TUESDAY, MAYWOOD — Patrons of the Maywood Public Library who plan on using the building’s third floor will now need to make a choice — either turn around or brave the heat and the dark. The top floor’s partial closing is only one means among several that the Library has implemented in order to cut costs. Stan Huntington, Director of the Maywood Public Library District, said that the changes come at a time when the Village’s various taxing bodies have experienced a substantial decrease in collections.
“There’s been a very steady decline in tax income over the last three to four years. In the spring of this year, we went somewhere between 28-30 percent loss of collection. It’s the same situation that’s affecting the Village and the school Districts,” Huntington said. “This has a lot to do with the huge foreclosure rate here. There isn’t a strong tax base in Maywood other than individual homes. The business tax rate doesn’t do much to cushion [the high residential tax rate].”
Mr. Huntington hopes that by partially closing the top floor, the Library can save on energy costs.
“Our power costs about $10,000 a month, a little over $100,000 a year. So, it could make a lot of difference. Air conditioning is the biggest expense we have here about five to six months out of the year.”
Mr. Huntington emphasized that although the room is without air conditioning and light, Library staff still allows interested patrons onto the floor upon request. However, if patrons need assistance or have questions, they’ll have to walk a little further than before. The circulation desk has been moved to the first floor.
There have been other measures to cut costs. The Library has placed its full-time staff on unpaid furlough and some staff positions below the managerial level have been reduced to three days a week. Unlike those of neighboring towns such as Oak Park, Forest Park and Bellwood, Maywood’s Library is only open five days a week, with shortened hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (when it closes at 5:30 pm, instead of 9 pm). And, according to Mr. Huntington, since 2007, 50 percent of the staff has been let go, mostly due to attrition, and no staff member has had a pay increase.
The Library’s distressed fiscal condition, however, isn’t necessarily the result of bad financial stewardship. Mr. Huntington noted that the Library has already paid off its bond debt. “While we got that bond debt paid off, we had bank debt of just over $700,000. This is the result of not collecting enough in bond taxes to fully cover the bond payments. In the early years, the library covered the bond payments using funds from the operating account. As bond tax receipts continued to drop it was necessary to borrow from the bank.”
Mr. Huntington said that the Library had anticipated having this bank debt retired by 2014, assuming they only experienced a 12 percent loss of tax collections. That anticipated 12 percent loss turned out to be about a 30 percent loss over a 12-month period. Such a steep loss of revenue only tightens the bank’s vice grips.
While Huntington and company want to stretch out the terms of the loan they have with Seaway Bank, located just across the street from the Library’s original Carnegie-built edifice, the bank wants the loan paid off as soon as possible. Whether or not Maywood residents see more cutbacks in the future may depend on how the two sides negotiate the conditions of this loan.
In the meantime, however, we may have to just sweat it out. VFP