Understanding the Library Budget

Information about the budget, jurisdictional funding, and the impact of underfunding the library’s budget request

How have the library’s costs increased?

Just as household costs such as gas and groceries have risen 18% over the last several years for everyone in the library’s service region, the costs of supplies, furniture, equipment, computers, etc. for the library have also increased. Staff health insurance costs went up 13% in FY24 (July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024) and have increased 30% since 2020.

The cost of materials has increased as well.

  • For example, hardcover editions of the popular Alex Cross series by James Patterson increased in retail price from $29 in 2020 to $30 in 2023, which was also reflected in the library's discounted rate. With the library purchasing thousands of hardcover books every year, this increase per item creates a dramatic rise in costs.
  • Additional charges related to freight costs are now consistently added to orders. For example, one popular newspaper recently added a $5 monthly delivery charge to its subscription cost for every location we have a subscription for.
  • Subscription costs for periodicals, such as newspapers and magazines, have also increased. One branch's annual newspaper subscription increased from $286 to $364 in the last year.
  • Demand for digital items such as eBooks, eAudio, and streaming video has sharply increased since 2020 and resulted in long wait times for customers. There are currently more than 24,000 holds on Libby (OverDrive) items. The library tries to maintain a ratio of 13 holds for every 1 eBook or eAudio, but with FY23's limited budget, has been unable to purchase enough copies to meet demand.

How is the library funded?

As a regional library system, approximately 7% of CRRL’s budget comes from state funding. The remaining 93% comes from the jurisdictions the library serves–Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Westmoreland. As specified in the Library Agreement, Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania contribute based on circulation in their branches.The library presents budget priorities to the Library Board each June and a proposed budget based on each jurisdiction’s circulation is created to fulfill those goals. In order to fulfill all of those priorities and maintain the same level of service, the proposed budget would need to be fully funded. When the jurisdictions vote on the library’s budget in April and May, the requested amount is not always approved; in the last five years the library’s request has only been fully funded one time.

Westmoreland has a different funding formula.

Where is information about the library budget?

Information about the timetable for developing the budget, approved budgets for each fiscal year, the amount of funding approved by each jurisdiction, and financial reports for the library’s annual audit can be found at librarypoint.org/budget-finance. Proposed budgets and the impact of underfunding are discussed at Library Board of Trustees meetings. These meetings are open to the public and begin with a public comment segment. Agendas with proposed budgets and budget goals are posted before meetings and are publicly archived.

Why were hours reduced?

Since the FY24 budget request was underfunded by three jurisdictions, the library needed to close a few hours a week at three locations to fulfill the two main budget priorities,

  1. a 5% raise for staff (while jurisdictions are giving their staff 7-8% increases) and
  2. work towards restoring the books and materials budget to reduce wait times for customers. Unfortunately, underfunding of CRRL’s budget has affected the Books and Materials line item with reductions made in FY23 to balance the budget. Even with the additional funds from closing a few hours a week, the books and materials budget will still be $69,000 less in FY24 than it was in FY22.

Unfortunately, there was not a solution that allowed the library to fulfill those two priorities and keep the libraries open for the same number of hours.

What adjustments did the library make to balance the FY24 budget when the request was not fully funded?

  • The health plans offered to employees were changed to less expensive plans and the amount employees contribute to their health care premium was increased.
  • Additional benefits that the library had hoped to offer staff were eliminated.
  • Reduced hours at three branches in the three jurisdictions that did not fully fund the request budget.
  • Staff at those locations were reassigned to fill vacant positions and shifts at other branches, thus reducing the need to hire subs.
  • Many of the remaining vacant positions and shifts will be left unfilled.
  • At Fredericksburg Branch, the library moved the computers into a new space to reduce the number of staff needed during each shift.
  • In some areas, work is being spread among a smaller number of people, to reduce hiring through attrition.
  • The original request for the Books and Materials line item was reduced.
  • A requested increase in the Furniture and Equipment line item was eliminated.

Were hours reduced because of a payroll budgeting error?

No. An extra pay period occurred in FY23 (July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023), which happens approximately once every eleven years. Any resulting overspending in FY23 will be covered by the fund balance, also known as a reserve fund.

In the FY24 budget, which is an entirely new budget that begins July 1, 2023 and runs through June 30, 2024, library hours were reduced because the library’s FY24 budget request was underfunded. The operating budgets for the library, just like any other agency, are separate for each fiscal year. Additionally, the library is audited by an outside firm every year to ensure the library is accurately accounting for funding and expenditures, and is following responsible financial practices; see past Annual Financial Reports here.

What is the fund balance?

The fund balance is the net position of a governmental entity, also sometimes referred to as a reserve or rainy day fund. It is mandated by CRRL’s fiscal policy and set at a percentage of the library’s budget by the Library Board. These funds are held in reserve to be used for unexpected expenses, catastrophic events, one-time purchases, and maintaining cash flow stability.

What information is available on library use?

At each meeting, the Library Board receives a quarterly report on how the library is being used and how many materials are checked out. The Special Use Statistics report includes information such as how many customers enter each of our eleven library locations, use our meeting rooms, and attend library classes and events. The Library Board also receives a quarterly update on how many customers in each jurisdiction have checked out an item from the library. This is the information used in calculating the library’s budget request. The most recent Special Use Report is here and the most recent quarterly Circulation report is here on the Library Board web page. These reports are updated before each Library Board meeting.

Before each Library Board meeting, a Director’s Report is shared with the Board summarizing ways the library has pursued Strategic Plan goals of public service, partnerships, awards, and grants. A version of this report with additional jurisdictional highlights is shared with each of the four jurisdictions for their next meeting’s agenda. The most recent Director’s Report is available here. CRRL’s Strategic Plan, which is updated every five years, can be found here.

Did the jurisdictions contribute more funds to the library than last year?

Yes. The increase is appreciated and helped the library meet the two key budget priorities--a 5% raise for CRRL employees and beginning to restore funding for books and materials. However, the funding CRRL is receiving from Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania in FY24 is still $739,591 (6%) less than they approved in FY20. In FY24, even though the jurisdictions funded $628,111 less than was requested, the library was able to recoup $447,111 due to reductions, which left $181,000 needed to balance the budget. Reducing the hours allowed the library to balance the budget. Although increases in funding from Westmoreland and state aid have offset some of the impact, the library's total funding for FY24 is nearly the same as what the library received 5 years ago, despite an 18% increase in inflation during that time.

CRRL is not able to give employees adequate raises, restore cuts to the book budget, and maintain the same number of hours with the same amount of money that was received in 2019 and under the pressure of increased costs.