Library struggles with $95,000 shortfall

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Linton Public Library took an unexpectedly deep hit of $95,000 in state funding last December, a move which has reduced operating hours and staff.

The library's state-approved General Fund budget was $289,179, while its Debt Service Fund totalled $166,000.

"We were approved for that, but we don't always spend all of it," Library Director Jamie Tyner said.

Bookkeeper Jennifer White concurred.

"We're usually pretty thrifty," she said.

Of that projected budget, December's property tax check was $59,000 short. That money, expected to carry the library through the first half of 2012, lost funds due to property tax caps and delinquent taxes.

Of that $59,000, $33,000 was lost from the General Fund, while another $26,000 was lost from the Debt Service Fund.

Those weren't the only unexpected shortfalls, either. The library also lost $1,200 through other tax income, and expects another shortfall of around $36,000 in County Option Income Tax (COIT) money during 2012.

Shortfalls have become a problem in the past few years, Tyner said. However, no shortage was as large as the unexpected ones this year.

"All the public libraries across Indiana have this problem," she said. "It just hasn't been as bad before....We didn't anticipate taking two hits at once."

The losses haven't meant the library has defaulted on the loans used to build the facility, nor cannot afford to make loan payments.

"Not yet. Not right now," Tyner said. "Thank goodness."

What the cuts did mean, however, was a reduction in winter hours.

Effective immediately, the library will close at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, where it once closed at 8 p.m.

During winter, the library opens at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, closing at 5 p.m. Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday.

In summer, the library will open earlier, beginning service at 9 a.m. rather than the usual 9:30 a.m.

"Otherwise, our hours will remain the same," Tyner said.

The library also lost two part-time staffers, and has undergone an evaluation to curb utility costs, including resetting thermostats so heaters kick on later.

Certain expensive subscriptions, such as a few magazines and the Wall Street Journal, have also been cancelled or will not be renewed, Tyner said.

While certain programs exist such as E-Rate which enable the library to obtain Internet service and computers at reduced rates, the facility's already the recipient of those, Tyner said. Accordingly, she'll now seek new sources of funding.

"There's grants that we can apply for, and technology grants which can help us with computers," Tyner said, adding she also will increase efforts to collect local donations.

"We will probably plan some fundraisers soon," she said. However, costs won't increase for copying and printing, nor will charges be imposed for currently free services such as Internet use, she said.

Donations will also be sought, both in the form of funding and in material such as books, DVDs and CDs which can be added to the library's collection or sold at the ongoing book sale.

Those can be delivered to the check-out counter, while donations can be dropped by in person or mailed.

"We're also trying to set up a donate button on our website eventually," Tyner said, adding she's not seeking any specific amount.

"We're happy with even the smallest donations," she said. "It all helps."

Those who donate funding to the library can specify where they want the money to go.

"They can write that they want it to go to the children's summer reading program, or the adult summer reading program," said Tyner. "What works best for us, however, is just a general donation we can use as we need to where we need."

The summer children's reading program is key among Tyner's concerns.

"That's our biggest event, and we want to make it even more special, something the community deserves," Tyner said.

Future fundraising options such as including a float in the Freedom Festival parade to collect materials for the library and book sales, as well as a possible on-line Kickstarter program, may also be considered eventually, she said.

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