Library hours, Trekkers dominate Rockland's $10.4 million budget decision
Rockland — The Rockland City Council debated library hours and funding for Trekkers Monday night, June 25, before voting unanimously to approve a $10.4 million municipal budget.
City Manager James Smith proposed a $10.4 million municipal budget, up about 4 percent from the $9.9 million budget approved last year. The city anticipates a property tax rate of about $19.43 per $1,000 in assessed property value, up about 3 percent from the current rate of $18.78.
A brief public hearing was held on the budget in which no one from the public came forward to comment.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson proposed amending the budget to add $4,494 to the Rockland Public Library funding, bringing the total for the institution to $597,160. She said it was her intent to keep the library open all of the hours it is presently open.
Smith had proposed cutting the library from 67 hours per week to 61 hours.
Councilor Larry Pritchett said he had researched the issue and Rockland's library is open more than any other library in the state that he has been able to find. He said he would not support the amendment.
Dickerson countered that Rockland does not have to compare itself to other communities.
"Our community is our community and we can do what we want to," she said.
She said the library should be a priority and other communities in the state should be comparing themselves to us.
Councilor Eric Hebert started his comments on the issue by pointing out that he is not a frequent user of the library himself. He said, however, that in hearing from the community he believes there is some merit to having the Monday evening hours at the library.
He also noted that with the University of Maine providing classes in Rockland, it makes sense to have the library open in evening hours.
The amendment passed by a vote of 3-2 with Will Clayton and Pritchett opposed.
Hebert then proposed cutting $1,130 from the budget that was targeted for Trekkers. He said it is a good program, but he felt it was different from other service agencies in the budget that provide a last resort safety net for the most vulnerable among our citizens. He was concerned it would set a precedent enabling any group to seek money from the city.
Clayton said Trekkers was a program that might actually prevent such problems in the lives of the young people mentored, so there would be less need for safety net programs.
The amendment was killed by a vote of 4-1 with only Hebert in support.
Dickerson said the budget process would have been better served by having the department heads present this year to answer questions about their budgets, as they have done in the past.