Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

September 19, 2011

Library may see more cuts

GOSHEN — Cuts have been made, and more may be on the way.

That news was announced during a meeting of the Goshen Public Library Board Monday afternoon, where Library Director Andy Waters took board members through a quick review of the proposed 2012 budget.

According to Waters, the library is looking at a proposed budget request of $3,190,895 for 2012, an increase of about 2.9 percent over last year’s certified budget of $3,100,852.

However, Waters was quick to note that concerns over declining revenues associated with recently enacted property tax caps and declining assessed values of county property have him worried that funding concerns that have plagued the library for the past couple of years will only get worse before they get better.

“Next year is going to be very tough, with the property tax caps, the assessed valuation and the loss of revenue from income taxes,” Waters said. “Those areas pay 85 percent of all our revenues, and that’s dropping, and will drop even more next year.”

Waters noted that the library board has already voted to reduce the library’s hours of operation by four hours a week in the evenings, though he added that he does not feel that will be enough to solve the library’s financial issues.

“That’s not going to save us much money on its own,” Waters said. “But as we announced earlier, we’re trying to take a tiered approach when it comes to any future cuts. Those cuts in hours were the first tier.”

In looking at future revenue projections, Waters said that the Goshen library may have to follow in the steps of the Elkhart library and curtail public hours even more in the future, though he said he’s not sure exactly when such cuts may take place at this time.

“At this point we’re not saying that we need to do that,” Waters said. “We’re still looking at the numbers. We’ve done an awful lot of savings over the past two to three years by not filling vacancies, so the attrition approach has helped us to hold down spending quite a bit. But I’d say that we’re going to have to look again at reducing hours if the numbers keep coming in the way things seem to be going.”

As for whether any currently provided services at the library will need to be cut as well, Waters noted that a cut in hours invariably leads to a cut in services as a rule.

“For example, if we closed early in the evening, meeting rooms wouldn’t be as readily available to the community,” Waters said. “We couldn’t do some evening programs. The Elkhart library actually chose to close all of its branches and its main branch on Sunday. We’re not looking at that right now, but if we did, that would have a pretty big effect on this community, because this is a place to go on Sunday for study and everything else.”

In addition, Waters noted that when the library cuts hours, it also has to cut staff, which can also have an effect on provided programs.

“When we cut hours, we have to cut staff in order to make those hours turn into real savings,” Waters said. “At this point the cutting of staff happens primarily by attrition or by reducing the number of hours we assign our part time staff. We know we don’t want to go into a layoff situation in the future, so right now we’re looking at the option of keeping the full-timers working full time, and reducing the hours of our part-time staff.”

While no additional cuts have been recommended at this time, Waters said the board will most likely revisit the situation later in the year to discuss further cost-saving options.

“Next time we’ll look at this might be November or December,” Waters said. “We expect some more shoes to fall, so we’re just trying to take a tiered approach with things at this time.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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