Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about details and terminology in the State Aid to Public Libraries program. Get in touch with MBLC staff if you have questions about topics not covered here.
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A departmental revolving fund is an account that may be set up by a municipality for one of its departments. Monies received in connection with a departmental program or activity may be deposited into the revolving fund, and then money from the fund can be applied directly, without further appropriation, to support that program or activity. The departmental revolving fund must be authorized on an annual basis at a special town meeting or the annual town meeting or by the city council. The vote to establish the revolving fund must specifically identify the program or activity income that will be credited to the revolving fund, fix a preliminary limit on expenditures from the fund, and clearly specify the purposes for which monies in the fund may be expended.

Is there a limit to how much money may be appropriated to a departmental revolving fund?

The total spending that may be authorized in a fiscal year for a particular departmental revolving fund is limited to one percent of the amount of the most recently established tax levy of the municipality. The total spending that may be authorized in a fiscal year by a municipality for all departmental revolving funds cannot exceed ten percent of the most recently established tax levy of the municipality.

Are departmental revolving funds considered municipally appropriated income on the application for State Aid to Public Libraries?

Departmental revolving funds are considered municipally appropriated income since they must be approved annually at town meeting or by city council. They are reported in the State Aid to Public Libraries application as "quote revolving funds" and are considered to be part of the Total Appropriated Municipal Income (TAMI).

For information on setting up or managing a departmental revolving fund contact the Division of Local Services, Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

The dog tax is the money collected through county or municipal regulation of dogs. Counties are traditionally responsible for administering the laws relating to the licensing, control, and regulation of dogs. Dog tax monies received by the county treasurer that are not paid out for damages, license blanks or books, record books, rabies vaccines or other purposes, are paid back to the treasurers of towns in proportion to the amounts received from such towns. The money refunded by the county must be expended for the support of public libraries or schools. Since the establishment of Chapter 308, Acts of 1985, municipalities have the option of withdrawing from the county dog program and assuming full responsibility for licensing, control and regulation of dogs. When a municipality withdraws from the county dog program, it can then define the disposition of fees collected through that program.

Is dog tax money considered municipally appropriated income on the application for State Aid to Public Libraries?

Dog tax is considered municipally appropriated income since it must be voted on annually at town meeting or by city council. Dog tax is reported in the State Aid to Public Libraries application as "dog tax" and is considered to be part of the Total Appropriated Municipal Income (TAMI).

For further information regarding dog tax, contact Division of Local Services, Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

Summarized from Division of Local Services Informational Guidelines Release no. 86-220 (Authorization for Local Dog Licensing,Control, and Regulation).

The Nonresident Circulation Offset (NRC) award is part of State Aid to Public Libraries. The NRC is intended to offset the cost of circulating library materials to residents of other certified Massachusetts municipalities. The award amount is based on the total number of eligible nonresident loans to residents of other certified Massahcusetts municipalities a library reports to the MBLC.

What is required of a public library to receive a Nonresident Circulation Offset award?

To receive an NRC award, a public library must report the following on the Annual Report Information Survey, submitted each summer by libraries to the MBLC:

  • the number of on-site loans during the previous fiscal year to residents of other municipalities that are certified for State Aid to Public Libraries.
  • the number of on-site loans during the previous fiscal year to residents of municipalities that are not certified for State Aid to Public Libraries.
  • number of on-site loans to residents of other states.

What happens if my library cannot keep an actual circulation count?

Libraries that cannot keep an actual count should see ALA's Output Measures for Public Libraries, 2nd edition, page 19, for a description of how to do samples and estimates. Please contact staff for further information.

Will my library receive a Nonresident Circulation Offset award for loans to residents of municipalities notcertified for State Aid to Public Libraries?

No, the library will not receive a Nonresident Circulation Offset award for loans to residents of other Massachusetts municipalities that are not certified. Libraries only receive an NRC award for loans to residents of other certfied Massachusetts Municipalities. 

What happens if a municipality loses or gains certification?

When a municipality loses or gains certification, for any reason, a letter will be distributed to the library community within 5 days detailing the change in certification.

Note: Municipalities that do not apply for State Aid to Public Libraries usually lose certification at the Board's January meeting. In addition, if a library closes for fiscal purposes, the library will immediately be considered "decertified" by the MBLC.

How quickly do we need to start discluding or including circulation figures to residents of a municipality that lost or gained certification?

Libraries have up to 3 months to exclude or include circulation figures to residents of a municipality that lost or gained certification for any reason (3 months from the date of the board meeting at which the certification status changed).

When a municipality is certified, is it certified until the end of the current fiscal year or until next fiscal year when it is considered for certification again?

Certification continues until the next fiscal year's board meeting at which the municipality's certification is granted or denied for any reason.

How to find the certification status of a municipality

The State Aid & Data Coordination Unit maintains lists of certification status. These lists are updated after any Board of Library Commissioners meeting at which libraries are certified, usually the first Thursdays of November, December, January, and February.

Annual population estimates are calculated in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau. The Massachusetts State Data Center is a program of the UMass Donahue Institute's Economic and Public Policy Research Unit and is housed at the Institute's offices on the UMass Amherst campus.

The State Data Center Program was established by the U.S. Census Bureau to make statistical information more readily available to the public. The program now includes most states in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The Census Bureau provides data products, training, technical assistance, and consultation to data centers, which then offer products and assistance to local community leaders, planners, businesses, researchers, and the general public.

