Rye library board president calls potential budget cut ‘devastating’

The Rye Free Reading Room would have to close two days a week, chop its collection spending in half and eliminate many children’s programs if the city slashes funding by $190,000 next year, library leaders told the City Council last week.

And dramatic increases in employee health and retirement costs next year are expected to hit the budget hard, officials said. To save money, they have implemented self-service desks and left vacant jobs open, such as the children’s librarian. They also want to privately raise $210,000 next year, $20,000 more than this year.

As the City Council strives for a zero percent tax-rate increase next year, the library could see a 16 percent drop in city money, according  to a comptroller’s report released earlier this year that detailed suggested savings.

The city covers 78.5 percent of the library’s expenses, which totaled $1.4 million last year. The remaining expenses, including most of the programs, are paid for with private donations, library officials said.

Library advocates have battled for support before. The city initially proposed cutting funds by $173,000 in 2009 but, after library leaders protested, the City Council limited the cut to $18,000. This year the city maintained the $1.15 million support. Library officials are requesting $1.10 million for 2011.

The city manager will present next year’s proposed city budget at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 8 at City Hall.