For the second consecutive year, taxes levied by the Fort Myers Beach Public Library will be lowered now that its board of directors have agreed on initial budget numbers that cannot go any higher.
On July 22, officials from the independent taxing district unanimously approved a tentative millage rate of 0.4358 mils to be in compliance with Florida Truth in Millage Law requirements. Its current millage rate (fiscal year 2013-14) is 0.4599 mils, while the fiscal year 2012-13 was 0.4999 mils.
The first budget hearing is slated for Thursday, Sept 11, 6:30 p.m. The proposed millage rate reflects the roll-back rate.
"I really feel very comfortable that roll-back rate will do it," said FMB Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding.
While one board member asked if it would be best to begin at a higher rate, Hommerding explained that he did not want people to perceive that taxes would not be lower than last year. The TRIM rate is the first step in the formal budgeting process. It will be sent to District residents as the proposed tax for the upcoming fiscal year. The established tentative millage rate is known as the maximum rate that cannot be exceeded during the remainder of the budget process.
"Perception becomes reality," he said. "Most residents and library users know that we really spend money very wisely."
Prior to the TRIM rate being set, the Library Board reviewed the proposed budget, compared numbers to fiscal year 2013-14 and asked questions about certain line items. Significant expenditure reductions from the prior year include audio-visual purchases from capital outlay ($30,000 to $21,000); professional data/e-books from equipment spending ($74,781 to $61,000); internet access ($24,800 to $18,000), professional service ($24,000 to $20,000) and Lee County Tax Collector's Fee ($35,000 to $29,700) under administrative expenditures; and building replacement reserves ($109,719 to $94,002).
Notable increases in the proposed budget to 2013-14 include insurance premiums/costs ($71,300 to $77,400) and salaries ($459,835 to $512,462). One income line item shows that Beach Library District residents also contribute roughly $5,000 a year in donations.
When questioned about the proposed salary increase, Hommerding stated he may finally hire an administrative assistant so that he could spend more physical time with the public in the library and has budgeted funds earmarked for a part-time children's librarian.
"When that opportunity is there, I want to be ready," he said. "Almost every large system has an opening for a children's librarian. I think the day is going to come."
Hommerding said the Beach Library is thinking about developing its own catalog software.
"I want a catalog that is more intuitive," he said. "The technology is there. We hired an electronics librarian specifically to be able to do some of these things. It seems a shame not to develop that talent."
Two of the board members weighed in on that matter.
"This seems like a small price to pay to have a much more user friendly catalog," said board member Katie Corning. "I'm all for it."
"I think it's very prudent," added board member Mark LaFave.
ALA Conference report
During the FMB Library Board meeting, Dr. Hommerding made a power point presentation on his recent experience at the annual American Library Association Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas. More than 19,000 librarians were reported to have attended the event.
The sessions that he attended included topics relating to game designs, top technology trends, technology priorities for the new library reality, rapid reviews of apps, demonstrating success through assessment, re-imagining the library website, keeping literacy, libraries as publishers, 3D printing and managing the new technology services. Speakers viewed included Jennifer Kahnweiler, Stan Lee, Lois Lowry, Azar Nafisi, Alexander McCall-Smith, Philippe Petit and Judy Blume.
"We talked about the need to focus to keep literacy very much at the forefront," Hommerding said. "When you think about it, 43 percent of the adult population functions at below high school level and businesses lose more than $60 billion in productivity every year, just because employees don't have basic skill efficiencies."
Those seeking more information on everything libraries can go to ilovelibraries.org to learn more.
Hommerding noted a famous quote about libraries came from former broadcaster Walter Cronkite: "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."