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Library director warns of dire results of budget cuts

January 9, 2009
By RON LARSEN Journal Staff Writer

NEW ULM - While Director Larry Hlavsa's financial report covering the last part of 2008 couldn't have better, the New Ulm Public Library Board soon learned that even having to cut expenditures by just 5 percent in 2009 is going to be extremely painful.

"We are now 99.6 percent through 2008, and our budget is approximately 87.4 percent expended," Hlavsa told the board Thursday.

Book sales were at 151.96 percent of budget. Meeting room rental revenue was at 145 percent of budget while audio-visual rentals were at 140.89 percent. Even copy fees were at 128.55 percent of budget.

Even though the purchasing of office supplies was at 134.78 percent of budget and general supplies and contractual maintenance equipment and books were over the top, it still was a pretty rosy picture.

But, after the board had accepted Hlavsa's financial report, members then learned 2009 was going to be a tough year no matter what.

In his report to City Manager Brian Gramentz, who attended the meeting, Hlavsa laid the library's cards on the table.

"Given that nearly 84% of the Library budget is staff salaries, benefits, utilities and TdS [Traverse des Sioux Regional Library System] automation fees, that only leaves $125,695 in all other budget categories from which to cut $38,821 (for a 5% overall cut) or $77,642 (for a 10% overall cut)," he wrote.

As Hlavsa outlined it, a 5 percent cut would result "in no programming, a continuing decay of our technological infrastructure since there would be virtually no replacement in 2009 of [our] already decaying computer infrastructure ... [and] far fewer new library materials." In fact, a 5 percent cut would result in a "28% reduction in purchase of new materials! Since new materials are the life's blood of a library, this is a very severe cut."

However, "the minor results of a 5% cut would be less money for general supplies, less money for office supplies, less money for building maintenance," he wrote.

And, of course, as he noted, the "major results" of a 10-percent cut would include everything at the 5 percent level "plus: two weeks of library closings (which could worked off as a one day a month closing for the entire year), a standstill in the development of our technological infrastructure ..., far fewer new library materials, permanent service cuts, [and] the beginnings of a breakdown of library service."

With the budget report completed, the board moved onto two action items.

Board members approved the new Table of Organization that places the Library Board on the same plane with the city manager beneath the City Council.

They also passed a revised general policy governing displays placed by exhibitors in the library. Basically, it gives the library director more control over the quality of the displays.

Ron Larsen can be reached at



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