Prelude to town meeting

We are the Town of Manchester's representatives to the Mark Skinner Library's Board of Trustees. As the town's representatives, we are asking our fellow Manchester residents to support our petition for $198,000 in town support in order to assist funding of our library's ongoing operations by joining us at Town Meeting on March 1. Let us explain our request and what it represents.

First, our new community library will be open an additional day of the week once in our new building. Our expanded operating hours means that the library will now be available Monday-Saturday, serving as a safe and accessible place for families, children and students to come and use after school, on weekends, during school holidays and throughout the summer. The greater anticipated community use also requires us to increase personnel hours for digital services and to support the children's department to ensure that children using the new library are adequately supervised. Second, for the past three years we have received the same level of town support or the equivalent of 44 percent of our operating budget. This year's request, as a percentage of our operating budget, is actually a reduction of 1.5 percent. That said, our library's overall operating budget is rising to reflect the additional hours our new building will be open. Using the combined median home residential value of $323,700, our request for town support would add about $13 to a taxpayer's current annual contribution to the library.

Even with town support, our board is devoted to raising more than half of our budget each year to give Manchester the world-class library it deserves. This year to operate our library we must raise another $268,000 from a range of sources. We do this through extensive fundraising that includes our annual fund, special events, sponsorships and in-kind contributions. We continue to aggressively apply for grants while remaining focused on increasing our endowment.

We feel it is important to remind the community that, unlike the Roundabout constructed with substantial public monies and, unlike the new Park House, which voters approved a taxpayer-funded bond two years ago at Town Meeting to construct, our new library building is being built entirely with private donations from individuals, foundations and businesses. There is no financial support from the town for the construction of our new building.

Because of the support of taxpayers like you, residents of Manchester use our library free of charge while residents of neighboring towns are asked to join the library with a small financial contribution to do their part in supporting our operation. Our new building will have expanded opportunities for rental income, including use of the community meeting and event room, use of our seminar room, touch-down work stations - all equipped with Wi-Fi - and state-of-the-art technology.

When you think about quality of life in Manchester, most would agree that our town offers a uniquely broad array of cultural and institutional options not typically afforded to a small populace. It is because of our community infrastructure that we are able to remain such an attractive place to visit, raise a family and make Manchester our permanent home. Our new building, the Manchester Community Library, will be a magnificent addition to that which we all value about Manchester, both for today and for generations to come.

The authors of this op-ed are all Town of Manchester appointees to the Board of Trustees of the Mark Skinner Library.


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