All is 'on the table' where library budget deficit's concerned
CHAMPAIGN — As the Champaign library budget deficit threatens to grow into the millions over the next five years, solutions remained somewhat elusive on Thursday night, as library board members convened a brainstorming session to figure out how to bring the growing gap under control.
One thing was made clear: Everything is on the table.
"There's no silver bullet," said board member Paula Kaufman. "This is going to be as hard as we thought it would be, and there will be tough choices to make."
The library for now is operating with a $500,000 cash infusion, part of the quarter-cent sales tax increase city council members approved this summer. But the city has not guaranteed library officials that the money will be there in the future unless they come up with a plan to establish a sustainable budget.
Library board members began brainstorming that plan on Thursday night, and they are scheduled to bring some kind of proposal to the city council on Dec. 10.
Most of that $500,000 went toward keeping staff employed, said Library Director Marsha Grove. Without it, library officials would have had to cut staff time, which would have yielded fewer operating hours at the main branch on Green Street and the Douglass branch library on Grove Street.
Another $79,000 went toward library materials, and some went to the library's capital fund.
"It's critical," Grove said of the $500,000 increase in the library budget.
The library board likely will need to come up with some combination of revenue increases and spending cuts to avoid a growing budget gap. According to projections presented to the board on Thursday, they face a $617,461 deficit next year, and that number could grow to more than $1 million by June 2019 if they don't act.
Those are one-year deficits, which could put the library $3.36 million in the red by June 2019. The library is running on a projected $6.76 million operating budget this year.
Typically, more than 90 percent of the library's operations are funded by property tax revenue, although that percentage is a bit lower this year with the $500,000 in extra revenue from the sales tax increase. Personnel and materials expenses continue to grow, however, as property tax revenues suffered through the recession and are projected to increase only modestly as property values begin to recover slowly and new construction resumes.
Earlier this year, library officials announced that operating hours would be reduced a collective 31 hours per week — 15 hours per week at the main library and 16 hours at the Douglass branch — a personnel savings of $357,000 annually. That plan was scrapped when the library budget was given a reprieve with the sales tax increase.
But the idea has not been abandoned entirely — it was one of a number of possible solutions thrown out during Thursday night's brainstorming session.
Board member Rochelle Funderburg said none of the ideas presented Thursday could be discounted.
"I think all of that stuff is on the table," she said.