Library to be closed on Sundays as of this week

Patrons have typically borrowed about 600 items from the Port Orchard Library each Sunday.

But they’ll no longer have that opportunity.

The Kitsap Regional Library System decided to close all branches each Sunday, starting this week, to save approximately $100,000 per year and help the library balance its budget, which totals about $10.495 million.

The library has seen several expenses increase significantly and hasn’t brought in the new revenue to cover it, said Bob Goldstein, chief financial officer for the Kitsap Regional Library System.

Insurance expenses, for example, have gone up by 44 percent and the state has required the library to increase contributions to employee’s pensions by 22 percent each year.

Meanwhile, the library’s revenue hasn’t increased quickly enough to keep pace with the expenses, said Goldstein.

Library revenue is a percentage of property tax plus new construction, late material fines and donations from the library foundation.

Consequently, recent downturns in the housing market have directly impacted the library’s funding.

The library proposed a levy increase that would have increased the library’s budget by $3.65 million each year in November, but it failed with about 58.45 percent opposed to about 41.55 percent in favor.

“It seems to me, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s getting more and more difficult to maintain these systems,” Goldstein said. “These wonderful publc libraries on a diminishing stream of revenue.”

But cutting the library’s Sunday hours will save more money than cutting any other four hours during the week.

“The system expects to save about $100,000 in 2011 because of the Sunday closings, without laying off any staff,” said Jeff Brody, the director of community relations for KRL.

The library is down about two positions, almost three, and plans not to fill them, said Goldstein.

That’s where most of the savings will come from, he said.

“All staff savings will accrue through attrition,” Brody explained.

Although cuts won’t hurt the library’s staff, he said, the community will feel the impact.

“Sunday hours, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., do serve Kitsap families,” Brody said. “Many students have used Sunday afternoon hours for homework opportunities.”

And some patrons prefer Sunday over other days, said Kathleen Wilson, Port Orchard’s branch manager.

“Sunday is a huge day to return things,” she said, adding that a drop box will still be available for people who would like to return materials on Sunday.

And every day, including Sunday, has been busier than usual since the Manchester branch closed for repairs on Thanksgiving due to flooding from a burst water pipe, she said.

“With Manchester closed, we’re just busy all around,” she said.

But Sundays also cost more than other days, which put them on the chopping block.

“Sunday hours are the most expensive hours that KRL operates because of premium pay for staff members who work Sundays,” Brody said.

Employees received one-and-a-half times their regular compensation for hours worked on Sunday.

Now that Sunday hours have been eliminated, Goldstein said, that the budget should be fine for 2011.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape this year and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in 2012,” he said.

Brody said branches could be cut if necessity demands it.

“When you look beyond next year, there’s a possibility we may have to start cutting branches,” he said. “Our board has not discussed placing any branches in the target list — yet.

“They’ve talked about possibly selling (the Port Orchard) location because of it’s value as a piece of property,” Brody said. “But it would probably be relocated in that scenario, not cut.”

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