CHAMPAIGN — City administrators will recommend in the coming weeks that council members find new revenue — potentially a tax raise — to give an extra $500,000 to the Champaign Public Library to avoid the immediate need for hour reductions at its main and branch facilities.
The longer-term solution is still up in the air, as officials anticipate budget shortfalls at the library of $1 million or more in the coming years, but they say the immediate cuts would be offset by the extra money this year.
Last week, library officials said annual cuts through the recession have finally brought them to a point where it's not feasible to continue operating on its current schedule with a severely reduced staff.
Library Director Marsha Grove said officials would need to cover a $500,000 budget gap going into the fiscal year that begins July 1, or cut a total of 31 hours per week at the main facility on Green Street and its branch library near Douglass Park. Most of those hours would come out of weekday evenings.
If city council members agree with administrators' recommendation, they would need to find new money — which could be in the form of a tax increase — to fund the library. Where exactly that money might come from will be the topic of city council talks during the next few weeks before members adopt a budget in June.
A cash infusion would keep the library open on its current schedule through June 2014, but the one-time bump would not ameliorate a library budget deficit that is expected to continue — even grow — in the next few years.
"A year from now, we're going to be in the same position," City Manager Dorothy David said.
Library officials would have six months to come back to the city council with a long-term plan to avoid future budget shortfalls. That plan could include tax raises, spending cuts or a combination of both, and any plan library officials develop would need the support of the city council.
The library operates almost entirely on property tax revenues. As property values continue to flatline or even decline, the gap between stagnating revenues and rising costs will continue to grow without new revenue.