With the writing on the wall, Director Harry Willems and the Library Board put into action an austerity plan of sorts in order to sock away 10 percent of this year’s budget into the coming year’s capital improvement fund. With 92 percent of the year complete, only 82 percent of the library’s budget has been spent, Willems was pleased to share during his financial report Monday at the monthly board meeting.
And while the board and Willems were pleased with their efforts to ensure the library would be able to get through 2017 adequately, the cuts weren’t painless. The savings were only possible after the elimination of one position in the circulation department, and other cost-cutting measures implemented. The reduction also means the library board was only able to grant half raises to staff members this year. Instead of a three percent raise, employees will only see a one-and-a-half percent raise this year.
“The problem is that if we don’t satisfy either what is called the maintenance of effort, which means having the same dollars or the same mill levy with reduction in valuation for the city, then we lose state aid, and we could lose some system money,” Willems said. “That will cause us to probably lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $55,000 for next year. Because we did some things to save on the budget this year, and we are working with one less person, we will be able to cover that. “
Willems also noted some of the savings are due to the new heating and air conditioning system, and will provide figures to the board closer to the time the system will have been in use for a year.
“I don’t know why it is a budget crisis, because the city has more money in 2017 than it did in 2016, so it’s kind of strange that they cut the library budget,” Willems said.
Board member Colleen Newman asked if the city was aware that when they cut the library’s funding it would cause them to lose its state funding. Willems said he did inform both Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington and Great Bend Mayor Michael Allison in an email earlier when he saw the cut was likely to happen.
“I don’t know what else I can do,” he said. With that, the board accepted the financial report as printed.
Willems to retire later
Other retirements happening at the Central Kansas Library System and the Great Bend Public Library led to the board approving a proposal for Willems to extend the date of his upcoming retirement from the end of June, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2017. This will allow the library time to get employees trained to their new critical positions and conduct a search to fill the director’s position.
The last time the position was open, there weren’t many applicants, Willems said. But in recent years, word is getting out within the region about CKLS and GBPL, and the perception in the library world is that the two are a vibrant system and library, so Willems feels positive there will be a good candidate pool. Door counts at the library average around 12,000 to 12,500 patrons a month, Willems said.
“Not many programs that are free get that sort of participation,” said board member Rose Kelly.
Other items of discussion and actions taken included:
• Erin Ferguson, adult services supervisor, proposed and the board approved new winter hours to start Jan. 1, 2017. The library will now be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Aug. 16 through May 14. Summer hours will be from May 15 to Aug. 15. The change was made to provide better service to patrons.
• Adults are now allowed to check out five DVD’s at a time, up from four.
• Book Club will move to Tuesday nights starting on Jan. 17, 2017. A list of the 12 books for 2017 is now available.
• A 20-minute executive session was held for the purpose of discussing personnel. No action was taken.