Bishop resident Sue Batchelder takes advantage of Wi-Fi provided by the Bishop Branch of the Inyo County Free Library. Local leaders are considering a re-organization of the library system that will combine some library duties with museum duties and reduce hours at both the Eastern California Museum and local libraries.
Photo by Mike Gervais
Inyo County is going to explore its options for a reorganization of Museum and Library services in an effort to combine job positions to cut costs.
On Tuesday, First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius followed the lead of County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio and Deputy Administrator Pam Hennarty, and recommended that the county consolidate the two departments under one manager and eliminate the other management position.
The four remaining supervisors, acting on requests from citizens who said they were concerned about a reduction in services in one or both departments, recommended moving forward with a less intensive solution that would have the two departments sharing staffers, rather than managers.
Early this year, Inyo County kicked off a creative budget solutions initiative, requesting managers and department heads to meet with each other to consolidate like-services, and find other ways to trim the county budget.
For the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, Inyo County Librarian Nancy Masters proposed a budget plan, dubbed the Library Road Map, that would restore the library budget to pre-2012 levels, update job duties and titles and provide pay increases to library staff. That plan would add $167,000 to the library budget.
Hennarty said Tuesday that she asked Masters to revisit her budget proposal and follow the Creative Budget Solution plan to reduce costs. Masters returned with a second option, entitled the Budget Plan, which would keep the library budget funded at the current rate, $409,000.
At Tuesdayâs meeting, Carunchio said that Masters and Museum Services Director Jon Klusmire could answer questions from the Board of Supervisors, or speak to the issue as county employees, but would be prohibited from speaking their mind as concerned citizens, because they would be required to request time off to do so. Board Chair and Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci said he would like to hear from both employees before making a decision.
Masters explained that, through attrition, her department has been operating with a skeleton crew to help save money, with no permanent staff assigned to the Bishop branch.
âThere was a real cut this year,â Masters said, referring to the 2013-14 budget. âBoth the Road Map and the Budget Plan take that into account.â Masters explained that by maintaining vacancies, her budget was cut by 27 percent for this fiscal year. â$175,000 was cut last year. That was a surprise to me. Itâs an extremely difficult time with the number of projects we have,â she said, including the reorganization of the Bishop branch. Masters said she believed that full library funding would be restored this fiscal year.
In response to the two plans Masters proposed, the CAOâs office drafted four new funding plans that would have library and museum services staff sharing duties, dubbed Service Redesign Options 1-4.
Hennarty said Tuesday that most county departments have worked to trim budgets and itâs âunfortunateâ that others, like the Libraries, have not made cuts.
Under SR Option 1, the county will maintain library funding at the 2013-14 levels ($609,775), with the beginnings of a reorganization of the Library and Museum departments. Under this plan, the temporary library employees will be replaced with one full-time âLibrary/Museumâ specialist and one part-time library/museum specialist. âBy hiring these two positions with joint library and museum job descriptions, the department will take steps towards further integration between these two functions,â a staff report states. The plan does not call for any change to museum staffing, and will shave $6,634 from the Library budget.
SR Option 2, which will cut $87,000 from the Library and Museum budgets, and SR Option 3, which will cut $47,000 from the Library budget but add to the Museum budget, would modify job titles for two current employees, placing one museum employee in a new position serving both departments, and moving one technical services library employees from Independence to Bishop. âEither of these options would result in the museum hours being reduced from seven days per week to five days per week,â a staff report states.
The final option would combine the Museum and Library Director positions for a total savings of $147,096 through the elimination of a management position.
Hennarty said that each option, except the Road Map, would result in a Monday closure of the library.
Hennarty explained that SR Option 4 is not without precedent, as past Librarian Bill Michael also managed the Museum Services Department before his retirement. However, Independence resident Dave Wagoner pointed out that when Michael resigned, he said that he had been overwhelmed by the two job duties.
In all, five residents addressed the board Tuesday, pleading to save the libraries, or the museum, or both.
âThe Library is one of the most important resources in this county,â Lone Pine resident Gary Walker said.
Lone Pine resident Loretta Howard added that local libraries serve as universities in the county, giving residents in need access to computers with Internet to complete school assignments.
Kim Cash-Miller of the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Office spoke on behalf of Superintendent Terry McAteer, who was unable to attend the meeting. She pointed out that the Superintendentâs Office has a plan to invest as much as $300,000 in the libraries by the end of the year (including projects that have been completed within the past year).
In a letter to the board, McAteer said that a communityâs health can be measured by the health of its libraries, and urged the board to at least maintain current services.
Friends of the Eastern California Museum President and Independence resident Rich White said that âdiminishing the museum staff is not appropriateâ and any reduction in museum hours would reduce county hotel and sales tax.
Museum Services Director Klusmire agreed. âI donât think anything that reduces museum hours is beneficial to the museum,â Klusmire said.
Arcularius responded, pointing out that most county-operated museums in other counties that are open seven days a week charge for admission. She also said that Inyo should be proud of the hours of operation it has maintained at the libraries up until this point.
Arcularius said she wanted to pursue Carunchio and Hennartyâs recommendation and adopt Option 4, the consolidation of department heads.
The other four board members said they would be more comfortable with Option 3 because it includes significant cost savings without the elimination of a manager.
Hennarty will return to the board later this month with more details on the proposal. At that time, the board will vote on a budget plan.