A proposal to cut the Omaha Public Library budget leaves the system with no good options, the library's director and board members said Wednesday.
Library officials said budget-cutting scenarios outlined this week were only proposals meant to offset a 1.6 percent library budget reduction for next year.
Mayor Jean Stothert has asked city departments to cut their 2014 budget requests to offset what she's described as a multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall.
“It's gonna hurt. It's gonna be visible,” library Director Gary Wasdin said of any cuts.
“There are tough decisions to consider as you look at it and think about that impact ... through cuts in the past, we've gotten to a point where there really is not a lot of fat left to trim.”
There wasn't an overwhelming amount of public comment voiced at Wednesday's Library Board meeting — though some residents did suggest closing the main W. Dale Clark Library to save costs. Others promised a battle to protect the Florence branch from closing.
Stothert's spokeswoman reiterated that any potential service cuts were not final.
“I think they all positioned it very well, that it's exploratory. It's ideas,” Carrie Murphy said of the Library Board's discussion. “Nothing is decided or definite. Anything can be on the table.”
The library's allotted budget has increased by 8.5 percent from 2009 to 2013. The number of total positions authorized in the department has gone from 91 in 2009 to 105 this year.
Stothert's latest recommendation for the library system's 2014 budget would trim $217,787. That's a 1.6 percent reduction.
Like many city departments, much of the library system's budget is reserved for employee compensation.
|Library budget figures|
|Year||Total positions||Authorized budget|
|Source: City of Omaha budgets|
Library Board President Stuart Chittenden, in a letter this week to Stothert, suggested that some of the library's biggest savings for next year could come from staff cuts or cuts to the materials budget.
Eliminating two librarian positions, a library specialist and a clerk and reducing part-time staffing hours would save nearly $350,000, Chittenden's letter said.
Reducing book purchases and online resources could save $170,000, he said. Reducing library programming and furniture and fixture expenses would save $45,000.
The library also has nine unfilled full-time positions that will likely stay vacant, Chittenden said Wednesday.
“In effect, we are running a library system as if we have nine branches … and we're a 12-branch system.”
Last week, Stothert said city department directors had submitted 2014 budget proposals that exceed forecast revenue by roughly $20 million. The city also faces a revenue shortfall of about $13.5 million in its 2013 budget.
Department directors were to submit their trims to the Mayor's Office by the end of business Wednesday.
According to Chittenden's letter, the library is facing a potential cut of nearly $393,000 for the rest of 2013 and all of 2014.
Chittenden outlined three budget-cutting scenarios for Stothert:
» Close the Swanson Library, reduce library programs by 30 percent, reduce purchased titles and eliminate a tutoring service.
» Close the Florence Library, and close the main W. Dale Clark Library and Millard branch one day a week — while still cutting programs, titles and the tutoring service.
» Reduce hours and days of service at all libraries, but keep all locations open, in addition to the other proposed trims.
Under this scenario, Chittenden said, the Florence, Sorensen, Swanson and Willa Cather branch libraries would reduce operations to four days, while the W. Dale Clark Library and Millard branch would be reduced to six days of service.
Library officials expect to meet with Stothert next week.