The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

February 3, 2009

Economy forces library to cut budget

It’s one of the problems of an economic downturn: demand for a government service increases while tax dollars collected decrease.

The Washington Carnegie Public Library is no exception. Its budget this year has decreased 5 percent while the number of borrowers has increased almost 10 percent.

The library is mostly funded through property taxes. Starting in 2010, property taxes will be capped at 1 percent for homeowners, 2 percent for rental units and 3 percent for businesses. With less money coming in through property taxes, the library’s budget is facing projected cuts of more than $50,000 and more than $100,000 over the next two years, respectively. The library’s budget for this year is $426,475, the lowest it has been for the last five years.

“We’ve taken a pretty big crunch on our budget,” said Teresa Heidenreich, the library director.

Heidenreich said the library has cut six service hours to save money. Since last August, the library has closed two hours early each Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. In addition, library employees will not receive any raises this year.

“It was a positive move to show the community we’re serious about the budget crunch,” Heidenreich said.

With some people facing layoffs and spending less, they’ve turned to the library for free internet access and entertainment.

“People are looking for ways to save money,” Heidenreich said, “and they’re starting to utilize the library for that.”

The library’s program attendance has increased 15 percent and the usage of its two meeting rooms has increased as well.

“Businesses can no longer afford to rent out a room somewhere,” Heidenreich said, so they use the library’s meeting rooms free of charge.

The youth department has seen a 20 percent increase in checkouts.

Lori Osmon, the youth librarian, said she believes parents are trying to save money.

“I think parents can’t afford to buy their kids books and it’s important to them to expose their kids to books,” Osmon said.

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