Difficult Times, Difficult Choices
The 2010 library budget process has begun, and the economic news continues to worsen. The library board of trustees, library administration, and library staff have so far focused on making cuts that have the least impact on our service to you, but as the recession deepens, the sad truth is that you will begin to see an erosion in library services.
In 2009, we reduced the library budget by 10%--a combination of falling property values and the vote by the board of trustees in August 2008 to voluntarily lower the library millage rate to reduce the burden on our economically-stressed taxpayers. In 2010, we are facing an additional cut of 6% to 10%. The total cuts over these two years will total more than $1 million from the library's 2008 budget of $6.4 million. We can no longer avoid making cuts that will affect your experience at the library.
Why is library revenue declining?
- About 93% of our revenue comes from property taxes; as property values have fallen, our property tax revenues have also declined. The voters of Canton originally approved a library funding rate of 2.0 mills, which has been eroded by Headlee to 1.5437 mills. In August of 2008, recognizing the toll that the recession was taking on our taxpayers, the library board voted to voluntarily reduce the library millage to 1.4980, cutting your taxes by $6 for every $100,000 in taxable value.
- State revenue sharing has declined; while Public Act 89 of 1977 mandates state funding of $1.50 per capita for public libraries in Michigan, the actual amount the state budgeted for 2009 was $.96 per capita, and state budget cuts have taken that down even further, to $.92 per capita for 2009 and a projected $.85 per capita for 2010.
- Interest on investments, county penal fine sharing, and donations to the library are also down compared to previous years.
The irony is that the library budget is declining while library usage has increased more than 25% since 2007. Over the last year we've reduced our spending on "behind the scenes" activities to minimize the impact on our public. We've streamlined our internal processes, reduced our headcount, eliminated redundancies and unnecessary steps, and pulled together as a team to come up with ways to continue serving you with excellence despite having less money. I am proud of my staff for their creativity and flexibility in facing these tough cuts. We have been able, for the most part, to continue to meet your expectations for excellent library service, and are the definition of "doing more with less."
For 2010 we must make further cuts to reach a balanced budget. We are looking at cutting our staffing, materials, programming, marketing, technology, and training lines, which means that for you, our public, there will be a noticeable difference. You'll see it in our programming, with fewer sessions and larger audience sizes. You'll see it in our collections, as we will not be able to purchase as many titles or copies of titles as we have in the past. You'll see it in our research offerings, as we cut expensive electronic subscriptions and magazines that we can no longer afford. You'll see it in increased wait times for checkout, longer lines at service desks, and longer hold times when you call us as we stretch our shrinking staff. We'll print fewer bookmarks, fewer Connections newsletters, and fewer flyers. We'll stretch our hardware and software, squeezing a few more years of service out of them to avoid replacement costs.
Please respond to this post with your comments on our 2010 budget. In a time where the library can no longer provide everything to which you are now accustomed, what do you think we should cut? What should we preserve? What is important to you, our library patrons? We want to hear from you!
Eva M. Davis, Director