Sunday, January 16, 2011

The State Budget Waiting Game

Library leaders anticipate budget cuts amid increasing demand.  (Central Wisconsin Sunday, 1/15/2011)

Excerpt: Library administrators say their budgets are set for 2011, but plans for next year could be greatly affected by the state budget, which Gov. Scott Walker will introduce and the Legislature will debate this year. With the biennial budget deficit already projected at about $3 billion, officials worry the state could reduce the funds it shares with local communities.

"Whatever the state does with shared revenue to local (governments) will have a big impact on funding for libraries," said Ron McCabe, director of McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids. "There are some cuts coming on the horizon for 2012, and we just don't know what they'll be at this point."

McMillan's budget this year was about $1.4 million, and library usage was up about 2 percent in 2010, McCabe said. Statewide, circulation of library materials has increased 15 percent during the past five years, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The Portage County Public Library, which has four locations, is operating on a budget of about $1.8 million this year, Director Bob Stack said.

The past 24 months have been record years for Portage County in terms of library usage, Stack said. He said that trend was not surprising, given the economic conditions, because local residents tend to borrow library materials rather than purchase books when times are tough. But looking ahead, library officials are in a wait-and-see mode regarding how much money the institutions will receive in the future from local municipalities.

"We don't know how (the state budget) will impact shared revenue," Stack said. "Most of our funding comes from local property taxes, so we'll have to see what plays out."

If sharp cuts are made to library funding, Stack said he'd have to look at reducing hours and staff.

"We've (as a staff) discussed the prospects, but it's like looking through a crystal ball: You don't know until it actually happens," Stack said. "I think all my staff is aware we live in challenging times."

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