Bracing for what could be a tight Metro budget next fiscal year — but to the chagrin of the city’s finance chief — the Public Library Board on Tuesday set parameters for cuts it may have to make next year to its current $18.9 million annual budget.
“We are preparing ourselves in case we are facing yet another budget reduction,” said Donna Nicely, director of the Nashville Public Library. “This is our way of trying to plan ahead and be ready because the next budget reduction is going to have immense effects on the library systems.”
The framework adopted by the seven-member board is divided into three separate proposals based on severity and priorities, accounting for cuts of 3 percent, 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Steps within each proposal aren’t necessarily bound together, and would likely be adjusted or combined according to the actual budget shortfall.
“I want to emphasize, we know nothing from finance, and we don’t know where we stand,” Nicely stressed. “We’re just anticipating that we may be asked to cut again.”
But Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling called the steps “very premature” and “speculative,” adding that the public library department is being presumptuous.
“We’ll do a budget kickoff sometime in late January, and that’s when we’ll set out the parameters,” he said. “To tell you what [next year’s budget] is today — I would be making it up.”
If Metro’s 2010-2011 budget requires the public library system cut operating costs by 3 percent, then the department could reduce weekly hours from 50 to 40 at the city’s larger branches, which include the Bordeaux, Edmondson Pike, Green Hills, Hermitage, Madison and Southeast libraries.
If it’s asked to enforce 5 percent cuts, the department may opt to pare 12 of the system’s smaller branch libraries by assigning one set of staff to oversee operations at two libraries. Under the scenario, impacted branches would stay open for just 20 hours per week by alternating days of operation. Donelson, East, Edgehill, Hadley Park, Inglewood, Looby, North, Old Hickory, Pruitt, Richland Park, Thompson Lane and Watkins Park libraries would be affected.
The most draconian measure discussed Tuesday –– the remedy if the department is asked to trim 10 percent –– would be to close libraries, possibly some combination of the Donelson, Hadley Park, Inglewood, Old Hickory and Thompson Lane branches.
In the event the library’s budget is increased, then the department would try to re-open the downtown Main Library on Mondays and restore Friday hours at the city’s larger branches.
But based on recent history, a budget increase is unlikely. Implementing cuts to accommodate next fiscal year’s budget would continue a pattern for the public library system, which reduced its budget by 5.5 percent this fiscal year and 4.3 percent the previous fiscal year.