Rhode Island General Law 29-6-6 provides for reimbursement funding for public library construction projects through the Public Library Construction Reimbursement Program administered by the Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS).
The Rhode Island Statewide Library Program was activated July 1, 1964 in response to a heightened interest in statewide library cooperation and the upcoming federal legislation that became the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA). The construction aspect of the LSCA was considered an intrinsic part of improving library service, and motivated local efforts to supplement federal seed money. The 1965 Annual Report from Rhode Island to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Office of Education states that “the outdated, inappropriate, inconvenient, and inadequate housing of public libraries became acutely real upon examination.”
More information: Program History
The Public Library Construction Reimbursement Program itself actually began in 1965. That year twenty-six libraries made serious inquiries regarding library construction, and eight Library Construction Projects were reviewed, approved and processed, using the full Federal allotment of $100,000, the State Construction appropriation of $100,000, and an additional re-allotment of Federal money. The state program, which at the time was one of only two state programs providing funds for library construction, was continued in 1966. In 1967 the appropriation was increased to $150,000 and the Rhode Island library law was amended to permit funding over a twenty-year period.
The program expanded considerably over the years, with state aid for library construction projects increasing from $675,000 in the 1960’s to over $15,500,000 in the 1980’s. In 1990, the program was put on hiatus as a result of state budget cuts during the state credit union crisis. Governor Almond reinstated the program in 1998.
More information: Program History
Since the program’s inception, the state of RI has provided $40 million for public library construction projects -- more than 40% of the total cost of these projects. Since its reinstatement six years ago, the state has committed over $18 million to library building projects in 15 communities from New Shoreham to Woonsocket.
More information: Program Funding
The RI program covers up to 50% of eligible costs, which include the actual construction costs for a new or renovated facility as well as architect’s fees, building consultants, furnishings and equipment, land acquisition, site preparation, landscaping, parking lots, and even the interest on the loan the library, city or town takes out for the project to cover the state's share.
More information: Allowable Costs
In order to be considered for reimbursement funding, applicants must meet the requirements of the program as specified in regulations promulgated by the Library Board of Rhode Island and OLIS. These regulations include library requirements, project requirements, application procedures, allowable costs, and contractor requirements. When a project application meets these requirements, funding approval is requested from the Director of the Department of Administration.
More information: Program Regulations
The Public Library Construction Reimbursement Program of the Office of Library and Information Services is an integral part of the state library agency’s efforts to expand and improve library services. In its capacity as the state library agency, OLIS becomes involved with a construction project from its initial stages, and sees it through project completion. An OLIS Library Program Specialist assists a library with project development and the application process to facilitate compliance with program regulations.
A formal agreement for reimbursement is not signed by OLIS and the library until all project plans and specifications have been reviewed and approved, all funding is in place, and the project is ready to go out to bid. The reimbursement amount is specified in the construction reimbursement agreement.
The project is monitored throughout construction, and field notes and financial reports are provided to the state's Central Business Office for the final project audit, which determines the actual reimbursement payments and payment schedule.
The construction agreement specifies the maximum amount the state will reimburse, plus the interest incurred if the library or municipality borrows the state's share of the project cost. If a project runs over budget, the library or municipality must fund the additional expense; if the project comes in under budget, the reimbursement will be adjusted accordingly, as determined by the audit.
Reimbursement payments begin in the state fiscal year following the completion, acceptance and audit of the construction project, which is conducted by the Department of Administration Central Business Office. Usually the library or the city or town borrows the state share through mortgage, bonds or other loan instruments. The Central Business Office and OLIS participate in the development of the loan agreement, assuring the lender of the state's participation in the project and agreeing to the total amount of capital and interest to be reimbursed and to the terms of the mortgage or other loan.
Reimbursement payments to libraries, cities or towns are extended over a twenty-year period and are timed so that payment is received just before payment on the mortgage or bonds is due, as any interest earned on funds deposited must be credited to the State of Rhode Island. Each year, one-twentieth of the principal is paid, plus the interest incurred in borrowing the state share. The interest incurred in borrowing the state share during the construction period until state reimbursement begins is usually paid during the first year of reimbursement payments.
If the legislative initiative introduced by Representative Dennigan (bill number pending) is approved, that is not likely to occur for the next five years. OLIS staff has surveyed all the public libraries and has projected reimbursement needs for the next five years.
If the legislation is not approved and funding is limited, priority will be assigned to projects based on ability to pay, with communities in the lowest quartile of "equalized weighted assessed valuation" ranked highest. Priority will also be given to those communities that have not completed a library construction project involving state construction reimbursement funding.
Because of the limit on funding in any given year, the Office of Library and Information Services may negotiate a percentage of reimbursement for an individual project that is less than fifty percent (50%), depending on the local community's ability to pay, the size of the project, and other projects under consideration.
Since the program began in 1965, 34 out of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns have received reimbursement for library construction projects. A total of 89 projects have been funded to date; in the next five years 20 more projects are anticipated.
In the past 8 years, projects have been completed in Barrington, Cumberland, East Greenwich, East Providence (Riverside), Exeter, Middletown, New Shoreham (Island Free Library), Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Providence (Rochambeau, South Providence), Scituate (Hope Library), Warwick, and Woonsocket.
Communities that have submitted applications include Bristol, Greenville, Johnston, No. Scituate and Providence (Knight Memorial). Letters of intent to apply for construction funding have been received from Tiverton and Westerly; North Smithfield and West Greenwich are in the preliminary planning phase.
RI may be small in size, but its library construction reimbursement program is huge in stature, and is probably unique in the nation. In those states where library construction funding (grants) takes place at all, the limitations are much greater. In Massachusetts, for example, a single, one-year grant may be available, but the waiting list is long and the grants cover a much smaller percentage of the total project costs.