Towns outside of Gardiner are going to pay a little differently for their residents to use the Gardiner Public Library.

Gardiner city councilors have approved a fee schedule proposed by the library’s board of trustees for the upcoming budget year, based on a new formula.

Going forward, towns will be billed on a per capita basis. For towns located in the Gardiner-area school district – Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner – the charge will be $10 per capita. According to the latest census figures, Pittston has 2,666 residents and would pay $26,660, while Randolph (1,772 residents) would pay $17,720 and West Gardiner (3,474) would pay $34,740. For Farmingdale and Litchfield, the cost would be $7.50 per resident; for Farmingdale, with 2,956 residents, the cost would be $22,170; and Litchfield would pay $27,180 for its 3,624 residents.

For most towns, the change will increase the amount currently being paid for library usage. Farmingdale would see the biggest increase, up $11,865 from its current contribution of $10,305. Litchfield would increase $6,285 from $20,895, Pittston would increase $2,782 from $23,878, and Randolph would increase by $2,575 from $15,145. West Gardiner would be the sole town to see a decreased contribution, down $529 from its current $35,269.

To ease the transition for the towns, Gardiner Public Library Director Anne Davis recommended phasing in the new structure over four years, and Gardiner elected officials agreed. That means each town would see just a quarter of that increase added to its contribution levels in each of the next four years. For example, Farmingdale would see its contribution increase by $2,966 annually over the next four years to bring it from its current $10,305 to its eventual $22,170.

The Gardiner Public Library is a department of city government. But the building is owned by the nonprofit Gardiner Library Association, which also pays for facility improvements and more than half of the materials the library buys each year.

While some libraries in Maine sell individual cards to nonresidents, the Gardiner Public Library charges a fee to partner towns for their residents to use the library and its services. It imposes no restrictions on the number of cards issued to residents in its partner communities, and they get the same access to the library’s services and collections as people who live in Gardiner. The fees reflect the cost of running the library, and they were based on the population served.

Now, it’s up to the towns to decide whether they will pay it. Selectmen and budget committees in several of those towns are now crafting their spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year that residents will be asked to vote for at town meetings in March.

“It’s good to have a formula to see where everything comes from,” said Greg Couture, chairman of the West Gardiner Board of Selectmen. “It’s understandable that way.”

Residents of West Gardiner, which has a March town meeting, have generally made good use of the library and its resources, and its bill is usually the highest. Using the per capita formula is expected to bring that down slightly in the short term.

Pittston also has a March town meeting.

Three years ago, residents debated the merits of paying the library fee for more than an hour but finally approved it.

Roger Linton, chairman of the Pittston Board of Selectmen, expects that residents will have some questions about the change.

“We have joined most of the activities in Gardiner,” Linton said, including the Gardiner Ambulance and the Boys & Girls Club of the Kennebec Valley. “But times are getting tighter.”

For several years the library board, whose membership includes residents of partner communities, has been considering changing how it charges neighboring towns for the use of the library and its resources.

“We stopped being able to base it on circulation,” Davis said.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: JLowellKJ

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