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Harford library to seek $401,000 budget increase next year

The Harford County Public Library system intends to ask for an increase of $401,000 in its operating budget for next fiscal year.

The proposed operating and capital budgets were presented by Library Director Mary Hastler to members of the Harford County Public Library Board of Trustees at their meeting Thursday evening at the Jarrettsville branch.

The operating budget request of $18.7 million from the county for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, 2014 is slightly more than $401,000 more than the $18.3 million budget for the current fiscal year.

Hastler laid out the variety of funding increases, and some decreases.

The budget documents presented Thursday include a $75,068 increase for employee health benefits and a $4,395 increase in dental benefits, plus a $5,656 increase in retiree health and dental benefits, which Hastler said was in line with a projected 10 percent increase in heath and dental costs for Harford County staff and retirees.

There was also a requested $70,000 increase for electricity costs to cover services that have been shifted from the county budget to the library budget, along with a $42,000 increase for telecommunications, to cover the cost of increasing the library system's bandwidth.

Officials are seeking $181,135 more for library materials, for downloadable media, plus more materials for expansions of the Little Leapers and LEAP programs, which are designed to promote interest in science and math among children.

Board members Dwayne Adams, Dominic Cottone, Susan Hazlett, Treasurer Kenneth Avery, Vice Chair Alex Allman and Chairperson Louise LeTendre voted in favor of the operating budget request; Allman also cast a favorable proxy vote for member Bruce Smith, who was absent Thursday.

Members Nancy Brown and Rebecca Robinson were also absent.

The board members also voted 7-0 on the capital budget requests, which included a $7.3 million request for expanding the Havre de Grace branch, $402,860 for technology infrastructure support, $350,000 for renovations to facilities, $28,000 for a feasibility study to establish an early literacy center at the Abingdon branch, $100,000 for maintenance and repairs to facilities and $150,000 for a "centralized dehumidification" system at the Joppa branch.

"We do have ongoing issues with the environment in that particular branch, because it's so close to the water and it's built on a landfill area," Hastler said of the Joppa branch.

Those requests were for FY2015; the capital budget also includes funding requests for replacing vehicles in FY2016 and 2017, expanding the Aberdeen branch during FY2017 and 2018 and expanding the Darlington branch in FY2018 and 2019.

HdG temporary branch

Hastler gave an update on the Havre de Grace branch project, which involves replacing the one-story branch at Union and Pennington Avenues with a two-story facility to accommodate increased use by the community.

She told board members that library officials have "temporarily located" a place to house the collection and serve customers while the new branch is being built on the same site at Union and Pennington avenues, but she added: "We have to hold off signing the lease until the spring to make sure funding will be available."

Clean audit

Aside from a few minor issues, the Harford County Public Library received a clean audit for the 2013 fiscal year.

Keith Novak, a partner in the firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, told trustees that he had issued an "unmodified opinion" for the library system's finances during the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30.

"We had no disagreements with management on any accounting issues," Novak said.

He said the term "unmodified opinion" is "the highest level of opinion you can get."

A copy of his report was not publicly available.

Hastler said the audit must be sent to the office of Harford County Executive David Craig and then the state before it is released to the public.

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