MILLVILLE - Special election voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide two Proposition 2-1/2 override ballot questions.
Polls at the Longfellow Municipal Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Question 1 on the ballots asks voters to allow for a $300,000 override for the purpose of funding the operational expenses of the general municipal government for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Question 2 asks voters to allow for a $100,000 override for the purpose of funding the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Town residents actually approved two budgets at the Annual Town Meeting last month. The first budget is contingent upon the passage of the two override questions and totals $4,858,833. The second budget totals $4,697,987and will take effect on July 1 if the override questions do not pass at the polls on Tuesday.
The difference of approximately $160,850 between the two budgets includes, but is not limited to, additional funding of $100,000 for the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District; $20,000 for the Millville Senior Center; and $30,000 for the Millville Free Public Library.
If Question 1 is defeated at the polls, the Senior Center is only budgeted to remain open for six months, through Dec. 31, 2011. Town officials say the Senior Center will be forced to close its doors effective Jan. 1, 2012, unless another source of funding becomes available prior to that time.
The Millville Library, officials added, will face significant reductions in hours and personnel and will only be open to the public for six hours each week beginning July 1. Additionally, the library will lose its state certification.
If Question 2 is defeated, the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District will be forced to make budget cuts at their discretion.
As early as March, Finance Committee Chairman Paul Ouellette was sounding the alarm, warning selectmen that the town was facing a budget deficit of $160,000. At that time, the committee recommended selectmen call for an override, saying without one, the town would suffer a "significant loss of services."
Proposition 2-1/2 limits the amount of revenue a city or town may raise from local property taxes each year to fund municipal operations. Communities must seek voter approval to raise additional funds beyond Proposition 2-1/2 limits.
Library Director Lisa Cheever said last month that if Question 1 does not pass, the library will reduce operating hours and services and may even close its doors.
If that happens, she says , it would set up a chain of events that would ultimately jeopardize the library's state certification and endanger its membership in the inter-loan program and eligibility for state and federal grants.
Without the override, Cheever said, the library's proposed $22,882 budget would take a brutal hit, leaving no money to provide adequate services.
Cheever said the cuts would have a devastating impact on library services, especially at a time when demand for those services is at an all-time high.
If the library closes, it would lose its certification and town residents would not be able to borrow materials from other libraries in the system, among other things.
In order for a public library to be certified in Massachusetts, it must meet certain minimum standards of funding and service mandated by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. A public library that does not meet those standards is “decertified” by the state Board of Library Commissioners and is not eligible to receive state aid funding, apply for or receive grant funds, or enter into any contracts with the region to provide supplemental services.
"Many Millville residents use other libraries in neighboring towns, and are welcomed to do so because the Millville Free Public Library is a certified library," Cheever explained. "However, with the possible closing of the town library, Millville residents' borrowing privileges at surrounding town libraries are in jeopardy if the Millville Library loses its certification."
According to Cheevers, to be certified by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, a library must meet three components, including weekly hours of service and materials expenditures, both of which are based on the municipality's population. Third is the municipality's required appropriation to the library based on municipal funding history (the average of the prior three years municipal appropriations, plus 2.5 percent).
Cheever said an influx of new patrons at other libraries will result in increased costs for those towns, and could alternately result in increased registration fees for out-of-town residents.
"As of today there has been no formal announcement by the Boards of Library Trustees from nearby towns should the Millville library be closed, and we cannot predict their decisions," she said.
Non-certified libraries are also ineligible to receive support through the Small Libraries in Networks Program and cannot apply for funds under the Public Library Construction Program and any existing grant will be invalidated because the library must maintain eligibility throughout the construction process in order to receive grant funds.
The Fiscal Year 2012 budgets, as approved at the Annual Town Meeting last month, can be viewed on the town's website at www.millvillema.org . Additional information is also available online regarding the Proposition 2-1/2 override, which informs residents of the additional taxes they may incur should the overrides pass. Copies of this documentation are also available in the Municipal Center Business Office.
Residents with questions or concerns regarding the election may contact the Office of the Town Clerk.