Library asks for $20K to balance budget

By MARY WARDELL

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The Peter White Public Library is asking to double its revenue sharing from the city in the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of $20,000, in order to balance its budget.

In the last of the Marquette City Commission’s special budget meetings on Aug. 30, commissioners verbally agreed to the increase, and discussed how much it would cost the library to reopen on Sundays.

The library closed on Sundays as a cost-saving measure in February 2015.

City CFO Gary Simpson said the city has for the last two years provided the library with $20,000 in revenue sharing, up from about $11,500 for many years before that.

Library Director Andrea Ingmire said the library faces a projected revenue shortfall despite significant cuts to the library’s budget, including elimination of two part-time positions.

“So that’s a $20,000 ask, and I realize that’s a big ask,” Ingmire said. “So what would be the results for increased funding for the library? It would give us some time to put in place additional funding measures.”

Ingmire, hired in April 2016, said she hoped to have one year of stable revenue, but the We Energies Michigan Tax Tribunal settlement took that away. She said they are looking at up to a $60,000 annual loss in revenue.

The library consistently fundraises about 10-12 percent of its budget, Ingmire said.

While the recent $4 million bond was a huge win for capital costs, about 64 percent of the library’s budget is for staffing.

Support from the commission would build on the overwhelming public support in the August bond election, she added, and would keep additional cuts to services and staff at bay.

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds said she had no problem adding the extra $20,000, which Simpson said would come from the city’s general fund.

“I know a couple years ago when we reduced Sunday hours, we had people calling and yelling at us just for that,” Reynolds said. “If you have to start cutting staff, I expect the same thing would happen. … People like the library.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Baldini asked what it would cost to bring back Sunday hours.

Library Finance Director Rick Orr said somewhere between $15,000 and $25,000 per year.

“But the concern we have is, going forward,” Orr added, “the likelihood of reduced tax revenue, especially on the part of the city as WE Energies (Presque Isle Power) Plant is likely to close, and then also as the new hospital comes on, what ends up happening with the existing facilities.”

Commissioner Mike Plourde asked Simpson if the city has the money to bring back Sunday hours.

Simpson said it wouldn’t break the budget, but advised the commission to focus on the additional $20,000 for the time being.

Plourde said bringing back Sunday should be seriously considered.

Ingmire agreed that there is strong public desire to bring Sunday hours back, especially in winter, as that is often the most convenient day for families to visit the library, but her concern is future stability of the library.

Commissioner Mike Conley asked if Ingmire will ask other municipalities to “step up,” and she replied in the affirmative.

Orr said potential revenue increases from surrounding municipalities would be “offsets against what we conceivably can lose in revenue going forward.”

In a followup interview, Simpson said he wished he could give the library the funds to bring back Sunday hours, but it’s not a good idea.

“Because we’re playing the same game they are; we’re looking at reduced property taxes through tax tribunal cases,” Simpson said. “We just need to be very careful how we start promising things that maybe in the future we won’t be able to deliver.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.