Hours expanded

The Auglaize County Public District Library Board of Directors approved a motion Tuesday to reinstate hours to their former level prior to cuts in 2008.

The move pushes the total hours the district libraries will be open to 180 from 132, a 36 percent increase. The increases were 48 hours from 40 hours in Wapakoneta, 20 hours from 13 in Cridersville, 32 hours from 26 in Minster, 32 hours from 20 in New Bremen, 24 hours from 13 in New Knoxville, and 24 hours from 20 in Waynesfield.

The increase in hours hikes the annual total expenditures to $704,000 from approximately $603,000, a 17 percent increase. The six libraries will be open for their new hours May 24, just in time of the summer reading program.

The hours were cut in 2009 when state cuts were threatening the amount of money libraries received.

Library Director Beth Steiner said those numbers have begun to stabilize.

She said now they now what to expect in funding. Along with requests from the public to be open more hours, the time seemed right to reinstate the hours now.

“We found in our communities that there was a need for the increased hours,” Steiner said. “State funding is becoming more stable and we will know our basic income.”

The biggest budgetary increase came in salaries, as the additional 48 hours each week will increase salary and wages to $556,000 from approximately $486,000. The other increases will be in health insurance, OPRS (Ohio Public Retirement System) and Medicare costs. The increased hours could cause two more employees to log enough hours to qualify for the health insurance plan.

The board-approved plan was one of three different plans that had been discussed by board members the last several months. One proposal had hours increasing to 198 total hours, a 10 percent hike over pre-cut hours, and a more aggressive 249-hour plan, an increase of 38 percent.

However, board members agreed simply reinstating to former precut hours was the only sensible choice for now.

“My biggest fear is if we would have to take something back later,” board member Ron Pepple said. “We would kick ourselves in the backside with the public. If we go with the first plan we have something to plan towards. We need to set some goals.”

Board member Chuck Rowen agreed.

“It’s a babystep to where we want to go, but it is a step,” Rowen said. “We still need to give the economy time to heal.”

Included in the increases were approximate 4 percent salary increases for the board’s four administrators, to $52,048 for Steiner, to $39,204 for assistant director Pam Schneider, to $42,741 for fiscal officer Dana Webb, and to $28,237 for youth services director Karie Maurer-Enneking.

A $2,000 increase for the advertising budget was also approved by the board, mainly to get the word out for the newly expanded hours.

Board President Pat Block agreed that the timing was right to bring library hours back up to precut standards.

“We anticipate we can do this now.,” Block said. “The state budget has evened out and we wanted to do this before summer. We realize there is a community need.”

While the hours will be reinstated to precut totals, Steiner said they may possibly be revised. Board members are looking to establish a more consistent time schedule so patrons know when they are open.

“Our goal is to make the hours more standardized,” Steiner said. “We want to have a more consistency to make sure people understand when we are open.”

While Steiner did not expect any current need to ask voters for a tax levy to help cover the new costs, she said those possibilities will be discussed as the library does strategic planning.