Minutes for the Feb. 14 Trustees Meeting

The meeting convened at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Attending were Cindy Binzen, Curt Albee, Miriam Newman, Rachel Kurland, Carol Wilson, Melissa Strayton (librarian), Betsy Ruml (Library Investment Committee) and Marty Frank.

Minutes from the January meeting were accepted.

Endowment Management: Betsy Ruml said that the Library Investment Committee decided at its last meeting to recommend transferring management of the library’s endowment funds to professionals. This would replicate a decision made by the Trustees of Public Funds about a year ago. Betsy explained that she and John Hawkins, both trustees who oversee investment of the town’s $1.5 million in trust funds, realized that it would be all but impossible to replace Kevin Plunkett, who had devoted much time and offered considerable investment expertise to those trustees before retiring. In addition to their concern about being able to recruit someone with the necessary investment skills, they were also uncomfortable with the fiduciary liability involved in deciding how to best invest public money. Both of those concerns apply to management of the library’s endowment. 

The investment committee recommends turning management over to Mascoma Wealth Management because it’s less expensive than Ledyard Bank, the other local option. Mascoma offers nonprofits a discounted management fee: an annual rate of 0.005 percentage of the funds it manages ($2,000 on the the current endowment value of $400,000). Mascoma Wealth Management has seven advisers who meet periodically to review the portfolios they oversee and decide what sort of adjustments to make. Under the Mascoma model, the library would decide how aggressively it wishes the money to be invested, and Mascoma would balance the allocation between equities and bonds accordingly. The money would be invested in ETFs (exchange traded funds).

Betsy said the only snag that’s developed since the Trustees of Public Funds decided to switch to Mascoma has been administrative: It’s taken a while to sort things out. If the library were to adopt this recommendation, the investment committee’s job would be to listen to and evaluate the advice of the managers. The library trustees’ decision about how aggressively to invest its money should be driven largely by its anticipated need for cash. Betsy recommended a growth strategy, the second most-aggressive option, because our endowment is on the small side and there’s a possibility we might find ourselves needing money to address a costly building repair. A growth strategy calls for a 70/30 split between stocks and bonds. In answer to a question from Miriam, Betsy said we would be able to direct Mascoma to maintain an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) portfolio. When Cindy asked what we might do with the money that is coming via the bequest, Betsy said we could add it to the Mascoma Wealth Management portfolio but keep it in a money market fund, put it in a money market fund at Vanguard (the Investment Committee will still maintain a Vanguard account for our restricted funds) or put it in our checking account at Mascoma. 

Marty moved, Miriam seconded that we approve the investment committee’s recommendation that management of the endowment fund be transferred to Mascoma Wealth Management. The motion passed unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report: Rachel continues to be in contact with H&R about its failure to submit our 2020 990 to the IRS in a timely fashion because it mailed it in rather than submitting it electronically. In short, H&R has sent a couple of letters to the IRS to determine what consequences we might face, the IRS has not responded to those contacts and is unlikely to any time in the near future, and Rachel has made it clear to H&R that it was responsible for the error and would be responsible if any fines were to result.

In casting about for a new person to take on the next 990, Rachel learned from Suzanna Leipman that her firm is not accepting new clients. She’ll continue to research what options we might have. Marty said he would call a trustee of Thetford’s libraries to see who they use. Rachel also reported that she submitted the annual report to the Probate Court.

Librarian’s Report: Melissa said that the second air purifier arrived and has been set up. She attended a LUV meeting and has received new materials. She prepared and submitted the annual statistical report to the state, and also prepared and submitted the document necessary to keep us eligible for government grants. She has tracked down and contacted parents of babies born in 2021 for the nameplates that will be attached to new children’s books that celebrate their arrivals. The December audiobook order finally arrived, and the timing of the billing will push that expense item onto the 2022 budget. Sarah prepared 30 make-and-take projects for students to take home over the coming school vacation. Sarah will be attending a workshop of the summer reading program.

Other Business: Curt said Shawn Harlow checked out the icicle that formed on the outdoor faucet and doesn’t think we have anything to worry about. The shut-off valve is in a protected place, and when it closes there’s some water that drains out that  can freeze in especially cold weather. Melissa noted that the basement leak isn’t necessarily worse than before, but the area of crumbling plaster has definitely gotten larger. We still haven’t heard from Tom Cecere about the EC Fiber hub. Rachel reported that we sold almost $500 in used books. 

The board tossed around some ideas about how the bequest from the Campbell family might be used. Among them: Repairing or replacing the slate roof; remove the large spruce tree in front of the library; enlarging the children’s room; restoring the paintings in the main room; tents for the book sale; a gazebo for children’s activities or just relaxing outside the library.

Our next meeting will be March 14, perhaps by Zoom.

Submitted by Marty Frank