News

Libraries look to 2012

by MATTHEW NASH Sequim Gazette

North Olympic Library System staff and volunteers are tired of budget cuts hitting their books.

They’ve formulated the NOLS 2012 plan to counter a declining revenue base that’s been limited further by a 1-percent tax cap passed in 2001 and inflation.

Last October, the NOLS board of trustees made up a $176,000 shortfall with two-week furloughs for staff and by spending reserve funds.

“We’ll make it in 2010, but in 2011 it looks grim and we can’t keep cutting,” said Jim Roberts, NOLS board member.

Library staff have been leading informational meetings about the 2012 plan at the libraries in Port Angeles, Forks, Clallam Bay and Sequim.

Margaret Jakubcin, NOLS assistant director, led a small group at the Sequim Library in a discussion about the plan on Thursday, Jan. 21.

On Jan. 21, community members and North Olympic Library staff and board members met at the Sequim Library to discuss the library's future. Those who attended included, from left, Paula Barnes, NOLS executive director; Don Zanon, board president; and board members Elaine Frederickson, Nina Pitts, Jim Roberts, and Meghan Tuttle, seen here at their October board meeting.







What is NOLS 2012?

Library staff drafted a business plan for the next 10 years to secure financial stability for the libraries and to repair and maintain deteriorating infrastructure. They intend to bring the plan to Clallam County voters on Nov. 2.

It will be the first library levy proposal in Clallam County since 1978.

“We don’t want to keep cutting and cutting without giving voters the option to keep things,” library director Paula Barnes said.

The library’s current budget is $3.05 million, and the tax rate is 33 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation. The new levy would raise the rate from 33 cents to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation. Barnes said the libraries’ current levy rate is at the bottom compared to similar markets and economic standing.

“We’d reassure the voters we wouldn’t come back for 10 years,” Barnes said.

If the levy is approved, funds would begin to flow in 2011 and be substantially implemented in 2012.

“Eventually the 50-cents rate would go down because the 1-percent cap reduces it over time,” Jakubcin said.

Challenges
Staff listed continued revenue challenges to the following:
• The 1-percent annual levy increase cap statewide
• Declining timber revenue
• Long-term inflation effects
• Rising cost of materials

NOLS budget comes from:
• $2.715 million from property taxes
• $88,021 transfer from reserves
• $87,522 from timber revenue
• $66,750 fines and fees
• $31,000 rebates

The 2012 plan is in line with what users want, Barnes said.

In an informal survey, library users said they wanted more of everything, including:
• Books and media resources
• Hours of operation
• Computer classes
• Senior and children’s programs

Barnes and staff say if the 2012 plan doesn’t pass, then closures like the two-week furloughs in 2010, staffing and materials cuts could continue.

By the books
Clallam County seems to like and use its local libraries.

Exactly 63 percent of residents have a library card, Jakubcin said.

“When times are tough, statistically libraries are used more.”

Library staff seem optimistic for the future levy.

“This was a relatively good year (for library levies passing),” Jakubcin said.

Staff and trustees said they will continue to watch other library levies in Washington to see how they fare in similar markets.

Attendees seemed in favor of the plan, with suggestions and support for future campaigning.

“You haven’t asked for anything in 32 years — it’s time,” one audience member said.

For more information about NOLS 2012, contact Barnes at director@nols.org, 417-8525 or the board of trustees at libraryboard@nols.org.

The next NOLS 2012 meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Forks Library, and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, at the Clallam Bay Library.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.


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