County libraries avoid budget shortfall Higher fees, fines, cut in workers' hours used

February 10, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Increases in fines and video rental fees have helped the Baltimore County library system avoid a budget shortfall, director Jim Fish says.

What Fish feared might become an $800,000 shortfall in the system's $21.7 million budget is expected to melt away by June, he said, aided by cost-cutting moves that were paired with fee increases.

Based on gloomy projections in November, Fish reduced costs by cutting hours for some part-time workers. He also boosted revenues from video rentals, fines and other services, which the system depends on for at least $2.3 million annually.

Fee increases affect videos, computer discs and county permit applications that libraries handle as a public service.

The cost of borrowing video tapes, for example, is now 50 cents higher using the library's electronic debit cards, and 75 cents higher in cash. Video rentals cost $2 or $2.50, depending on the method of payment; the daily fine for late videos increased from $1.50 to $2.

People who are late returning CD-ROMs face higher maximum fines -- up from $14 to $21. And the fee for applying for a county permit or license at the library's 15 branches has doubled to $2.

Fish, who became director in September, said that by taking "early, aggressive action" in late 1996, he hoped to avoid more drastic cuts at the end of the budget year. "I feel good that we did what we did, when we did it."

Each library branch handled the personnel cuts in its own way, but the branches had to save a total of $225,000.

The larger branches had to cut part-time salary costs by 15 percent, the smaller ones by 10 percent, said assistant director Lynn Wheeler. Cuts ranged from a low of $5,800 at Perry Hall to a high of $40,000 at Towson.

Fish said no branches reduced hours of operation.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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