By BRADEN LAMMERS
Similar to many other government services in Clark County that have been affected by reduced revenues, the Jeffersonville Township Public Library is facing a budget shortfall in 2010.
The library — which is expecting its total operations budget of about $1.8 million to be reduced between 6 and 8 percent — is cutting employee hours, hours of operation and reducing salaries for its employees to address the shortfall.
An 8 percent cut to the library’s annual budget would equal about $150,000, and the budget includes both the Jeffersonville and Clarksville libraries. In addition to the shortfall that is expected, another library fund has already faced a significant cut, which will further affect the shortfall.
The capital projects budget provides funding to purchase computer equipment, pays two salaries among other expenses and was cut by $55,673.
Salaries that were funded through the capital projects budget will now be folded into the general operating budget.
LESS MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
Library Director Libby Pollard attributed the shortfall to lower property tax revenues being collected, which is the main source for library funding.
“I know people don’t want to pay property taxes and times are hard, but we all need access to a public library,” she said. “It could really have some detrimental affects on us and it’s possible it could even be worse,” she said of the amount of property tax revenue coming into the county.
Pollard said she is concerned about what could happen to available revenues if a referendum to adopt the property tax caps as a state constitutional amendment is approved in November by voters.
“I’m concerned about what that holds for the future,” she said.
But for Pollard, 2010 is not the first time the library has had to address a shortfall in funding. In 2009, the library did not receive its money for the approved budget until almost the end of the year.
“We didn’t get our 2009 tax draw until Dec. 29 of 2009,” she said. “It was reduced by about $150,000 from what had been approved, but fortunately we had the money to cover that. We had been frugal so we had the money, but it’s scary.
“And the fact that you have to borrow all of this money to operate until you get your tax drop, the interest is just like money flushed down the toilet. It’s just a waste.”
Fortunately, for 2010, tax disbursements are expected to come in on time, but unfortunately the amount will again shrink.
“We are not alone in this problem,” Pollard said. “It’s a statewide problem. It’s a national problem.”
To cut costs, the library will focus its largest reductions on part-time employee hours, which have been reduced by an average of 55 percent. A part-time employee at the library makes about $12 per hour and the move is expected to help mitigate the more than $200,000 shortfall — which is capital projects and Department of Local Government Finance reduction together.
The library employs 22 part-time workers between the Jeffersonville and Clarksville locations and will not be the sole source of the cuts.
Full-time employees will see a 3 percent reduction in salary — of which there are 21 averaging just more than $16 per hour — and hours at the library will be reduced by opening an hour later and closing an hour earlier Monday through Thursday, closing a half-an-hour earlier on Friday and the Clarksville location will also close early on Wednesday, at 6 p.m.
“We decided we had to cut staff hours so, of course, to accommodate that reduction, we had to reduce library hours,” Pollard said.
The cuts in hours and staff salary are set to begin Monday.
Also, in hopes to recover some additional revenue, the library will increase fines for overdue books and CDs from 10 cents per day to 25 cents per day. Notary services that are provided at the library will now come with a $2 charge per seal.
“I don’t know how much money we are going to get from this increase, because fines and fees are in the same pool,” Pollard said.
While the DLGF is still expected to approve between 92 and 94 percent of 2010’s library budget, some services may be affected.
“I think there will be longer lines,” Pollard said. “Because of the reduction of hours, there might just be one person on the desk instead of two. I’m hoping that there’s not any other ramifications. Outside of the hours, I’m hoping that people won’t really notice too much.”
Services that will not change are summer reading programs offered for children and adults paid for by donations through the Friends of the Library group — which totaled $14,423 for 2009.
And while the library saw about 70,000 fewer visitors in 2009 than it did in 2008, the level of services requested have actually increased, Pollard said.
“You may have had fewer bodies coming in the door, but the level of activity was higher,” she said.
The number of children’s programs nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009 from 246 to 478 and adult programs increased nearly six times from 40 in 2008 to 231 in 2009.
When asked if the library would consider charging for some of the programs, Pollard said it would not.
“To me it goes against the philosophy of what a public library is,” she said.
For Pollard, the library is a resource for anyone in the community to receive equal access to information free of charge — a service Jeffersonville resident Gayle Shoats said is invaluable.
Shoats was using the computer lab at the Jeffersonville library Monday. Even though she has a computer at home, she does not have Internet service or access to a printer.
“The facility is nice, it’s clean, the personnel are helpful, they’re overly helpful,” she said of the staff.
Shoats added that she uses the lab about five times a month for personal use and was there Monday to send e-mails and do some online banking.
“It’s been a lifesaver for me,” she said.
The availability of the computers and Internet access has also been essential to individuals who may not have their own computer.
Pollard said many people who are unemployed come in to apply for jobs online, improve their computer skills with help from the staff and have also been given training for temporary work for employers such as the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s not just access to information ... I think cuts to a public library have a negative effect on society,” she said. “I believe a democracy really can only exist as long as there is access to information.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Jeffersonville Township Public Library
• Operations budget for 2010 — $1,876,889
• Potential 2010 shortfall — 8 percent reduction plus capital project cuts, $205,673
• Number of visits — 2008, 407,212; 2009, 336,908
• Library programs used — In 2009, nearly 10,000 people attended library programs. The computers were used for 51,623 hours.
SO YOU KNOW
• The following are changes to library hours, effective May 17. Monday through Thursday, open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Wednesdays, the Clarksville location will close at 6 p.m.