It’s not the library. It’s not just Ferndale. It’s the economy and it’s everywhere.
The Ferndale Library has been forced to reduce expenditures and hours of operation, as the Board of Trustees reduces an $85,000 deficit by 50% with its newly revised budget for FY 2015.
Here’s the thing:
Libraries are especially vulnerable to serious downturns in the economy.
Nearly 90% of the Ferndale Public Library’s financing comes from millage revenues, which are directly tied to property values in the city.
Libraries and municipalities will not recover from the recession for many years because they cannot collect as much money as they did before the recession, even as property values increase. This is caused by the limitations on property tax collection placed by the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution (1978) and Proposal A (1994).
We’re as busy as ever. More than 15,000 people used the Library during the month of April and we issued 135 new cards. More than 14,000 items in our collection were circulated and nearly 18,000 people visited our website. That’s just one month’s worth! We also added more than 500 items to our collection, including 94 DVDs (movies/series/documentaries).
But however busy we are, however many patrons actually come to utilizes our services (computers / fax / Xerox / meeting-spaces / family storyhours) or check-out materials from our vast print and multi-media collections, it still doesn’t cure the lingering economic woes. And Ferndale, as a community, however hip and happening as it’s been these last 10 years, is not immune.
The Last Resort:
Property values fell after the housing market crash from 2008 and institutions (like Libraries) that depend upon property taxes for revenue will be suffering for at least the next 10 years.
“We are seeing libraries, schools, and cities across the state being forced to make these difficult decisions,” said Jessica Keyser, Ferndale’s Library Director. “We are in this position due to a longstanding trend of divestment in our public resources at the state level.”
“Making cuts like this is always a last resort for a board and a director,” said Patrick Dengate, President of the Library Board of Trustees. “Unfortunately, it’s a situation facing other public and private institutions everywhere.”
The Library had recently been drawing from its reserve fund to balance the budget, what with state aid to public libraries dwindling away these last few years.
However, the proposed budget for FY 2016 is designed to balance the Library’s budget by June 30, 2016.
“To continue drawing from the (reserve) fund balance at the same levels every year would lead us to a very precarious financial position in short order,” Dengate said.
That’s an unsustainable strategy and would, Dengate said “be irresponsible.”
Our Board and our Director are looking ahead and thinking in terms of the long run. “But,” said Dengate, “we are well aware that decisions like this aren’t just about numbers on a page and money in the bank – they affect people -staff and patrons.”
A major fundraising campaign, aimed primarily at businesses within the city, has been in the planning stages for the past few months, and will begin this week. Allied Printing, a long-time business in the city, has donated the printing costs of a portfolio, which will be used as part of the campaign. It is hoped that increasing charitable donations will provide the library with greater long-term financial sustainability and the ability to restore staffing and service levels.
Two staff members will be let go (one full time Reference Librarian and one part-time Circulation Specialist).
SAT 12 – 5
Director Keyser said, “The library is an absolutely vital resource in our community, and we are heartbroken to have to make these painful cuts.”
What it comes down to:
The reductions in library hours and staff were necessary due to declining tax revenue. The library board carefully considered circulation, traffic, and programming statistics when deciding where to make cuts. The board is actively seeking alternative sources of funding in the hope that service levels will be restored in the future. All library board meetings are open to the public. The board meets at 7 PM on the third Thursday each month.