Chesterton Tribune

Township library workers to get first raises since 2008

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Westchester Public Library employees will receive 3 percent across-the-board wage increases next year, their first raises since 2008.

The Library Board approved the pay hikes Thursday, which will boost payroll by an additional $28,052 annually, after also selecting a new employee health-insurance provider saving $32,472 next year.

That good news was offset by library director Phil Baugher reporting WPL anticipates losing almost $114,000 in 2011 revenue due to Indiana's property tax caps.

Baugher had recommended his $85,408 annual salary not be increased with the other employees in light of the fact it is ranked 21st out of 65 library directors in Indiana, but Library Board members disagreed.

Vern Odom said Baugher's compensation reflects his longevity with WPL as well as his education, experience and responsibilities.

Sharon Robbins told Baugher he is highly regarded in his profession. "I think our community understands and respects that, and you shouldn't be paid run of the mill."

The decision to change healthcare providers carries higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, but those will be covered through WPL donations to individual employee health savings accounts. Coverage includes a $25,000 life insurance policy.

E-technologies coming

Next year's approved $2.87 million budget includes $30,000 in new spending for downloadable e-books and $15,000 for downloadable audio. "We're really going big into those resources to build that collection," said Baugher.

The total $430,000 line item for material allocations including books, CDs, DVDs, and access to online services remains the same as 2010 by reducing purchase of collections in lesser demand but not print materials.

The November report showed a nearly 4 percent drop in circulation activity over 2009 and 1.85 percent year-to-date, but Odom noted those numbers are skewed by huge drops in videotape and audio cassette lending.

The 2011 budget will see more tax money collected directly into the general fund instead of raising a portion through the Library Improvement Reserve Fund, which Baugher said gives WPL more spending flexibility and saves paperwork. Approved Thursday was moving $572,456 saved this year into the non-reverting LIRF.

A $453,773 transfer to LIRF is planned for 2011 as well. WPL has $6.2 million in all accounts, most in investments, with the December tax settlement still due.

Long-range plan adopted

Baugher recommended the board keep adding to the $5 million WPL has in reserve now because "sooner or later we need to address how Thomas Library will be used in the coming decades."

The main 26,000 square-foot Chesterton library, opened in 1975 and providing 96 percent of WPL's core library services, has been experiencing growing pains for some time. Board member Claire Jolie noted some collections actually are taking up less space now because of the availability of Internet access to information.

WPL could issue bonds up to $10.5 million but by saving cash the cost of any future construction could be greatly reduced, said Baugher.

The long-range plan adopted 5-0 Thursday with board members Nick Tilden and Drew Rhed absent cites among its objectives planning for the expansion of Thomas Library. Odom suggested the board review the 2001 consultant report detailing possible expansion scenarios.

Board member Rick Hokanson said the library won't jump into anything but it wouldn't hurt to review the report. Baugher said the new plan through 2016 "mandates we keep our eyes open and our minds open."

Other library business addressed Thursday included:

The board tabled a decision whether to renew its $252 membership in the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce using property-tax funds or donated funds.

Approved was renewing WPL's $100 membership and the trustees' total $2,300 in memberships to the Indiana Library Federation for three years. Two years ago the board suspended its membership in protest over the ILF supporting statewide library consolidation without consulting members.

The board renewed its contract with long-time WPL attorney Terry Hiestand; the fees have not increased in 10 years.

Baugher announced in January patrons will need only one regular library card for all purposes instead of having an additional one for internet access.

Hired as new WPL clerks were Jennifer Harlow, Toni Kurtis and Sadie Steciuch; Michael Fowler, Gayle Kosmatka and Sara Landree were hired as cleaners.




Posted 12/17/2010