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Des Plaines to library board: cut deeper
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/27/2009 12:00 AM

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Budget cuts made by the Des Plaines Public Library at the urging of city leaders don't go deep enough, city officials said Monday.

The library board in September adopted a proposed $6.9 million budget for 2010, which officials said is a 4 percent decrease from the 2009 budget of $7.2 million.

That included cutting items like the library's quarterly newsletter, membership in a cable network and out-of-state travel for staff.

Since the municipal library is funded by the city, the city council must approve the library budget. Yet, the council has no control over how the library spends the money.

Earlier this month, city council members questioned the biggest ticket items in the proposed library budget - salaries and benefits - forcing library officials to review their calculations.

Library Director Sandra Norlin last week announced a reduction of roughly $161,000 from not filling a vacant full-time position, reducing part-time employee hours and using lower estimates for starting salaries. She said the 2010 budget would be further revised to achieve a decrease of 5 percent in expenditures on salaries and benefits.

Des Plaines 3rd Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz, a former library board member, said Monday library officials used inflated estimates for salaries and health care benefits to prepare their budget.

"They are reducing it, but that's just because they did their math wrong in the first place," Bogusz said. "They were kind of an educated guess that was hundreds of thousands of dollars off."

Library officials said numbers were off because they lacked current information from the city, which processes the library payroll, on some personnel expenses.

Bogusz also was irked that library officials did not submit an itemized accounting of salaries and benefits for each staff position. Library employees may get up to a 6 percent pay raise based on individual merit.

Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan said the library board needs to follow the city's lead and cut more staff.

Library Board President Noreen Lake said laying off employees is not an option.

"Because of the economy we are trying to be sympathetic, and yet, we still want to provide the best service to our residents," Lake said. "It's unfortunate that the city has to do what it has to do. We only have 45 full-time employees. Right now, the library board doesn't see the need to fire somebody. It's not like we are asking for an increase in the budget for next year."

Moylan said while the city has no power over the library's budget, the appointed board members can be replaced if they don't do their job right.

"We'll keep all options open," he said.