Nettie-Lee Calog had just become used to the Warrenton Community Library’s bigger, brighter location. Now she has to wrap her mind around a new budget.
“This budget is so much bigger than the previous budgets I’ve had to work with, I’m not quite sure how to proceed with it,” the site manager told the Warrenton Budget Committee at a hearing last week.
“Except for to dance?” suggested City Manager Linda Engbretson.
The operational levy for the library, unchanged for 15 years even as costs and demands for services went up, brought in $48,939 this fiscal year and was supplemented by a transfer of money from the city’s general fund. Next fiscal year, thanks to a levy increase from 9 cents to 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value approved by voters last November, the levy will bring in just under $180,000.
The result: A larger budget that will allow for expanded library hours — adding extra evening and weekend hours — and increased employee hours. Calog will go from working 25 hours a week to 30. Carole Feldman, an administrative assistant and the library’s only other employee, will go up from 11.5 hours a week to 25. They might finally be able to have staff meetings, Calog said, only half jokingly.
The total proposed budget for the little library for the next fiscal year, which starts in July, comes to nearly $267,000. The levy is expected to bring in an estimated $933,773 over the next five years.
For comparison, the Astoria Library, staffed by Director Jimmy Pearson, two full-time senior librarian assistants and several part-time library assistants, will operate with a general budget of $531,275 this next fiscal year, with the addition of $108,000 of capital improvement fund money. The Seaside Public Library, with more than 3,000 registered patrons, has a budget of nearly $690,000 this fiscal year.
Warrenton’s library operated out of a small building on Pacific Drive in Hammond for years until an inspection revealed the structure was in critical condition. The library relocated in 2017, leasing a building downtown from the Warrenton School District, a move that displaced the Serendipity Caffe and Bakery. At the time, the move caused some consternation in the community, but the library has only seen library card sign-ups and use increase at the new location.
“I guess the question is: At some point in the future is it something the city may be interested in purchasing?” Engbretson said. Right now, the answer is unknown. The City Commission still needs to determine what it wants to do with the old Hammond building.
For now, Engbretson is interested to see what a year really looks like with the increased levy funds in place. Beyond adding hours of operation, Calog hopes to make the library more of a community space and offer evening programs.
If the library lands a grant to automate services — adding bar codes to materials and a computer system to track checkouts and returns, among other benefits — there will be more money to work with. Warrenton went out for the grant with Seaside Public Library. Calog and Engbretson expect to hear back about the grant’s status by early June at the latest. Engbretson said they are optimistic they will get the grant, but would still be able to do some automation even without it.
Mayor Henry Balensifer said he was excited about the library’s more robust budget, and satisfied by how Calog plans to use the money. But, he told her, “I want to keep this in perspective.”
“I know you said you’ve been used to a shoestring budget, but looking at this budget, it’s still a shoestring,” he said. “It’s just a nicer shoestring.”