News

KRL takes cuts to make ends meet

Regional library system facing $2 million shortfall

in ’09 budget.

POULSBO — Taking a page from the economy’s current downturn, the Kitsap Regional Library system is making cuts to make ends meet. But despite looking for savings from cover to budgetary cover, board member Jackie Aitchison said preliminary numbers show the organization $2 million short in 2009. On average, KRL runs on a $12 million budget — next year, Aitchison said, it looks like there will be less than $10 million to work with.

The problem isn’t a new one, or one with a quick fix. Last spring the agency went to the voters for approval on a levy that would restore property tax funding to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Fifty cents is the limit libraries may levy, and the junior taxing district system draws much of its funding from that. In 2004, for example, 94.6 percent of total library funding came from the levy. According to its Web site, KRL is subject to the 2001 statewide Initiative 747, which limits property support to a 1 percent increase in any given year, meaning over the years the levy’s value has been reduced. The most recent levy was denied, and Aitchison said this year the count could be down to roughly 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“With the failure of our levy last spring, we were looking at about a $2 million shortfall,” she said. “Our amount per $1,000 has been going down. It’s been dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Because of that, she added, “we’re faced with having to take a long hard look at our budget and its services.”

Already KRL has made cutbacks to keep its revenues and expenses matching, including cutting hours at its nine branches, leaving void any vacated staff positions not critically needed, and cutting the collection budget, which goes toward purchasing the libraries’ materials, including books, magazines and books on tape.

They’ll continue the trend in an effort to manage means for 2009, again cutting the collection budget, hours of operation and not filling staff positions. They’ve also put new computers on hold, and seen a rise in fuel and utility expenses. Aitchison said the board is looking at a 6 percent cutback to bring expenses down to the revenue’s new low.

“Wherever we can cut we’re cutting,” she said. “It’s gonna be real bare bones.”

The notion of again going to the voters, this time in the fall, has been brought into “real preliminary discussion,” she said.

Year after year it’s a funding battle they have to fight.

“This is going to continue to happen to us. Our levy rate is going to continue to go down,” Aitchison said. “It’s a dilemma.”

KRL’s late fees saw a shift this year as well, upping the cost of overdue materials to an immediate 25 cents per day. It does help to increase revenue, Aitchison said, but primarily, with cuts to collection spending, it helps to encourage users to bring materials back on time so others can use them as well. For best sellers, she said, there may be up to 200 people on hold for an item.

With a growing population and heightening service demand, continuing to meet needs is increasing in difficulty, but not all news is bad from the county wide shelves.

“The growth and the use of the library has just been phenomenal throughout all of our branches,” Aitchison said. “We are seeing astounding numbers of kids participating in (the summer reading) program this summer.”

For more information on branches and programs, visit KRL’s Web site at www.krl.org.

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