The Liberty Lake Library Board asked the City Council on Tuesday for the money to hire more staff, but council members wondered where the city would find the funds.
In his presentation to the council, library board President John Loucks suggested the council make a budget amendment of $36,000 to increase one of the librarian’s hours to full time and add a half-time library clerk.
Loucks said the city was lucky to have a highly skilled librarian in Pamela Mogen, but she only has so many hours in a day. The staffing additions would free up Mogen for grant-writing and new program development such as a genealogy program or language classes, he said. The library could extend its hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays to 8 p.m. to better accommodate visitors who work or go to school during the day, he added.
Although the audience applauded Loucks’ presentation, Councilwoman Susan Schuler asked where the city was coming up with the funds to provide for this.
She reminded the council that at the end of 2010, the city was expecting financial losses and to offset this, the council instituted a utility tax and cut library and golf course services. She wondered if there had been a mistake in the financial forecast.
Councilman Josh Beckett agreed.
“I don’t know that we have the money to spend,” he said. He asked Loucks why he was coming to the council for more money for the library at this time.
Loucks said he was told there was money available.
Beckett asked if the council should wait to incorporate the request into the 2013 city budget.
Loucks said the workload of the library staff is increasing and it would be good to guarantee the employment of adult and reference services librarian Dan Pringle, who is part time at the library in Liberty Lake and part time at another library. Loucks said he would hate to lose Pringle as an employee.
Councilwoman Cris Kaminskas said she would love to support the library, but also wondered about the funding as well.
“We sat here for six months in 2011, berated for how we’re spending money,” she said. “All of a sudden in 2012, we have money to spend. What changed?”
She said the council had been accused of creating a slush fund when they imposed the utility tax.
“That’s what it looks like now,” she said.
The library issue was discussed in a workshop session Tuesday. The council will look at the subject again in future meetings. Schuler said she would like it if Finance Director RJ Stephenson would take a look at the numbers given to the council in 2010 and 2011 to find how things have changed for the city’s budget.