MOUNT VERNON — Sometimes good news is relative, and that is the case for the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.
The good news is that revenues for June are not down as much as for May. The library funding comes in on a monthly basis, and is calculated as a percentage of certain state tax collections — the state personal income tax collections, for one. The revenues for May 2009 were down 26 percent compared to May 2008.
“That’s 26 percent of a lot of money,” library director John Chidester said at the time.
There were some fears that if that kind of decline persisted, more cuts and even closings would have to be made for the library to work within its budget. So far, this is not the case.
“The good news is the [Public Library Funding] numbers for the month of June are in and they were down only 8.5 percent,” Chidester said. “In most years I wouldn’t call 8.5 percent good news, but in this context it is quite a relief. The cuts we put in place assumes being down for the year by about 15.5 percent. As it stands through the June distribution of the PLF, we would be down by about 15.05 percent for the year. So we are 0.45 percent to the good, so to speak.”
Chidester said if the situation doesn’t get any worse for the rest of the year, the cuts put in place would keep the library system within its budget. By law, the library cannot go over budget.
“As it stands, if things don’t get any worse, these cuts should carry us through the end of the year,” he said. “It’s going to be kind of touch and go, but we will just have to see. So the news is not all bad. It could get better, it could get worse. we just have to kind of hold our breath every month and see what the numbers say.”
If things do get worse, Chidester said there are no real draconian plans to close the library or any of its branches.
“If things really get bad, it’s back to the drawing board,” he said. “About the only thing left is to cut people.”
Closing branches would be an absolutely last-ditch effort, he said. It is not something Chidester really wants to contemplate.
“Nothing is totally off the table,” he said. “Closing branches is something I would try to hold off on as long as I possibly could.”