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IMCPL Board Committee Hears Options to Sustain Library Services

April 08, 2010

The Finance Committee of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Board of Trustees on Thursday, April 8, 2010 received a preliminary report on options to effectively maintain library services as IMCPL faces severe revenue reductions from a combination of property tax caps and the total tax levy.

IMCPL will need to scale its budget requirements for multiple scenarios as the Library system faces a loss of up to $2.6 million in 2010, $3.1 million in 2011, and $3.2 million in 2012 in property tax revenue, or an estimated 7%-8% of its yearly operating budget. The Library is funded by a combination of taxes, grants and fees and charges. The property tax is the Library's primary source of revenue and accounts for 86% of the Library's projected income in 2010. In 2009, actual property tax revenues accounted for 80% of the Library's operating revenue. IMCPL receives no County Option Income Tax (COIT) and only a small portion of revenue comes from Local Option Income Tax (8% of revenue in 2010), and fines and fees (4%). State statute requires most services be provided free for residents of the district.

The property tax revenue impact, in combination with a drop in countywide assessed valuation from $42 billion in 2008 to $34 billion in 2009, brings IMCPL's projected revenue in 2010 down to 2006 levels.

"The most important thing is that our libraries continue to provide the integral and unalienable access to information for the people of Indianapolis," said Thomas S. Shevlot, President of the Library Board of Trustees. "We have made substantial cuts over the past four years and are prepared to continue to live within our means. We regret that the tax cuts are creating this situation, but we do welcome it as an opportunity to improve how we operate and prepare for the future."

The funding challenges come at a time when library services are being used more than ever. In 2009, IMCPL set a record for patron visits (5.9 million), circulation (17.1 million items), free computer usage (1.2 million session hours) and reference transactions (952,256). The Library is being used by families and individuals for its free resources to conduct job searches, early literacy programs for children, and computer access.

The results of the study show several options that, when coupled with operational cost reductions including reductions in salaries and benefits for staff and streamlining processes, allow IMCPL to operate within its budget for varying lengths of time.

"There are factors that drive expense and those need to be balanced against the Library's priorities to best serve the community," said Scott Evenbeck, Chairman of the Finance Committee. "Libraries currently under consideration for closure include branches that have leases, operate within the service areas of other branches, or can't be adapted due to space considerations."

The options that result in long-term financial stability for the system would discontinue services at four to six facilities: 2011 - Glendale Branch, 6101 N. Keystone Avenue, and Brightwood Branch, 2435 N. Sherman Drive (these changes would reduce lease expenses by $300,000 per year); 2012 - Fountain Square Branch, 1066 Virginia Avenue, and Flanner House Branch, 2424 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street (these changes would reduce lease expenses by $400,000 per year), Spades Park Branch, 1801 Nowland Avenue, and West Indianapolis Branch, 1216 S. Kappes Street (these closures would create savings through materials budget reductions).

"This study is necessary to secure the library's long-term future," said Shevlot. "We have and will continue to look at our services and operations for ways to improve and streamline the system."

IMCPL has already implemented a number of cost-cutting measures, as its operating budget has been reduced between 2%-4% each year since 2005. It has reduced personal services (salaries/fringe benefits) by 11% (2008 compared to 2004), reduced phone expenses by 35%, cut consulting services by 75%, reduced cleaning and security contracts, cut supply costs, and implemented patron self-service features, among other initiatives.

With the aid of the IMCPL Foundation, IMCPL will aggressively pursue grants and private funding. The IMCPL Foundation funds 75% of the direct costs of the programs offered, including the Summer Reading Program. The Foundation also raised $43 million for Central Library construction and its giving to the Library increased almost 50% in 2009.

The budget analysis and recommended options for reducing expenses will be delivered to the entire body of the IMCPL Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on Thursday, April 15 at 3 p.m. at the Library Services Center, 2450 N. Meridian Street. Following that, public forums will be held on Monday, May 10 and Wednesday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Library Services Center, 2450 N. Meridian Street, to gather public input before the Library Board considers final approval of a plan at its regular meeting on Thursday, June 10.

More information on the sustainable library options is available on the Sustainable Library page