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Board Focuses on Library as Part of Budget-Development Process

April 12, 2012

The Placer County Board of Supervisors took an in-depth look at the budget challenges facing the County Library Tuesday as part of the county’s budget-development process for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Tuesday’s discussion was an opportunity for the board to get a clearer picture of the Library’s budget outlook, begin talking about short-term solutions and start mapping out a process for a long-term strategy aimed at keeping the Library’s costs in line with revenue while preserving its services.

The Library and other county departments have trimmed costs significantly over the last few years because of revenue losses caused by the economic slowdown and state budget crisis.

“Obviously, we’re all in the same boat together,” board Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery said during Tuesday’s discussion.

The Library’s biggest challenge is declining property tax revenue. Its revenue from that source has declined by a total of $421,000, or 10.5 percent, in recent years and is expected to be flat during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Library also lost $84,000 this fiscal year when the state eliminated its support for county libraries. The 2012-13 budget proposed by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. would not restore state funding for county libraries.

In a report to the board, county staff said the Library can use reserves to balance its budget for one more year.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board and staff agreed informally that the Library’s short-term budget challenges will be a key topic of discussion throughout the county’s budget-development process for 2012-13 and will be considered as part of a five-year budget strategic plan being developed by the county.

The County Library operates 11 branch libraries and a Bookmobile. Funding comes from several sources, including property taxes, fines and fees, and the county General Fund.

While dealing with revenue reductions, the Library also has experienced an increased demand for its services. Electronic books are becoming increasingly popular, and are expensive to buy. Increasingly, patrons also use the branch libraries for access to computers.

Circulation has increased 5 percent overall at the Library this year and 20 percent in both the Rocklin and Colfax branches since 2010.

In its report, staff noted that librarians play an important economic recovery role by helping patrons write resumes, fill out electronic job applications, prepare cover letters and practice for interviews.

“The Library response to this demand has been to train and deploy Library staff and volunteers to teach computer classes and to provide assistance to patrons needing basic computer skills to help increase the overall digital literacy of as many customers as possible,” the staff report said.

The Library has dealt with its revenue reductions over the last few years by taking such steps as reducing hours at larger branches, leaving some funded staff positions vacant, cutting its budget for materials and installing check-out stations at the Auburn and Rocklin branches that allow patrons to check out their own books.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also:

  • Awarded $92,330 in federal Community Services Block Grant funds to several of the Health and Human Services Department’s partner agencies: $33,000 to PEACE for Families, $33,000 to Roseville Home Start and $26,330 to the Tahoe SAFE Alliance. So far this fiscal year, the board has awarded almost $200,000 in block grant funds to support local nonprofit organizations that serve seniors, victims of domestic violence and homeless individuals and families.
  • Provided an additional $7,800 in support to The Gathering Inn, a faith-based organization that operates shelters for the homeless in Placer County. Total annual county support for this organization will increase to $51,468.
  • Agreed to amend a contract with INDIGO Hammond & Playle Architects LLP to cover a needs assessment, site analysis and the architectural design for a new animal shelter the county plans to construct in Auburn.