After losing a ballot measure by nine votes to increase a mill levy tax during the last election, the Pine River Library decreased hours of operation and cut staff hours to reduce costs.
The proposed 2019 budget also allocates fewer funds to programming, repairs and maintenance, equipment and furniture. More cuts could happen if the library doesn't secure future revenue.
The library has been losing funds because of falling property taxes, which made up 84 percent of its revenue in 2018. Library director Shelley Walchak said she and library staff were devastated when the ballot measure didn't pass in November.
"We were in shock because from every supporter, every user, from every conversation we had, we didn't think it wouldn't pass. The praise was fuel for our thoughts that it would pass," she said.
Walchak said there are a lot of ifs, ands and buts to consider when discussing the library's fate. As of the beginning of the year, the library reduced its hours from 61 per week to 45 by closing on Sundays and shaving a few hours off during Saturdays and weekdays. Reducing hours has also saved on utilities and janitorial services.
"To speak from the heart, I hate our hours because people are working the same hours we are open," Walchak said.
There are well-documented records on the library's revenues and expenses that Walchak said she would share with anyone who wants to see them. Statistics, revenues and expenditures can also be seen at Library Research Service, a source for Colorado library data.
This year, the board allocated $105,000 of the library's reserve fund to pay for expenses. An additional $30,000 will be used to update computers that are five to 10 years old.
"The library still has enough of a reserve fund to be able to keep services at a level that still provides a meaningful and robust library, but without additional funding coming in, the longest it can last is a couple years," she said.
Walchak said the reserve fund can be used to make up the revenue shortage for only a short period of time. The board policy is that the reserve fund cannot dip below six months of operating expenses, around $400,000.
Walchak said they want to keep that reserve fund "for a rainy day, which is what we've been having."
At this point, Walchak said the board is interested in exploring going back to the voters in the next election since the last ballot measure was rejected by a close margin. The decision must be made by early August according to the Colorado Secretary of State 2019 election calendar.
The library does have a worst-case scenario budget if they do not receive more funding. There are four areas they can cut from: personnel, programming, books and materials.
"Our books and materials is our bread and butter," Walchak said. "Can you live in a household without bread and butter? Yeah, you can, but it is traditionally the foundation of the library."
The worst-case scenario budget includes eliminating the Marmot catalog, which launched in 2015. The Marmot Library Network is a system of 38 libraries that share their collections. It allows community members to check out sources from any of the libraries within the network.
"Most people don't understand the power of this system," Walchak said. Most people use the library to check out books for leisure, but she said the program allows for serious research projects.
Cuts would also include layoffs of seven part-time employees, which equals about 2.5 full-time employees. (One employee recently left and was not replaced.) Sixty-eight percent of the library's expenditures in 2018 went toward personnel costs, which includes wages, retirement, employee benefits, taxes and staff development. Changing health care providers this year also resulted in some personnel savings. Walchak said the library may have to start charging for free services such as notaries and charge more for printing. It also means they wouldn't replace technology if systems break, and there's a possibility that staff will be required to preform janitorial duties.
"The philosophy behind the library at its most basic level is connecting people with possibilities," Walchak said. "We believe in serving everybody, from the homeless to CEOs - to level the playing field by (offering) services to everyone."