The Census Bureau begins the process of preparing population estimates by updating population information from the most recent census with information found in the annual administrative records of Federal and state agencies. The Federal agencies provide tax records, Medicare records and some vital statistics information. The agencies supply vital statistics, and information about group quarters like college dorms or prisons. The Census Bureau and agencies combine census and administrative records information to produce current population estimates consistent with the last decennial census counts. The Census estimates are sent to the agencies for review and comment.

Follow the links provided here for details of the methodology and definitions of the terms used in calculating the population estimates.

State Aid to Public Libraries awards are disbursed after the applying municipality and its library have demonstrated that they are meeting the Municipal Appropriation Requirement and the other statutory and regulatory minimum standards for free public library services (M.G.L. c.78, s.19A & 19B; 605 C.M.R. 4.00). Compliance with the requirement and the minimum standards is measured on the State Aid to Public Libraries application forms submitted annually by the library.

State Aid to Public Libraries has always been listed as an offset item on the annual Cherry Sheet distributed by the Department of Revenue. Because of this classification as an offset item, state aid received by a municipality under the authority of this program can be spent without appropriation. In addition, state budget language signed by the governor at the beginning of each fiscal year specifies that "any payment made under this appropriation [State Aid to Public Libraries] shall be deposited with the treasurer of such city or town and held as a separate account and shall be expended by the public library of such city or town without appropriation." The awards may be used for any library expenditure.

Because State Aid to Public Libraries awards are funds not able to be appropriated by the municipality, are solely for library expenditures and are subtracted from the municipalities' gross appropriations to help determine the local property tax levy, these awards cannot be used by the municipality as a revenue source to meet the Municipal Appropriation Requirement.

Unspent or unencumbered state aid monies must be carried forward into the next fiscal year for expenditure by the library. Interest earned on these monies however, is a general fund revenue under M.G.L. c.44, s.53, and must be returned to the city or town.

Purchases of materials made with State Aid to Public Libraries monies (public funds) are subject to the Uniform Procurement Act, M.G.L., c. 30B. In addition, disposition of materials and other personal property purchased with public funds is subject to the rules generally governing the disposition of municipal personal property. Bylaws and ordinances allowing department heads to dispose of town personal property are authorized by M.G.L. c. 40, s. 21(11). The Uniform Procurement Act, M.G.L., c. 30B, s. 15, governs such dispositions of municipal property.

1. The noncertified municipality and its library will not receive any State Aid to Public Libraries monies (M.G.L. c.78, s.19A).

2. Libraries in certified municipalities are not required to lend library materials to the library in the noncertified municipality (605 CMR 4.01 (6a)).

3. Libraries in certified municipalities are not required to extend reciprocal library services, beyond in-library use of their materials, to residents of the noncertified municipality (605 CMR 4.01 (6b)).

4. The library will not receive support through the Small Libraries in Networks Program.

5. The municipality is not eligible to apply for funds under the Public Library Construction Program (605 CMR 6.05 (1)(c)), and any existing grant will be invalidated because the library must maintain eligibility throughout the construction process in order to receive grant funds (605 CMR 6.09(7)(b)).

6. The library will not be eligible to apply for grants under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) program.


Note: Network Telecommunications and Resource Sharing funding are not affected.

If a neighboring municipality is not certified, may we refuse to serve residents of that municipality?

Yes, but it is a decision that must be voted on by your board of trustees. 605 CMR 4.01(6) states that "all public libraries participating in the direct state aid grant program must be willing, on a reciprocal basis, to extend direct access and services to nonresidents who are card holders in other libraries participating in the state grant program..." The regulation does not make any statement regarding serving residents of municipalities that are not certified.

Are there any services that we must provide to residents of a noncertified municipality?

Yes. You must provide access to reference and reading rooms. 605 CMR 4.01(1) states that "all residents of the commonwealth shall have access to reading and reference rooms under the same conditions as residents of the community."

May we charge fees to residents of a noncertified municipality?

Yes. If the municipality is not certified, then they are not participating in the State Aid to Public Libraries program and you are not required to offer them free borrowing privileges. Your trustees have the options of:

(1) continuing to extend borrowing privileges to residents of noncertified communities;
(2) charging residents of noncertified municipalities to borrow materials;
(3) denying borrowing privileges to residents of noncertified municipalities;
(4) entering into a contractual arrangement with the noncertified municipality.

Are we required to continue to interlibrary loan items to a noncertified library?

No, unless you are a library contracting with a regional library system to provide ILL.

Will we be reimbursed (through the Nonresident Circulation Offset) for lending materials to resident of noncertified municipalities?

No. Municipalities will not be reimbursed for circulating materials to residents from of out-of-state and noncertified Massachusetts municipalities (605 CMR 4.02).

Equalized Valuations (EQVs) are an estimate of the FFCV (Full and Fair Cash Value) of all property in the Commonwealth as of a certain taxable date. The Commissioner of Revenue, in accordance with MGL Ch. 58 (Generalized Provisions Relative to Taxation) § I OC, is responsible for determining an equalized valuation for each city and town in the Commonwealth biannually.
Named for the cherry colored paper on which it was originally printed, the Cherry Sheet is the official notification by the Commissioner of Revenue to municipalities and regional school districts of estimated state aid to be paid and charges to be assessed over the next fiscal year. Cherry Sheets are usually issued each spring, following enactment by the Legislature of the state budget for the following year.

For More Information

Mary Rose Quinn, Head of State Programs
617-725-1860 x220
(in Massachusetts) 800-952-7403 x220
maryrose.quinn@state.ma.us

Liz Babbitt, State Aid Specialist
617-725-1860 x227
(in Massachusetts) 800-952-7403 x227
liz.babbitt@state.ma.us