By Tucker Houston | Community News Service
Do you know how much your town spends on its library? What about police?
You could find out with a new interactive map tool from UVM’s Center for Research on Vermont. Student researchers Andrew Langdon and Maggie Adams have compiled data on 101 Vermont towns and the money each spends on its library and police department from voter-approved 2022 budgets and proposed 2023 budgets.
The results: Sixty-one towns spend more on police, while 40 put more money toward libraries, according to a press release from the center.
Towns spend about $143,000 on libraries and about $756,000 on police — about a 135% increase. For a handful of towns, the spending difference is in multiples of ten.
Center director Richard Watts struck a hopeful tone when looking at the research. “Spending more on books than police is probably true of more than 100 Vermont towns, if you extrapolate this to all 251 Vermont towns,” he said.
The project examined towns ranging in population from 200 residents to more than 6,000.
Smaller towns generally spend more on their libraries compared to their police departments, according to the research.
Charlotte, a town of just under 4,000 people, has a police budget of $20,000 compared to a library budget of about $285,500, a nearly 175% difference. That trumps Burlington, the most populous city in the state with more than 42,500 residents, which has a police budget of $16.2 million and a library budget of about $2.4 million, a difference of almost 150%.
Not all small communities favor library spending over money for police. Vergennes, the state’s smallest city at around 2,500 residents, spends almost 16 times more on police services than it does on its library.
Some towns do not have a police budget, as they contract with state police for law enforcement services. In Windham and Windsor counties for instance, where the Vermont State Police opened a barracks in 2016, the majority of communities are covered by troopers, according to the agency.
Weston, a town in Windsor County with a population of 612, spends $70,000 annually on their libraries and nothing on police because the town is under state police coverage.
“Growing up in a small Vermont town, I have always been a fan of our local library,” said Adams. “It was good to see that small towns continue to commit funds to support their library.”
The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.