For the past several months, Johnson County libraries have been forced to close their doors early on Wednesday afternoons to help cut operating costs. But with a 2013 budget that is more than originally anticipated, library officials are looking at ways to reinstate hours.
“I know for a fact that County Librarian Sean Casserley holds the restoration of hours at a highest priority,” said library spokesperson Kasey Riley.
Even with a 2013 budget that is higher than originally expected, it will not bean easy task. After all, the 2013 budget is still smaller than the 2012 budget.
The 2013 library budget total is $23,635,773, including a $21,316,510 operating budget and a $2,319,263 special use budget.
The 2012 budget was $24,757,273 after a $2 million reduction since 2011. The library lost 15 percent of its employees and was forced to cut back library operating hours.
Originally, the county budget staff asked the library to consider multiple budgets — including one that would have forced the library board to consider closing branches. The library is no longer considering that but did make other cuts.
“We are all thrilled that we don’t have to meet the level of cuts that we thought that we might,” Riley said.
The library employee cutbacks were done through voluntary retirement program combined with a countywide hiring freeze. Personnel costs are projected to be under budget by $1,275,277 because of the staff reductions.
The libraries are also seeing savings in temporary labor with the contractual services, commodities and capital outlay expenditures all coming in under budget by $9,530 total.
The libraries currently close their doors on Wednesdays after 5 p.m. to curb operating costs. The reduced hours are projected to save the libraries $1,284,806.
The higher than anticipated 2013 budget is attributed to higher county property valuations than were expected earlier in the year.
The 2013 budget will increase programming and reduce the amount of reserve funds needed.
“Programming took a large budget reduction and this increase provides an opportunity to put some back,” County librarian Sean Casserley said in the library board’s executive summary.
For example, the library plans to sponsor a pork butchering demonstration by the Local Pig, a Kansas City charcuterie, at the Central Library branch coupled with a discussion about how to include pork in recipes. The demonstration is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 3.
Casserley said the library is looking for new ways to attract visitors to the libraries so the library staffs are thinking outside of the normal library programming genres. Another programming idea proposed is to sponsor a demolition derby car at the county fair.
The library has $162,317 of reserve funding budgeted for use in 2013 to avoid any further reductions of library services.
“We are still in lean budget years,” Riley said. “We are still dealing with extensive staff reductions. It is a very measured response.”