Libraries tightening up

The economic challenges facing the Kitsap Regional Library system are not as grave as previously reported, KIRL spokesperson Susan Rosapepe said this week.

Responding to a KRL board member’s statement that the agency is nearly $2 million in the red, Rosapepe said staff have successfully whittled the budget shortfall to nearly three quarters what it once was projected to be.

Last May the agency was turned down by voters for a levy that would have increased property tax funding by 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. With the failure of the levy, KRL had been facing a potential budget shortfall of up to $2 million dollars by 2010.

“We decided to take a good, hard look at ourselves”, said KRL Director Jill Jean. “We knew we needed to bring our expenses in line with our revenues, and show the taxpayers that we are responsible stewards of their dollars. We have taken some real cost-cutting measures, and the good news is that we have brought the deficit down to $650,000. Our goal is to totally balance our budget for 2009. Unfortunately, some of those cuts will affect the services we offer our patrons.”

KRL cut 44 open hours system-wide, a move Jean said was difficult to do.

The agency is also continuing a modified hiring freeze instituted in early 2007, and self-check out machines were added to allow library employees more time to assist patrons.

Another cost-cutting measure, according to Rosapepe, was to reduce the amount of materials the library purchases every year by $250,000.

The cuts in the collection budget led to two other measures: a change in fines and fees, and the reduction of time an item can be on the ‘holds’ shelf.

As for putting another levy before voters, Jean is keeping options open.

“Our board of trustees is now looking toward the possibility of a November 2009 ballot initiative. We are extremely sensitive to the current economic climate. We, too, are making difficult economic choices,” she said.

“The library is the perfect answer for tough economic times. Books, music, DVDs, programs, computer access, entertainment, and activities for all ages are available at the library, and they’re all free.”

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