Sunday, November 10, 2002

Library construction put on hold

Move will help ease $16.8M shortfall

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will put its future on hold for the present.

Library board members will meet 9 a.m. Monday, when they are expected to announce a plan to scrap a handful of construction projects next year to save money so that five branches targeted for closure can remain open.

Board member Charles Lindberg said the library system is bracing for a $16.8 million shortfall next year. Postponing the construction will save $13.6 million. The rest will have to be made up by reductions in overhead.

The capital projects to be put on hold are:

New branches in Reading, Bond Hill and Woodlawn.

A parking lot for the Westwood branch.

Bailey Turner, president of the library board, said he thinks delaying the capital projects will ensure the branches stay open next year. But it might take a special levy to ensure the branches stay open in the future, he said.

"I'm sure that if we put the capital projects on hold that we won't have to close branches," Mr. Turner said. "There is the possibility of deficits in the future, and I'm concerned about it. That's why we have to entertain the thought of a levy of some kind."

The county's library system ran into financial trouble this year when the state announced that library systems across Ohio would receive less funding than expected.

The $4.3 million dip in state funding was a result of sluggish personal income tax collections, which account for 95 percent of the Hamilton County library system's $52.5 million budget.

The library made up this year's shortfall by reducing hours at branches and continuing a hiring freeze, said executive director Kim Fender.

Making up the $3.2 million projected shortfall next year will be trickier.

"It's not a viable long-term strategy," Ms. Fender said.

The board will discuss a strategy for how to deal with that shortfall on Monday.


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