Monday, February 29, 2016

A message from the Leonia Library Board President

At the Feb. 1, 2016 Borough Council Meeting, Mark Minichiello reported that in order to bring the 2016 proposed budget within the state mandated 2% tax levy cap, the Finance & Administrative Personnel Committee was recommending a series of ways to increase revenues as well as some reductions, including a reduction in the library budget of $225,000 from $840,000 to $615,000.
See the video of the Council Meeting.

On Feb. 3, 2016, the Council Finance Committee met with representatives of the library's Finance Committee and disclosed this information. It had been necessary to reduce the municipal budget by roughly $540,000, and the Council Committee decided to take $225,000 from the library (a 25% cut).

Our trustees were deeply troubled by this information, as we knew that the effect of such a cut would be devastating to the library. We were asked to assess just what the impact would be and we have done so.

We will continue to talk with the Council representatives and the Mayor--all in the effort to preserve the library. It is our duty as trustees to do that, a charge we take very seriously. We realize that the Mayor and Council take their charge equally seriously. We hope we can reach a solution that will not seriously harm the library.

Many of you have asked us what you should do. We will keep you posted as we see what is actually introduced on March 7. In the meantime, please do urge the Mayor and Council not to make this draconian cut to the library. This cut will make the library unrecognizable compared to what it is today. If you are a library user, it will deeply affect your life; if you are not a library user it will put your home at a devaluation risk, like all Leonians.

Some simple facts: The library's allocation is only 6% of the entire municipal budget, yet we are being asked to carry this disproportionate reduction. Of our budget, 84% is for salaries and benefits. A cut of $225,000 would necessitate personnel losses and would therefore reduce services greatly.

We recognize that in tough economic times everyone needs to tighten their belts. We have already done that. In contrast to what's been reported-our budget was cut almost $80,000 from 2008 to 2010 and still has not returned to 2008 levels. These cuts led to the loss of three full time positions. Unfortunately, we may have to do that again.

What would a $225,000 cut mean, more specifically?

Staff reductions will force us to do the following:
  1. Close the Children's Room at 5 p.m. This affects parent/children visits but also means no evening access to the downstairs meeting room. The downstairs floor will be unavailable for groups that currently use it for meetings. 
  2. Few, if any, early childhood education programs and classes and events for children, pre-teens, and teens can be held. 
  3. 50% to 75% reduction in purchases of new books, movies, music, and audiobooks. 
  4. Local history room closed indefinitely. 
  5. Significant reductions in library opening hours, including short Saturday hours. In addition, possible reductions in some morning and afternoon hours, and no Sundayopenings. 
  6. Elimination of job search classes, severely limited cultural events, limited research/information assistance, no notary service 
  7. No Makerspace 

One unfortunate immediate result of this budget situation is that we will have to close on Sundays as of March 6th. While we hope the Council will not institute these cuts, the likelihood of our being fully funded is low. Since we are already two months into 2016, we are concerned about fiscally managing the year and have taken this action. We will certainly restore Sundays if we can.

The Board and I will continue to give you information as we move through this process. We truly appreciate the support ofLeonians and your desire for us to continue the library's work. We need you now to stand with us.

John Kendrick

February 29, 2016