Patrons at Pierce County Library’s 18 branches will not feel any impacts next year despite a $1.1 million deficit in the operating budget.
The Pierce County Library System Board of Trustees approved a $26.7 million operating budget on Dec. 11 and addressed a 4.1 percent reduction through a combination of spending reductions, staff efficiencies and cash reserves, library spokesperson Linda Farmer said.
“Even though 2014 property tax revenues increased by 3.7 percent, it was not enough to offset increases in maintenance and operations, benefits, retirement and wages,” Farmer said.
In order to prevent layoffs and reduced hours of service, the library budgeted $128,000 in cash reserves. Other methods to manage the shortfall included taking out $583,000 from the “bottom line of all personnel costs,” Farmer said, and incorporating a $20,000 reduction in books and materials.
“It is the library’s goal to come out of the economic downturn stronger and ready to sustain operations in light of increasing customer demands, yet flat or little projected revenue growth,” said Neel Parikh, the library system’s executive director.
“Library staff has worked hard to maintain core services and push forward with initiatives our residents told us were important, such as career assistance, student success and support for military families. We are proud this budget does not affect operating hours, services or staffing levels in the branches.”
Farmer said next year’s budget funds much-needed facilities upgrades. Patrons who enjoy the South Hill branch will benefit from a restroom renovation project budgeted at nearly $45,000. It will include new sinks, toilets, partitions, tile and paint. Other branches that will benefit from restroom upgrades include Parkland/Spanaway, Graham, Summit, Key Center and Lakewood.
There will be a $150,000 fundraising effort at the South Hill branch next year to upgrade the reading and Internet area, plus improvements for teens and pre-teen students and a newly remodeled book sale area in the lobby.
The fundraising effort, now in a quiet phase, is spearheaded by the Pierce County Library Foundation and the Friends of the South Hill Library. Farmer said the foundation and the Friends of the South Hill Library plan to go more public with the campaign in March.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.