The 2009 Budget adopted by the Library Board on December 18, 2008 allows the Library to continue to offer the open hours and services our patrons need and are using now more than ever as they struggle to manage household budgets during what's shaping up as the most serious economic downturn since the great depression. Like many patrons, the Library's "household budget" is strained by reduced county and state support. An overview and summary of the strategies recommended to address these needs are presented below.
2009 Erie County Operating Budget Adopted: On December 9th the Erie County Legislature voted to override County Executive budget vetoes and finalized their changes to the County's 2009 budget. The budget addresses a significant fall off in sales tax revenue growth and increased mandated social service costs directly related to the financial and economic downturn in the U.S. and many other countries. As reported previously, the budget does not continue the $1.6 million service restoration funding approved by the County Legislature in 2008. State aid supporting the operating budget is now estimated to fall a further $0.24 million or more since the budget request was submitted earlier this year ($0.36 million from the original 2008 adopted budget).
Two-year Plan to Address County and State Budget Reductions: Fortunately the Library's financial position is sound, with sufficient projected available fund balance to allow implementing a logical financial plan to address the proposed reductions while continuing to address key initiatives and maintaining quality library services throughout the entire Library System.
This plan includes the following initiatives and adjustments:
1. Converting our existing materials handling, inventory, circulation and security system operations to a much more efficient RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) based system in phases over the next several years. The first phase would convert 51% of the Library's collection housed in the Central, Buffalo branch and Amherst Libraries using funds from an Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority (ECFSA) efficiency grant, which would provide the opportunity to use technology to improve public service and achieve staffing savings realized as attrition occurs. Pursuant to Executive Committee adopted Resolution 2008-54, the application was developed; County administration support obtained; a County Legislature resolution of support was adopted December 4th; and the application for a $1.7 million grant has been submitted for ECFSA review. Once implemented, the grant funded project phase would generate recurring savings estimated at over $500,000 per year.
2. Adjusting expense projections to reflect changed circumstances since the 2009 budget request was submitted. These include lowering expense projections for retirement and health insurance expense to reflect lower projected usage and rates not available at the time the budget request was prepared; lowering utility cost estimates to reflect the significant decline in energy demand and prices resulting from reduced economic activity and lowering other operating cost estimates to reflect lower anticipated price changes.
3. Adjusting revenue projections to further reduce anticipated state aid recognizing the worsening economic downturn's impact on state revenue.
4. Reducing staff positions system-wide over 2 years by attrition; reallocating and redeploying staff to turnover generated vacancies which will also increase turnover savings.
5. Conducting a system-wide staffing evaluation and assessment; leading the way to developing models for sharing staff resources, and thereby easing the transitions caused by attrition-based staffing reductions.
6. Enlisting the assistance of contracting library directors and ACT (Association of Contracting Libraries Boards of Trustees) board members, branch managers, administrators and department heads to restructure our organization; seek alternate revenue streams; and rethink the way in which we provide services and handle internal administrative responsibilities.
7. Using the unencumbered fund balance in excess of the 5% threshold for contingency to help cover the costs of services and staff during the transition.
Barring significant additional reductions, these actions will enable the Library to maintain open hours and service levels at all of our locations as we restructure while avoiding "out-the-door" layoffs. This approach positions the Library well to make the case for future support from the legislature and the County Executive as additional help will be needed in 2010 and beyond.
The budget document includes a summary schedule of recommended budget balancing changes by account followed by resolution 2008-57 and related budget charts and schedules.