Today is the start of a new fiscal year at PVLD, and it looks like it will be the most challenging of my 5 1/2 year career at PVLD so far. We head into the fiscal year with a budget that is barely balanced, and with some known risks that could compromise even that outcome.
The 09/10 budget approved by the Board of Trustees reflects a net excess of only $31,000 - which provides a "margin of error" of less than 0.5% of our $6.58 million revenues - and that net excess was only achieved after substantial reductions in the budget for library books and other materials, elimination of a number of online databases, reductions to library open hours, elimination of contract services, deferral of a number of capital maintenance projects, and many other cost-cutting measures.
The budget also relies on the Friends of the Library to double their level of support compared to the 08/09 fiscal year (the Friends will be providing about $300,000 of funding this year) and on using donations to the Library District accumulated over many years to fund important strategic plan initiatives and capital projects. We do not meet our emergency reserve policy, and there is a significant risk that higher than expected property tax defaults for the 08/09 fiscal year (which won't be known until August) could put us into a deficit situation.
The budget also does not make any provision for the State "borrowing" local property tax revenues, which could have a devastating effect. Unfortunately, the longer the State budget impasse drags on the more likely it is that they will borrow our property tax revenues and we were advised today that this is again "on the table" for consideration. This could mean the loss of $450,000 in revenue this fiscal year.
The projection for 10/11 is even worse - it already shows a projected deficit of $179,000 in the operating budget and again does not include the impact of any borrowing of local property tax revenues - and if that doesn't happen this year there is a good chance it will happen next year. We also are short over $300,000 for important capital maintenance projects, and there is a limit to how much we can defer without compromising long-term facilities and technology needs or putting PVLD at risk of expensive emergency repairs.
The 09/10 budget also assumes the Friends of the Library will be able to sustain their 09/10 level of support...something that becomes increasingly challenging in the face of general economic conditions.
And of course we have no idea when the general economic recovery will kick in, or how long it will take for the property tax revenues that are our primary revenue stream to rebound.
Definitely rough waters to navigate!
On the positive side we have a terrific staff and a wonderful group of volunteers who continue to try to do as much as they can to serve the community within the limits of our reduced resources. I do worry about staff burnout, though, and will be working with the Department Managers to see what projects or activities we can eliminate or defer while still focusing on the core goals in our Strategic Plan. A lot of "nice to do" things will almost certainly need to be dropped.
Rough waters? For sure. Will we make it through them? PVLD is blessed in terms of staff, volunteers, Friends, and community support, and as a result we are much better positioned than many libraries to weather this storm..it just won't be much fun at times. My personal goal is to not get swept into the water, to do my best to balance the needs of all of the people who contribute to making PVLD such a wonderful library, and to keep my eye on the long-term...and to remember, as one of our employees keeps reminding me, this too shall pass.