A budget that has less money for buying books and changes some personnel costs has been approved for the Pierce County Library System for 2013.
Then system’s Board of Trustees this month approved an operating budget of $25.4 million, which addresses a $3 million budget shortfall. They also authorized $1.6 million for capital improvements.
“We made difficult decisions again this year, keeping in mind accountability to taxpayers and maintenance of core services,” said Linda Ishem, chairwoman of the trustees. “Our libraries continue to be very busy, with an all-time high number of cardholders. We made reductions in areas we anticipate will have the least detrimental impact on the hundreds of thousands of children and adults” who frequent the 17 branch libraries, including ones in Eatonville and Graham.
Officials said 2013 will be the fourth year that the economic downturn has had a negative an impact on the libraries’ budget. The trouble is due mainly to reduced revenue from property taxes, which is nearly 97 percent of the library system’s funding source. From 2010 to 2013, the budget has been reduced by $6.4 million.
Officials said the budget steps to absorb the shortfall next year include:
• Reduced books and materials budget.
• Eliminated bookmobile service.
• Transferred less money from operating budget to the capital budget.
• Adjusted payments for healthcare and retirement costs for employees.
• Used money from cash reserves.
In mid-November, the 65-year-old bookmobile service was stopped because its vehicles were aging aging and costly. In 2013, children in schools in low-income areas that most recently checked out books and movies from the bookmobile will be served by the library system through schools.
Also next year, fewer items will be available for people to check out because of a $1 million cutback on money allocated for buying new material. That’s a 25 percent reduction from 2012, officials noted.
Pierce County Library is the fourth-largest ubclic library system in the state based on the number of people it serves – a countywide population of 555,000.
At the same meeting it approved next year’s budget, the trustees received a brighter financial report on Pierce County Library Foundation’s activities in 2012. The fund-raising group accepted $252,347 from a combined 1,438 individuals and organizations that made donations to the foundation.