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Library board saves branches, seeks long-term fix

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The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library board of trustees agreed Thursday to keep open two library branches targeted for closure next year.

Board members also outlined $2.5 million in proposed budget cuts for 2011 to help stem the growing gap between revenue and expenses.

The library system says it faces a revenue drop of more than $4 million per year due to property-tax reductions and lower total tax levies. It projected a $2 million deficit each year without some changes.

The board has been working since April to find solutions. It considered several options to reduce the deficit, including closing the Brightwood and Glendale branches next year and as many as four others in 2012.

Board President Thomas Shevlot acknowledged that the proposed cuts—which still must be approved by the board during its budgeting process next month—won’t resolve the situation long-term.

“It’s a Band-Aid approach,” he said. “We’ve been looking for any way possible to keep these branches from closing, to give us a little more breathing room. … We know these [cuts] will not sustain us well into the 21st Century.”

Among the proposed savings: $1 million in reduced spending on books and materials, $440,000 from eliminating 10 full-time positions and 11 part-time jobs, $311,000 from closing on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and $440,000 from requiring employees to pay a portion of their retirement contributions.

Shevlot said the board still is evaluating long-term options, and he has had conversations with public officials about other ways to boost revenue. A referendum could ask voters to approve funding to buy library branches the system now leases, for example, or the City-County Council could opt to increase the library’s tax levy, which has been capped since 2005.

“There are a number of different things being looked at,” he said. “We’re going to spend the next few months digging into the options.”

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