Letter About the Library Fines Fund
Dear Friends of the Library:
I am writing to clarify some confusion about the “reserve fund” that was referred to during the City Council meeting on Monday, August 3, 2009. Many city departments have Special Revenue Funds (not reserve funds), money that comes from fees collected by the department, like the Library’s Fines Fund. You can see a summary of Special Revenue Funds in last year’s budget book available on the City website under Finance Office: 2009 Watertown Budget. The Library Fines Fund at the end of June 2009 had just over $470,000.
I have been asked by more than one Friend where the money came from and how it is used. The money has been saved over decades by the Library Board from late fees collected, fees for rental of equipment, printing fees, photocopy fees, out-of-county card fees and some bequests that have been made to the Library. Each year the Library Board has tried to spend less than was taken in from the fees and the interest earned on the principal, in an effort to grow the capital so more usable interest can be earned. The intent has always been to use the funds as a supplement to the funding that is received from the City General Fund. Some years, the Board has used some of the principal to fund major purchases but has followed those years by saving aggressively to bring the level of the principal back up.
What the money has been used for varies. The ongoing things that the money has been spent on are: some book purchases each year; all children’s programming; all teen programming; library sponsored adult programs; all technology replacement; advertising; and some operational expenses such as postage and paper when funding from the City has been short. Some of the out-of-the-ordinary things that have been paid for from the fund are: the conversion of the library catalog from paper to an electronic format and the computers for the public and staff (around $150,000); lawn mowers; projectors and sound systems.
I hope this answers the questions about the Fines Fund that you may have. If you have other questions please feel free to contact me at the Library and I will be happy to try to answer them.