NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A move by the Town Council to transfer $441,103 into the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library to make up for a cut by the previous council must go to a public hearing.
A resident petition the town received Monday before the council meeting was deemed valid and means that the council must advertise to hold a public hearing on the proposed transfer.
“This has happened in the past. It’s something residents can do if they can get 20 signatures,” Council President Jesse Pugh said.
The petition will go onto the council’s Jan. 4 agenda to receive and take action, meaning the council will set a hearing date on Jan. 4.
The funds would transfer from the town’s general fund to the library’s budget.
Library Board of Trustees President Laurie Kelly said a delay would not have an “ill effect” on the attempt to transfer money back into the library’s budget.
But Kelly said the town won’t receive money from the state Office of Library Information Services because of the previous cuts.
A year ago, the state said that Narragansett didn’t qualify for a waiver that would make it eligible to receive more than $180,000 in library funds, after the Town Council cut $400,000 from the library’s budget.
“The way the budget was cut by the previous council two years in a row, we will not get the state money next year and the year after. We will only get half of the money,” she said. “And it’s too late for us to reinstate that. But it’s important to say for people of the town and to the state that the people of Narragansett embrace the library and want to fully fund the library and go forward with it as a valid educational institution of the town.”
Resident Paul Zonfrillo signed the petition.
“Because this is fiscally irresponsible,” he said. “I’d just like to remind you to do your own research, because it’s just not accurate that the town needs to transfer this money for OLIS.”
He appealed to the council members to do their town research.
“You guys are not the library council, you’re the Narragansett Town Council. Dipping into our emergency reserves has serious implications for the town,” he said.
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.”
In order to meet the eligibility requirement for State Aid to Libraries, Narragansett had to have appropriated for fiscal year 2020 an amount not less than $814,743, the amount expended in fiscal year 2019.
The library received state aid of $187,492 in 2019, $191,652 in 2018 and $153,079 in 2017.