporters for the library will work with MBLC staff to help the library regain state certification. "You have our full commitment that we will do what is necessary and within our power to get Bridgewater back into the family of state certified libraries," stated MBLC Director Robert C. Maier. "We're not giving up on this town," added MBLC Vice Chairman T. Comeau.
Decertification for Bridgewater Public Library means that they will not receive State Aid to Public Libraries grants in the amount of about $28,000; they are not eligible for grants from the Library Services and Technology Act program, and neighboring libraries are not required to extend borrowing privileges to Bridgewater residents.
Bridgewater Public Library is currently open 15 hours per week. In addition to not meeting the MAR requirement for FY2008, this limited number of hours does not meet the open hours requirement to qualify for State Aid in FY2009. Therefore Bridgewater will not be eligible for State Aid again until FY2010.
In other State Aid actions, the MBLC approved waivers of the FY2008 Municipal Appropriation Requirement (MAR) for 13 cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. Under statute and FY2008 budget language, the Board is authorized to grant waivers of the MAR for one year "upon demonstration of fiscal hardship."
The Board granted twelve waivers and one waiver "with reservation" (to Dartmouth) to allow these communities to remain certified and receive their share of State Aid. The following communities were granted waivers: Amesbury, Ashland, Boston, Dartmouth, Fall River, Florida, Lenox, Newbury, Somerville, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wareham and West Boylston.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.