The Homewood Public library board held down costs and was able to approve its $3.29 million budget for 2021-22 at the board meeting on Sept. 15.
The budget is the identical amount as its previous budget. Library Director Colleen Waltman said only two line items changed. Liability insurance increased by $2,000 to $26,000 annually. Waltman reduced the administrative expenses by $2,000 to cover the insurance increase.
“We really tried to do our best,” said Waltman, regarding this year’s annual budget.
The biggest expense is $1.78 million in salaries and benefits for the 43 employees working full- and part-time positions. The HPL is still in negotiations with the union and salaries won’t be final until the union contract is finalized by the 31 employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) union. In July, the library board approved a 2% raise for other staff.
The HPL expects to receive $2,362,753 in tax collections.
Waltman said she was grateful for two grants the library received in 2021: A $10,000 grant given by CN Railroad, and a $10,000 grant from AgeOptions, a nonprofit organization working to improve internet services and programs for senior citizens.
Over the last year, the library board spent about $25,000 to repair the building’s HVAC. Waltman said she has had meetings with ComEd on how to reduce energy costs, including switching bulbs in its parking lot lights, and timed thermostat adjustments.
When services were curbside-only in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 shutdown orders, the library lost revenue it normally receives from patrons using the copy machines and printers, and the library didn’t impose fines or fees, Waltman said. The library staff saved money by reduced processing and ordering, a drop in staff development programming and a reduction in supplies.
Additionally, most programming shifted to Zoom sessions or outdoor activities in March 2020, the HPL continues to use that approach.
During this time, more patrons checked out books, DVDs and other items compared to circulation at nearby libraries that are part of the SWAN 100-library network, but it was still lower overall than it was prior to COVID, Waltman said.
In other business, the board welcomed Catherine Uecker who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board.
Uecker had previously been a trustee from 2017 to 2018. Although she stepped off the board, she said she was happy to be asked to serve again.
“I’m heavily invested and supportive of our public library system, both the Homewood Public Library and the whole SWAN network. So, I’m happy to be back and be of service,” Uecker said.