Library staff adjusting budget, still hoping to restore Monday hours

State budget cuts have caused the Great Falls Public Library to lose $28,000 in state funding this year and likely next year too.

Library staff and its advisory board had planned for that shortfall by reducing the materials budget in the hopes that the Great Falls Public Library Foundation would fund those needs.

The good news is that the value of mills in the city increased, generating an additional $37,674 for the library this year. The library receives nine mills annually under an agreement with the city.

Kathy Mora, library director, said the library received about $60,000 more in tax revenue than they had expected.

Library staff hoping to restore Monday hours

But the budget cuts at the state library also mean reduced training opportunities for Great Falls library staff and cuts for other library services.

The state funding was established in the 1990s and was 10 cents per capita for local libraries, Mora said. In 2013, the Montana library community pushed to increase that aid to 40 cents per capita. That aid was scheduled to sunset this year, so library supporters went back to the legislature to extend the aid program for another four years, Mora said.

That’s when the revenue triggers were added in, Mora said.

Under HB 261, if certified unaudited general fund revenue and transfers into the general fund received in fiscal year 2017 were less than $2,213,000,000, the state funding for libraries will be eliminated in fiscal year 2018, which starts July 1.

That trigger has been reached and the $28,000 is not coming to GFPL this year.

If the revenue for fiscal year 2018 is less than  $2,360,000,000, state funding for public libraries will be eliminated again in fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018.

But, after that, Mora said, the library should go back to receiving 40 cents per capital the following two years.

Library staff requested an additional $35,000 from the city to reopen for at least a few hours on Mondays. City Manager Greg Doyon did not recommend funding that request, but did recommend about $110,000 for capital improvements. City Commissioners followed Doyon’s recommendation and didn’t add in any additional library funding.

Legislative actions affecting Great Falls budget

Mora said that library staff and the library advisory board will consider options for reopening on Mondays since the increased tax revenue  might help cover those operational costs.

The hope is to reopen for four hours on Mondays and work back up to full eight hours on Mondays, Mora said.

Monday hours were cut in 2014 due to city financial strain and staffing levels were reduced. Mora said the library is not back up to pre-2014 staffing levels, but has been able to re-establish some of those staff positions.

The library is also requesting $28,000 from the library foundation to make up for the lack of state funding this year. Mora said the library foundation typically meets in September and June to consider those requests, so a decision could be made soon.

The foundation recently funded the purchase of two self-check kiosks that are now available on the first floor of the library.

“Kids love them,” Mora said.

The kiosks check out books and desensitize them so they don’t set of the alarms at the front door. Movies and music materials must still be checked out at the desk.

WIth limited staff and resources, Mora said the kiosks can free up time for staff to work on other projects.

The kiosks were installed in August.

Love books or want to support library programs? You can donate to the Great Falls Public Library Foundation.