Thursday, July 25, 2019

Oh, those Budgets!

From Daria Bossman, State Librarian

Budgets are important. They are more than just a guess at what your library needs. Budgets are a roadmap and a statement of what is important.

In South Dakota, there is one curious issue and this might be seen as both a good and a bad thing. The issue? Libraries not spending their budgeted funds within their fiscal year.

It is great that the local governing bodies are generously funding their local public libraries. However, what message are we sending them if we don’t spend all those funds for new resources, access, programming and services for our community? Did you know in 2018 South Dakota public libraries left a combined total of $1.3 million dollars on the table? $1.3 Million was allocated for library services, but went back into local coffers to be spent elsewhere. Now, some of this can be explained by a particular situation. One library wrote that one full-time position was not filled for over a year. That is understandable. Another wrote that they were delayed in purchasing a number of computers and technology which would come out of the following year’s budget. Again, very understandable. I look at percentages and 10% left is reasonable some years, but more than that can be suspect, especially if it keeps happening year after year. We have 15 public libraries in South Dakota who last year had between 14% and 45% of their annual budgets unspent. That is unacceptable.

Now that we have some outside donors wanting to give small grants to libraries, I am concerned they will not want to give in the future to libraries who can’t spend the tax-payers funds set aside for resources, programming and services. It might be perceived that these local libraries want to apply for grants for extra funds but don’t have the energy or foresight to spend the resources already allocated to them. These donors want to give where the need is clearly evident, not where funds are left on the table unused. I think we can do better. This next year, take time to create your budget carefully. If you are not involved with the Finance Department, ask to be involved. Let your goals or your strategic plan inform what you need to purchase next; what is your next project to improve your library? Then plan for it in your budget and execute your plan. Spend the funds given to you! If you need assistance or advice, call the State Library. This is why we are here. 1-800-423-6665.