KRL budget cuts 'close to the bone'

Looking ahead to a year of "cutting close to the bone," Kitsap Regional Library last week reached a balanced 2009 budget.

The new budget of $9,857,300 was reduced 7.6 percent from the 2008 budget through a combination of salary freezes, benefits package alterations, reduced branch hours, and restrictions on book and material procurement. No layoffs will occur.

KRL spokesperson Susan Rosapepe said that while the process wasn't without its difficult points, it was a group effort whose results were met openly by staff members system-wide. This was evidenced by responses received at a series of budget-related staff meetings that took place at every branch throughout the system.

"We were very surprised that everybody was so positive about holding the line," Rosapepe said. "And everybody was willing to do this one year of no salary increases, no COLA, so we could all keep our jobs. And still provide a really good public service."

In addition to a salary and cost-of-living adjustment freeze, benefit adjustments were made to increase employees' insurance co-pays. Library hours were cut last month, with all branches now closing at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The books and materials budget was also reduced by $129,000, or 11.5 percent.

After the failure of a tax-levy lid lift in 2007, KRL instituted a series of cost-cutting measures that included tightening a modified hiring freeze that had already been in place and reducing 44 open hours system-wide. Self check-out and self pick-up of holds were instituted to handle patron traffic without having to add staff; a more rigorous fine and late-fee system was also put in place.

These measures helped bring expenditures more in line with revenue, but Rosapepe said that when the subsequent economic downturn occurred, KRL "sat back and took a good, hard look" at its fiscal affairs weighed against its responsibility to the community.

"And we just needed to bring our expenditures more in line with our revenues. Just as every family needs to balance its budget, so did we," she said.

With these latest measures in place, Rosapepe said the library will sit tight for the foreseeable future, neither making subsequent cuts nor pursuing another levy but instead "doing this one year of living extremely frugally, where it's a bare bones year."

"This is not the time," she added. "We're doing fine, we wish we could expand more, we wish we could add more, but we can't. And that just makes sense....we're in tune with the time."

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