DATE: February 12, 2014
State Aid: 5% Threshold Reinstated
At its February board meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) voted to reinstate the 5% threshold used to indicate a disproportionate cut when comparing the library's budget reduction to the overall municipal budget. Commissioners look at this comparison when considering waivers for the municipal appropriation requirement (MAR) as a part of the State Aid to Public Libraries Program. The 5% threshold will go into effect for the FY2015 application process. In 2010, the MBLC increased the threshold to 10% in an effort to support libraries through the economic downturn. However, library applications for the FY2014 State Aid to Public Libraries Program indicate that local funding to libraries is beginning to rebound.
The number of libraries needing a waiver of the MAR to attain state aid certification has decreased from the FY2011 high of 123 applicants to 72 for FY2014. The MAR is funding that comes from the municipality to support the library. Of the 72 waiver applicants for FY2014, only three decreased more than overall municipal budget and only one exceeded 5%, at 6.89%. Of the applicant libraries, two were level funded and 59 received increases in their library budgets. Of the 11 that experienced reductions, five were under 1%. The remaining six had their budgets reduced by 1.22%, 1.41%, 3.22%, 4.98%, 5.03% and 24.77%.
While municipal funding to support libraries shows signs of recovery, state funding to the State Aid to Public Libraries Program is at the same level it was in 1994. The MBLC has made increasing state aid funding a priority in its FY2015 Legislative Agenda. "Funding to the State Aid to Public Libraries Program goes directly to libraries. It is vital to the entire library system," Board Vice-Chair Mary Rose Quinn said. Currently, state aid to libraries is $1.04 per resident. Municipal funding to libraries averages $36.64 per resident.
Commissioners took further state aid action during the meeting by certifying several libraries that met all State Aid to Public Libraries Program requirements and approving MAR waivers for 71 applicants. One community, Wareham, presented information regarding budget reductions to the library and potential future funding. Commissioners will vote on Wareham's MAR waiver at the March board meeting.
More information about the State Aid to Public Libraries Program is available on the MBLC website, along with a list of municipalities that are currently certified and those that are not certified in the program.
State aid is available to all municipalities and libraries that apply and are certified annually by the MBLC. Certification requires meeting the municipal appropriation requirement as well as certain minimum standards - including hours of opening and expenditures for library materials - of free public library service (per M.G.L. c.78, s.19A&19B and 605 CMR 4.00). State Aid to Public Libraries consists of the Library Incentive Grant (LIG), the Municipal Equalization Grant (MEG), and the Nonresident Circulation Offset (NRC). These three awards are disbursed to each municipality meeting the requirements using different formulas (per capita for the LIG; variant of the lottery formula, using population and EQV, for the MEG; and per transaction formula for the NRC).
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.