News

NOLS faces $176K shortfall by 2010

At its Oct. 22 meeting, the North Olympic Library System board of trustees tackled a $176,000 budget shortfall for 2010.

They attribute the six-figure deficit to a state initiative passed in 2001 that limited the library's tax levy increase to 1 percent per year while inflation increased an average 2.8 percent per year.

Two-week closures, cuts

Board president Don Zanon said they made staffing cuts after 2001 and haven't replaced those people.

Anticipating more staffing cuts next year, the library staff union approved a two-week furlough: Everyone takes unpaid time off and all branches close. That would save about $70,000 in personnel costs.

Paula Barnes, NOLS director, said this could save two to three jobs.

NOLS officials expect that layoffs will happen again in 2010.

"Our goal is that no one community will directly take the hit of these layoffs," Barnes said.

Books and materials costs have been cut from $332,000 in 2009 to $317,000 in 2010 and the board is considering using funds for roofing and infrastructure repairs to fill the gap.

Asking the voters

The shortfall has been discussed by NOLS trustees and staff since 2001.

NOLS officials are considering asking for a levy increase in November 2010.

Clallam County voters last passed a library levy in 1978.

"I think the board is deeply concerned and trying to be pragmatic about this all," Barnes said.

"They are well aware of the economic situation in the county and that the timing is not great to ask people for more money."

Open forum

In a comment period at the Oct. 22 meeting, community members and NOLS staff suggested fewer cuts and more fees. An increase in overdue fines, charges for computer use and new library cards, and a best-sellers rental program were suggested.

"I think they are all worth exploring," Barnes said.

Zanon said that would help fund smaller programs and materials but not the larger deficit.

"As we look forward, the library is going to need increased funding just to keep operating," Zanon said.

"Since (NOLS) is in deficit, there needs to be a way to reduce that and increase our hours of operation."

"It looks like the solution is going to come from the property tax increase," Barnes said.

Meeting community needs

Library usage has increased from the low-teens to 20 percent of the population in the past few years.

"We need these services to help our citizens out," Zanon said.

Three years ago, NOLS did an informal needs survey of users and found they wanted expanded hours; more computers, books and media; and more newer items.

The library supplements programs with grants but grants cannot help with broader needs.

"We were unable to do much of this with our projected budget," Zanon said.

NOLS's long-term plans can be found at www.nols.org under the "About NOLS" tab and "NOLS 2012" link.

The board meets again at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Port Angeles branch, 2210 S. Peabody St., Port Angeles.

Zanon and Barnes recommend the public come and/or leave suggestions at any library branch or contact NOLS assistant director Margaret Jakubcin at 417-8505 or libraryboard@nols.org.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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