Sharon to discuss library services at Town Meeting

  • Sharon Select Board members Carl Newton, Linda Paris and Diane Callahan discuss the budget at the town's budget hearing on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sharon Select Board members Carl Newton and Linda Paris discuss the budget at the town's budget hearing on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/8/2019 2:32:28 PM

Sharon will be requesting voters approve funds to settle a lawsuit with FairPoint Communications during Town Meeting this year.

Sharon was one of many New Hampshire towns involved in a suit relating to over-taxing FairPoint for poles and right-of-way access in town from 2011 to 2015, the board explained during the town’s budget hearing on Tuesday. As a result of the suit, Sharon must abate $18,322 in taxes to FairPoint. 

“This is a big one,” Select Board Chair Carl Newton said of the unanticipated expense. Newton said if the article does not pass, the town will still have to pay the abatements, and “the money will have to come from somewhere else.”

The town does have some funds in an overlay accountable to be used for abatements, but how much is available wasn’t clear at Tuesday’s budget hearing. 

Sharon’s budget this year is proposed at $361,598, a drop from the previous year’s budget of $376,425.

One of the decreases is related to the cost of library services. Sharon ended its contract with the Peterborough Public Library in January, and has been looking for alternate library services.

Sharon Select Board members initially floated the idea of offering several options through warrant articles to the voters, including creating a fund to re-imburse residents for cards from any library they chose to get a card. However, the town has since received an opinion from the state’s Department of Revenue Administration that this would be considered a private use of public funds, and thus illegal.

The town is also considering a contract with the Jaffrey Public Library. The board ultimately decided Tuesday to put enough funds in the budget to cover the proposed cost of the Jaffrey contract and move forward with negotiating a contract with them for discussion at Town Meeting.

The library issue will be included in the budget, and will be a point of conversation at that stage of Town Meeting, and not as a separate warrant article, Newton said.

Jaffrey Public Library has offered library services to Sharon residents for an annual fee of $3,750, a significant drop from the contract Sharon had with Peterborough, which charged $10,560 for library services.

Julie Perrin, Jaffrey’s Library Director, said the offer was based on Sharon’s demographics and number of households, instead of total population. The vast majority of Sharon residents – nearly 75 percent – are households of two or more people, and it also has a high senior population, Perrin said. Jaffrey’s out-of-town cards are $60 for an individual, but they have a $75 rate for households and a $30 rate for seniors over 65, she said. 

Several Sharon residents already has a Jaffrey library card prior to January, Perrin said, and about six more signed up in the weeks after the Peterborough contract ended. All of those new sign-ups were either household or senior cards.

“We may be geographically closer for some of those residents,” she said. 

Several Sharon residents said that while it didn’t necessarily have to be Peterborough Public Library, library services were important to them. Anne Booth of Sharon called libraries a “very important cultural entity.”

Richard Dufresne of Sharon said, “The venue can change, but the fact that we offer [library services] is part of who we are.”

In other warrant articles discussed Tuesday, the town is requesting $35,000 for the highway repairs fund, $2,500 for the legal expense fund, $5,000 for the bridge capital reserve, $5,000 for the audit capital reserve, $2,000 for the welfare capital reserve, and $7,500 for the assessing capital reserve fund.

Sharon will vote on all warrant items during its Town Meeting, sceduled for 8 p.m. on March 12, following ballot voting at the Sharon Meeting House. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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