Champaign Library Could Cut Hours Due to Tax Shortfall
By Jeff Bossert
The director of the Champaign Public Library says declining property tax revenue could lead to reduced hours of operation.
Library Director Marsha Grove said it is about $500,000 short to maintain current levels of operation in the coming budget year.
She noted that prior cuts in 2009 included the library's Bookmobile, limited use by people outside Champaign-Urbana, and leaving 14 positions vacant.
Without additional funds requiring Champaign City Council approval, Grove has proposed cutting operations by 31 hours a week, opening at 10 instead of 9 a.m. weekday mornings, and closing at 7 p.m. rather than 9.
She said that would have the greatest impact on ‘story time’ for parents with young children, as well as computer use.
“Most job applications now you have to fill out on line," she said. "So we’re helping them do that. And also people just using the wi-fi now in our building. I think we’re averaging over 160 people each hour who are using the wi-fi."
Grove said the library is also looking at cutting hours at the Douglass Branch, staying closed on Mondays and closing at 6 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday,.
In an op-ed story published in the News-Gazette Sunday, library Board of Trustes President Mark Ballard said property revenues have fallen each year since 2009, due to a decrease in real estate values, even though the library’s tax rate has been the same for more than 20 years.
Champaign City Council member Michael La Due, who also sits on the library’s board of directors, said he has not discussed with other city officials how much support there might be for additional tax funds, or a transfer of funds for the coming year.
La Due said any plan to bail out the library would have to start with a one time transfer of funds, since increasing the tax rate would not have an impact for another year.
"I'm not sure how optimistic I am about a short-term solution," he said. "And if it were determined by a majority that sacrfice could be made at the expense of something else the city does, some other service the city provides, then it's possible a majority could support it. I haven't seen evidence of that yet."
The Champaign City Council is expected to discuss library funding at a study session scheduled for Tuesday, May 14.
City of Champaign Township Supervisor Pam Borowski said she expects Equalized Assessed Valuation to decrease in the next fiscal year, and she does not expect anything different for the library or another entity of goverment.
Urbana Alderman and Urbana Free Library Board member Eric Jakobsson said his board has not had any such discussion on what property tax revenues could mean for that facility.