Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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July 16, 2009

Library salaries continue to climb

Saving becomes harder as personnel costs grow

Kokomo-Howard County Public Library board members voted this week to cut hours and charge checkout fees, in response to a big property tax shortfall.

But the shock of a half-million dollar hit to the budget did more than simply prompt a round of short-term revenue balancing maneuvers — it also has the potential to permanently change the way the library board does business.

Five years ago, the library board could have simply trimmed one line and solved the problem — with no cuts to services and no checkout fees.

But a combination of hefty employee pay increases and property tax reform has removed the cushion from the library’s budget.

No longer can the library count on having hundreds of thousands each year to sock away into a reserve building fund.

Each year for the past six years, the amount of savings set aside has dwindled.

And each of those years, library employees received raises.

Between 2003 and 2008, the total amount spent on employee pay and benefits increased 28 percent.

During the same period, the amount saved each year for future capital expenses dwindled, from $1.2 million in 2003 to less than $150,000 this year.

More telling, the library’s 2009 budget was almost exactly the same as the library’s 2003 budget.

But in 2009, salaries and benefits made up 63 percent of the budget. In 2003, that figure was 48 percent.

And almost all of the increase came in the form of pay increases, as opposed to, for example, the city of Kokomo, where insurance costs have largely driven the increase in personnel expenses.

Library director Charles Joray was the biggest recipient of the taxpayers’ largesse, with his salary increasing 41 percent over that time period.

In 2003, Joray’s salary was $70,242; this year, prior to the cost-cutting moves, Joray was scheduled to earn $98,262.

Joray is now the 12th highest-paid library director in the state, in charge of the 18th largest library population served.

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