Librarians may enjoy crunching numbers on the Dewey Decimal System, but budgets are another matter.
The North Olympic Library System approved its budget this past week for the 2010 year - with an expected shortfall of $176,043.
"We squeezed and squeezed," said Don Zanon, NOLS board of trustees' president, about the finance committee's efforts.
To soften the blow, the library's 51 employees voted to take a pair of one-week furloughs resulting in $65,000 in savings in hopes of preventing layoffs.
The closures will occur at all four branches from March 29-April 3, and Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2010, subject to board approval.
However, the budget shows an $88,022 personnel decrease, so library officials will need to cut an additional $23,022.
NOLS director Paula Barnes said this could be made up through attrition or layoffs.
The second half of the 2010 shortfall will be made up with funds from the emergency "Reserve for Economic Uncertainty" fund with a reserve of $811,218. Board members elected to cut the deficit in half with the emergency fund and leave the remainder for 2011 and beyond because a similar gap is expected then.
On top of their budget, NOLS board members approved a 1-percent increase in the libraries' property tax revenue.
This is an increase over 2009's revenues of $26,730.
A 2.8-percent rate of inflation in the past eight years coupled with the annual maximum 1-percent tax rate increase has placed NOLS behind financially.
In 2009, the four libraries' total budget was $3,082,813. For 2010, the total is $3,051,080, a $31,733 difference at 1.02 percent.
For users, library materials such as books, movies and materials will be cut $15,000 or 4.5 percent in 2010.
Meghan Tuttle, a NOLS board of trustees' member, said it could have been worse.
"Without the Friends of the Libraries, we'd have to reduce the materials' budget significantly," she said.
No capital outlay is planned in 2010 for needed replacement of vehicles, facility repairs and more. Funds/donations must come from outside sources.
Barnes said for the 2011 budget she sees the finance committee creating two budgets, depending on if a levy proposed for November 2010 passes or fails.
"If the levy is passed, there will be a modest shortfall with the economic reserves," she said.
"If the plan doesn't pass, then we'd be looking at almost certainly a reduction in hours at each of the library branches, dramatic cuts to books and materials, and fewer children's programs and so forth."
She recommends several ways library users can contribute to the library during the economic crunch:
_ Read up on the NOLS' 2012 plan at www.nols.org.
_ Attend one of the many town hall meetings beginning in January about the 2010 levy and 2012 plan.
_ Send feedback to Barnes and the NOLS board at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or leave suggestions/comments at your local branch.
_ Contribute and/or join one of the branches' Friends of the Library programs.
_ Sign up to volunteer with Emily Sly, volunteer and outreach program coordinator, by calling 417-8520 or
Possibilities for establishing a foundation to support systemwide needs are being explored by NOLS board members. Staff is looking into implementing suggestions from library users to help bring in revenue.
They are mulling increasing rates for overdue books and reducing the time items are held. This would put popular items in people's hands quicker resulting in fewer items purchased.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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