SOUTH PORTLAND — More than 20 residents Tuesday urged city councilors to adopt a library budget that would help fund staffing and extend hours of operation.

Councilors in the May 28 budget workshop, however, indicated support for reducing the library’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget increase, from $111,000 to $66,000.

The City Council also gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that prohibits the sale to and possession of tobacco products by individuals under the age of 21, closing a loophole in a state law.

In a May 7 workshop, councilors discussed proposed budget increases from 15 different city departments, for expenses ranging from library staffing to recycling fees, voting machine rentals, and social services.

At that workshop, councilors asked the library to find a way to reduce spending and while maintaining services.

Additional hours for an outreach librarian were revised to propose a four-hour increase, making it part-time. The proposal also adds an additioanl five hours to existing library aid positions.

According to Library Director Kevin Davis, the limited hours will make it difficult to explore and pursue community partnerships. He also said the revision eliminates the expense of a benefits package for the outreach librarian.

The revised plan still includes a full-time youth services assistant, up from 20 hours a week, which will allow expansion of children’s programming.

“This is an investment in a city service that reaches so many people across the generations. We we can’t afford not to do it,” Ardsley Avenue resident Jessica Walker told councilors. “It’s an important thing for both young people and older people in our community receive those services.”

The revised proposal reduces service hours from the origonal proposal, with two fewer hours at the main library on Broadway (open Monday through Saturday) and six fewer hours at the branch library on Wescott Road (open Snday through Friday). The main library would be open 54 hours a week, while the branch would have 24 hours.

“Education is a valuable component of life. You can go to the library and lose yourself and travel the world without stepping outside the building,” Councilor Deqa Dhalac said. “This has provided so much for the community. Our children are here, their parents are here. I am so supportive of the library.”

Finance Director Greg L’Heureux said the proposed reduction in funding for the library would reduce the overall tax rate by two cents.

But even with that adjustment, additional spending of $268,000 that came out of a May 7 budget workshop means the overall tax rate, including school spending, will need to increase another 8 cents, to a proposed $19.25 per $1,000 of valuation – a 75-cent, or 4.05% increase from this year.

The final step in the municipal budget process will be approvoal at the council’s June 18 meeting.

Tobacco ordinance

Second and final approval of an ordinance prohibiting the sale and possession of tobacco products by individuals under the age of 21 passed unanimously, with Councilor Katherine Lewis absent.

The decision effectively closes a gap in Maine law that hiked the age to buy tobacco to 21, but still allowed smoking at 18.

Last July, Maine banned 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds from buying tobacco products, but exempted people who were already 18-20. South Portland’s action eliminates that exemption in the city.

The council initially discussed the issue at a March 26 workshop, after receiving a recomendation from the Police Department.

Councilors passed the first reading of the ordinance May 14. It will go into effect June 17.

Violations will subject sellers to penalties ranging from $500 to $2,500 per violation. Underage smokers would be required to complete tobacco-related education classes, diversion programs, or specified work for the city.

The city of Portland has already passed a similar ordinance.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at [email protected] or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

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