21 Aug 2014
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Staff Cuts Considered for Kinnelon Library

Committee to investigate recommendations for trimming costs by $150K per year.

Staff Cuts Considered for Kinnelon Library

For months, a subcommittee of the Kinnelon Public Library Board of Trustees has been fact-finding and considering ways to help pull the library out of a serious financial situation, the result of operating under a deficit for the past three years.

"It's been intense," Christine Whittemore, a member of the library board's Fiscal Responsibility Subcommittee, said.

Whittemore presented the findings and recommendations of the committee to the Kinnelon Council Thursday night, along with committee members Linda Farmer and Anne Vosatka, president of the trustees board. Those recommendations included cuts to staff and programs, but the recommendations were merely in draft format and members said none of the information presented would be implemented without extensive review and research over the next several months.

The library attributes its deficit to rising costs over the past several years, including for health insurance for employees, and decreased financial support from the borough as a result of fewer ratables in Kinnelon.

"The borough allocation for the library no longer covers personnel and healthcare costs," the library board said in a memo in September.

During her presentation, Whittemore explained the deficit, which, according to a Q&A fact sheet provided by Vosatka, totaled $145,000 in 2012. The deficit has been covered by money collected in an endowment fund over the past several years, but Whittemore said the library cannot continue operating the way it does.

"This is something that's very real," she said. "Every single government organization, actually business, is facing difficult times,"

The committee considered different scenarios and areas where cuts could be made and evaluated whether those scenarios would support the library's mission of providing access and information to Kinnelon's residents the way they see fit. Some of the scenarios considered that did not support the library's mission included cutting costs across the board by 20 percent, decreasing the number of hours the library is open (which would have to include a cut of approximately four months of the year to save $150,000, according to Whittemore) and fundraising to obtain the $150,000 per year. While fundraising was determined to be a viable long-term option, Whittemore said the library needed immediate relief.

The scenario that would most support the mission would be the consideration of shifting or decreasing the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions at the library. Whittemore said staff levels are high at the Kinnelon library when compared to the libraries of other municipalities of Kinnelon's size, but that the staff has been accomodating and worked with the library through the financial situation.

"Library staff has not had salary increases," she said. The library has also asked employees to work through compensatory time.

To get to the minimum number of employees needed to operate Kinnelon's library, 2.1 FTEs would need to be cut. But Vosatka said before that happens, in addition to proving through research that the cuts would actually benefit the library, the committee would try shifting hours for efficiencies and try to save the money through other means.

Whittemore discussed programming and how the library may consider hosting meaningful programs during the hours the library is already open and not scheduling additional programs. But Whittemore noted that staff is needed to help organize programs.

"In order to have intense programs, you need to have people to put the content together," she said.

Still, she said that the library needs to focus on what is most important before continuing to focus on programs.

"If you can't do the basics then there's no reason to do programs," she said.

Councilman Stephen Cobell questioned whether programs could be a revenue stream for the library if the library were to treat them as the Recreation Department treats its own programs. But Vosatka said it is not an equal comparison.

"The analogy falls apart a little bit because the Recreation Department uses volunteer coaches and we use staffing," she said.

Councilman Dan O'Dougherty asked if the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Kinnelon Library would benefit the library enough to assist with the stiaution. But Vosatka said that while the money fundraised does help purchase supplies the library may not be able to afford, it would not assist with the largest area of the library's costs.

"We can't use what they fundraise for the major ticket on our budget line, which is staffing," she said.

After the presentation, Vostka said again that none of the recommendations presented have been finalized and that further investigation will go into the information before those changes are put in place. The library has, however, begun making some changes, including not opening the library on Sundays any longer, which saved the library approximately $16,000.

The public is encouraged to reach out to committee members with questions and can contact members at KinnelonLibraryTrustees@gmail.com. A full Q&A of information regarding the deficit can also be seen here.

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