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The Year of the Teen Librarian in Canton?

Advocates once again ask Board of Selectmen to add 19-hour-a-week position to budget.

Once again the Canton Public Library is seeking a dedicated staff member to implement teen programming.

In his budget request, library director Robert Simon requested a 19-hour a week teen services librarian for a salary of $26,182.

While the position was not included in Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, advocates of the position once again appealed to the Board of Selectmen at a recent budget workshop.

Those who spoke, including several library board of trustee members, said the position would fill an important gap, provide safe activities for kids after school, on snow days and throughout the year.

Resident Barbara Naugle was one who spoke in favor of the position. She said book clubs, special programs and mentoring programs would be invaluable.

“The opportunities are pretty wide ranging for such a small investment,” she said. “It would be a huge investment for our kids.”

It’s the fourth year the library has requested the position.

Simon has touted numerous improvements since 2009, some funded by grants, including the creation of a teen zone with bistro tables and stools, “mitt chairs,” and much more, designed to give teens a place to work on homework, read or simply talk, Simon said. Numerous other improvements, materials and some programs have also been offered but a teen librarian is needed to coordinate those and bring it to the next level, he said.

This year, the Board of Selectmen could potentially have enough votes to support the position.

Selectmen have made it very clear that no final decisions have been made and most have stated they want to see where the numbers fall. Initially, however, at least three of the five selectmen — Steve Roberto, Tom Sevigny and Lowell Humphrey — have expressed support for the position. (Even if the selectmen vote to add the position, the budget still has to go to the Board of Finance).

In a recent budget workshop, Roberto said kids like his 12-year-old son are visiting the library after school but lack quality programming. 

"I would really find a way to make this work for the library and I support it 100 percent,” Roberto said. "I think the library could capture some of those kids."

First Selectman Richard Barlow said he wants the library to consider saving funds or raising more revenue. Barlow said some special programs, such as classes or movies, could perhaps have small fees, like they do if offered by the Parks and Recreation Department or other groups.

“I remain concerned that after several years of asking the library to potentially find ways to raise revenue they steadfastly refuse to consider,” he said.

While a letter from library board of trustees chairman Walter Gillette to Skinner raised the idea of the board at least further discussing the idea of a “fee for service” structure with the facility’s portable computer lab, advocates have spoken against the idea of charging for programs. 

Simon said the opposition is “both philosophical and pragmatic,” citing the concept of libraries as "the people's university" since the 1890s. He also feels people would not support programs with a fee and simply go to neighboring libraries.

“The library trustees and I sympathize with the town officers who want to increase income into the general fund, especially with the state cutting back on everything, but libraries are simply not places in business to generate revenue,” he said. “Libraries are service institutions dedicated to education and information and improving quality of life, not to money-generating.”

At the recent workshop, Simon also that in addition to the Friends of the Library support, he also feels the library has done a good job bringing in revenue through grant programs. 

Barlow agreed that the library has a great support structure. 

"What the friends and trustees do is substantial and I certainly appreciate all their efforts," Barlow said. 

Later in the meeting, Barlow also said that there are many other needs to consider in town, including a capital budget (e.g. infrastructure, major vehicle purchases) that should really include more. 

In his comments at the recent budget workshop, library board member Richard Matos said he felt a teen librarian was an invaluable service. In addition, just one case of a teen librarian helping a troubled youth could even save the town money, Matos said.

“(Libraries are) not engines for revenue raising revenue," he said. "They're places where awareness is raised and good citizens are produced, “ he said.

Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen will again meet to discuss the budget and could potentially vote on a proposal to bring to the Board of Finance. 

Also under discussion will be several other positions proposed in Skinner’s preliminary budget, which is $9,541,386, $352,007 or 3.83 percent more than the 2012-2013 budget of $9,189,379. The Board of Selectmen budget does not include the Board of Education spending plan or the town's debt service.

“We’ve got to make some tough decisions and I’ve already come in double that,” Skinner said, referring to selectmen's guideline to bring in a budget with an approximate 2-percent increase. 

The Board of Selectmen will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm at the Community Center. Please click here to view the agenda.

The Board of Selectmen will hold a regular meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm at the Community Center.  Please click here the view the agenda.

See a budget timeline here

As detailed in Skinner's preliminary plan, the personnel proposals under consideration include: 

  • Fire/EMS Business Manager – For several years there has been a need for administrative assistance in the Fire/EMS Department. This is due to several factors including ever increasing regulations, mandates and paperwork along with the increased volume of emergency responses. The position will require someone with a Fire/EMS background along with administrative experience. The position would be responsible for budgeting, procurement, training, reports, coordination between town agencies and general day to day administrative decisions. The position would coordinate activities closely with the Fire Chief and other emergency personnel and work under the direct supervision of the Chief Administrative Officer. The position would be part time 25 hours a week with an annual salary of approximately $42,000.
  • Department of Public Works Administrative Assistant – The Department of Public works consists of 14 full time employees and two part time employees. The Department is responsible for the operations of the Transfer Station along with all road, facility and recreational ground maintenance. The Department has the second highest budget of any department but has no clerical assistance with everything from payroll to purchasing being performed primarily by the Director and Road Foreman. With the focus on pavement management and facility maintenance, the department manager’s time would be better spent on other matters than routine clerical functions. The position would be part time 12 hours a week at an annual salary of $10,810.
  • Senior Center Coordinator – The Senior/Social Services Department is currently staffed by a full time Director and a 25 hour a week Administrative Assistant. The Director’s responsibilities have been increasingly taken up by meeting the social service needs of the Town at the expense of senior programming. In order to meet the needs of the seniors, the Director has requested that a new Senior Center Coordinator position be created. The Director requested the position be 25 hours a week. Based on budget limitations and a desire to review the benefits of the position prior to increasing the hours to 25, I have recommended the position at 16 hours per week. This should allow coverage during substantial senior events, such as luncheons, etc. and still leave time to assist in coordinating senior activities.
  • Compensation – Every other year the Town does a salary survey to determine how the Town’s pay rates compares to those of other neighboring towns within the Farmington Valley and similar towns outside of the Farmington Valley. When 29 similar positions are compared to local averages 25 of the 29 Canton positions are at a pay rate lower than an average of the local towns. When the same positions are compared to similar towns, including towns outside of the Farmington Valley, 21 of the 29 Canton positions are below the average. In order to retain quality employees Canton must maintain competitive rates, or at a minimum, ensure that its rates do not fall too far below those in surrounding towns. Therefore, the rate of pay increase recommended for non-union employees is 2.5%.
  • I am also recommending that the Director of Senior/Social Services receive a $12,000 increase in wages based on that the current rate of pay for the position is 40% below what the local average for the same position; $73,998 regional average compared to the Director’s current salary of $44,217. There is also a recommended increase in the Registrar of Voters’ stipend from $5,000 to $7,000. The increase would still leave them well below what the average is in surrounding towns.

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