Officials recommend cuts, not privatization, to shore up deficit
Senior Staff Writer
Responding to a loud community protest against outsourcing library management, Nevada County officials Thursday recommended in-house staffing and operating hours cuts to solve the system’s financial woes.
“It still preserves our professional librarians, and we knew we’d have to cut hours,” said County Librarian Mary Ann Trygg.
County officials said in documents prepared for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that cutting library hours to 143 per week from 160 and trimming the hours of librarians would shore up a $400,000 deficit projected for this year.
Beyond that, the slimmed-down libraries plan is designed to keep the system in the black with a reserve fund and retain services at all five libraries. It also would let the Friends of the Nevada County Libraries run the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research in Nevada City.
The board first noticed the libraries were in financial trouble last year, when dwindling sales tax revenues caused the deficit to pop up right before summer budget talks.
In October, County Executive Officer Rick Haffey explored the idea of outsourcing the library management to a private firm as an alternative to in-house cuts. That was met by a firestorm of protest from the community and, at one point, a demonstration in front of the county’s administration building in Nevada City.
Many library advocates rejected the notion of turning over operations of public libraries to a private company.
The five-member board is scheduled to make a decision after discussing the recommendations at the Tuesday meeting.
“We will do whatever we can do to retain as much access to the libraries as fiscally possible,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Nate Beason. “There is a cultural impediment to LSSI (the company that bid to assume control of the libraries) – it’s pretty clear.”
LSSI is an acronym for Library Systems and Services of Fredericksburg, Md., the only private firm to make a proposal to manage the libraries. LSSI co-founder and CEO Frank Pezzanite could not be reached for comment.
In an opinion piece slated to publish Saturday in The Union, Pezzanite said misconceptions and misinformation have clouded his firm’s proposal. He said it could increase library hours up to 40 percent and enhance programs.
But committees reviewing various proposals are recommending against the LSSI proposal; a plan to close the Doris Foley and the Penn Valley and Bear River stations; and a third to cut librarians from 6.6 full-time-equivalent positions to three.
The recommended option from County Executive Officer Rick Haffey’s in-house library committee parallels recommendations made from two other committees that were formed for the process.
That recommendation is based on the Truckee Friends of the Library plan for partial layoffs and cut hours while keeping all five libraries open.
Trygg said she could not divulge the specifics of the layoffs, but her letter to the board for Tuesday said that the 6.6 current full-time equivalent librarian positions would be cut to 3.75 full-time equivalent jobs. That would essentially cut some of their hours, but includes half-time children’s librarians for both western and eastern Nevada County.
The current library budget of around $2.5 million has almost $1.8 million in salaries and benefits for 21 employees – or 72 percent of the operating costs.
Assistant County Executive Officer Laura Matteson said recently the county had met informally with library employees union to discuss the tight budget, but no contract concessions were forthcoming.
“There were no savings and no changes,” Matteson said.
Library union representatives have not returned calls seeking comment.
The county library employee bargaining unit signed a five-year labor agreement in 2007 that is good through the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Matteson said. The contract included annual raises averaging 3 percent per year, with 2 to 3 percent additional increases for benefits and pensions as well, depending on which health package bargaining units chose.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4237.
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