At Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting (July 23), Wilton Library officials presented their end-of-year report, and announced that the library finished FY-2018 in the black by close to $65,000. Breaking that amount down more specifically, the library finished with a $2,000 surplus amount in operating funds and an almost $63,000 surplus in what they call ‘restricted’ funds.

Library Board of Trustees treasurer Kim Healy noted that on the operating side, the “other revenues” was down actual vs. budget. That line item includes video rentals and late fees, which she said have been trending downward for the past few years. Even though the library didn’t hit its expected goal for other revenue, however, the amount the library did make in the category was $19,000 more than in FY-2017, thanks to a better-than-expected performance during the book sale, “…which for the first time grossed over $100,000, which we’re very proud of–it was actually $110,000,” Healy noted, adding, “We’re certainly grateful to all the volunteers and the book donors.”

Another point Healy made was that the Library ran fewer programs in 2018, earning less program revenue as a result. That was balanced by lowered program expenses. “They’re being a lot more careful because it’s a lot of work to run them.”

Library executive director Elaine Tai-Lauria said it was a conscious decision to run fewer programs in order to focus on the ones that are in higher demand by patrons. “We’re selective about our programs, and attendance has not dropped off,” she noted.

She also clarified that some programs didn’t happen this year because they didn’t have the sponsors or restricted funding needed to run them. “Some of these programs are really dependent on donations. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the money,” Tai-Lauria added.

One small bit of better fundraising news came from the library’s annual appeal campaign, which brought in $10,000 more than was originally budgeted. Tai-Lauria said that there was a small increase in the number of annual appeal donors as well as an increase in the average donation amount. “We’re heading in the right direction, but this is a slow process.”

She also pointed to new fundraising events that helped raise additional money and draw in new sponsors, including the Mini-Golf in the Stacks event as well as the Sip and Tip evening at Marly’s Restaurant.

However, the line item called “other donations”–which are generated outside of the annual appeal or fundraising events–was down $38,000. “We don’t have any control over it,” Healy said, noting that officials track the number closely during the year as those kinds of donations fund library materials and programs. “If we don’t get it, we don’t spend it.”

In fact, the biggest expense on the library budget is library content and programs, which was down $94,000. Of those reined-in expenses, $82,000 was specific to non-collection items, typically expenses related to donor-specific programs or items (e.g. robotics, maker space, Jazz, children’s programs, etc.).

Healy said that there were notable savings as well in FY’18, including from solar panels installed last year, which helped the library save $9,000 in energy costs. Other utility changes saved $22,000, including HVAC upgrades and LED lighting.

One other bright spot–the  library brought in $5,000 more than expected in  facility rentals, something Healy said was due to an effort to bring in more rental revenue. Moreover, officials plant to increase rental rates even more beginning this September, after a market evaluation.

“The space is very popular and people should pay for it accordingly,” she said.

Healy said that at this point there are no plans to change the number of days per week the library is open or adjust hours of operation as cost-saving measures.

Tai-Lauria summed up by recounting the many successes the Wilton Library enjoyed in the past year, from professional recognition and awards the library received to record breaking attendance at events, to effusive thanks from community members for the programming the library provides. She said that the library will need to continue to make facility and technology improvements as well, continuing to assess what patron and community needs are.

FY’19 Budget Challenge

With the new year comes a new budgetary challenge for the Wilton Library–specifically a challenge grant. During budget preparation time last spring, rather than give the library its requested $50,000 budget increase, the BOS asked the library officials to meet a matching challenge to make the increase. The BOS maintained funding for the Library equal in amount to the FY’18 grant, and also challenged library officials to fundraise an additional $25,000 on top of what it typically does, to be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to the $25,000.

Monday night, first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice pointed out that the new fiscal year started three weeks ago, and suggested they start talking about coordinated messaging to help the library meet that challenge grant goal and encourage more donations from the public.

She noted this in the context of a separate discussion about federal tax reform limiting deductions individuals can make for the state and local taxes they pay (SALT). The hope is that individuals may be encouraged to increase their donations to charitable organizations like the library–and benefit from related tax deductions–allowing the town to keep budgets in check and not having to increase allocations to the library, thereby keeping municipal taxes in check as well.

In other words, that coordinated messaging Vanderslice referred to would be something like this:  If you donate to the Wilton Library, you can benefit from a federal tax deduction; then the Town won’t have to increase its funding for the Library as much, so it won’t need to raise your taxes as much–which is better for you anyway because you can no longer deduct those taxes.