19 Aug 2014
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Kinnelon Library Running Out of Money, Director Says

Without changes, library would not last more than three years, Director Barbara Owens said.

Kinnelon Library Running Out of Money, Director Says

The is exploring ways to overcome financial strain and has already planned to take action to help stay afloat.

One of the first steps in the process includes eliminating Sunday hours that would typically have resumed in October.

According to a letter posted in June on the Kinnelon Public Library Board of Trustees website, the library is using money from reserve funds to cover expenses. Library Director Barbara Owens said Thursday the library has been operating under a deficit of approximately $150,000 per year for the past three years. Without making any changes, Owens said the library would likely only be able to afford to stay open for the next three years.

Owens said the library's troubles began in 2010 when the borough's health insurance premium costs increased. The is responsible for choosing the health provider for all borough employees.

"We're not part of that discussion at all," Owens said. "It just happens and we're told that is the cost and we have to figure it out in the year."

Kinnelon Councilman Stephen Cobell, chairman of the council's Finance Committee, said health insurance premium costs did increase by about 30 percent in 2010, but that "the bid that we accepted was the lowest premium." The borough entities are responsible for the costs for the health insurance of their specific employees.

"Their portion of it comes out of their budget," Cobell said.

In general, Owens said funding from the borough has declined since 2008. She said this is mostly due to lack of new ratables in the borough. She also said costs in general, like utilities, have gone up.

The library has been able to survive so far also in part because of an endowment that was set up in the 1990s. Owens said the library has relied on the endowment for several years, but cannot go on doing so.

"We can't operate that way. We have to be a little more diligent in identifying ways to start chipping away at that prior to three years or we'll never make it," she said.

The library began cutting expenses earlier this year by shifting part-time hours.

"We did a major restructuring of the schedule so that everybody is sharing those hours," Owens said.

Owens said the library also decided not to backfill a position that was left vacant through attrition. Now, Owens said the elimination of Sunday hours (which was only in effect for seven months of the year) is expected to save approximately $16,000 per year.

Despite the continuing fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Kinnelon Library and Center for Lifelong Learning, the library is forced into taking a harder look at its operation and further areas for efficiencies, according to the letter. To help with that task, the Kinnelon Public Library Board of Trustees formed the Fiscal Responsibility Subcommittee made up of three trustees this spring. By the end of the year, the subcommittee will be making recommendations that will be implemented to "return the library to fiscal health."

The committee will conduct interviews and analyze research to develop their recommendations.

During the last Kinnelon Council meeting, Mayor Bob Collins and said he was confident that they would be able to bring valuable business experience to the board. Owens said she is also optimistic the new trustees will help lead the library into the future.

"They're in the process of learning and getting information and oriented to their future role and I think they were chosen carefully, looking at their backgrounds," she said.

Owens is hopefully that the volunteer trustees can come together and help create a plan so that the library can continue to be a community staple.

"It's very much a community situation that has to be looked at very carefully," she said.

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