NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The state has informed the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library in Narragansett that it is at risk of losing state aid in the 2020 fiscal year because the town cut $400,000 from the library’s budget.
At stake is $186,191 in aid, according to the state Office of Library and Information Services.
The Sept. 27 letter from Office of Library and Information Services Chief Karen Mellor to Loontjens Library Director Patti Arkwright acknowledges the receipt of the library’s 2020 application for Tax-Based Grant-in-Aid for Free Public Libraries.
The application lists 2019-20 fiscal year budget of $841,103 and expenditures of $814,743. For the upcoming 2020 fiscal year, it notes a $400,000 appropriation.
The Town Council voted in June to adopt a budget with a $441,000 cut to Narragansett’s transfer of funds to its library.
State law sets eligibility requirements for aid to libraries, including that a city or town shall “appropriate from local tax revenues an amount not less than the amount appropriated the previous year from local tax revenues and expended for library operating expenses.”
Mellor said Narragansett’s library falls short of that requirement.
“In order to meet the eligibility requirement for State Aid to Libraries, the Town of Narragansett must appropriate for fiscal year 2020 an amount not less than $814,743, the amount expended in fiscal year 2019,” Mellor wrote.
The library received state aid of $187,492 in 2019, $191,652 in 2018 and $153,079 in 2017.
Mellor said the town can apply for a waiver of the requirement, known as “maintenance of effort,” and must file the request by Nov. 1.
Failing to file or to meet the requirement for maintenance of effort would mean the town would not be eligible for state library aid.
“While it is OLIS’ mission to strengthen and support library services statewide, it is also incumbent upon this office to distribute state aid in accordance with the law,” Mellor wrote.
The state notice came a day after proponents of moving the library to the former IGA/Belmont Market space gained a foothold in efforts to halt the building’s sale by the town.
A move to sell the Belmont building to Connecticut developer Carlos Mouta is now on hold after a Washington County Superior Court judge granted a restraining order Sept. 26.
Mouta has told town officials he wants to develop a European-style open food market on the site.
A lawsuit filed against the Town Council Sept. 24 seeks to stop the $2 million sale to Mouta’s firm PKV LLC.
Plaintiffs are former Town Council President Susan Cicilline Buonanno, resident and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Winters B. Hames III and Laurie Kelly, president of the Narragansett Library Board of Trustees, as well as advocacy groups Love Your Library, Inc. and Friends of the Narragansett Library, Inc.
Defendants include the council, PKV LLC and DSM Pier Realty, LLC, which owns the Pier Liquors store in part of the Belmont building. The council voted in August to sell that space and the second-floor area above it, along with a dozen parking spaces, to Pier Liquors for $735,000 rather than continue leasing it to the local business.
Mouta had not yet signed a purchase agreement with the town as of mid-September. Doing so would set the purchase process in motion and would have PKV LLC pay the town $50,000 within five days of signing the agreement, plus $700,000 at closing.