HAMMOND | Two of the city's public library branches face possible closure because of declining property tax revenue, and the library board is seeking community input.
The Hammond Public Library Board of Trustees is considering closure of the E.B. Hayward Branch, 1212 172nd St., and Howard Branch, 7047 Grand Ave., as of Nov. 1.
The board will hear comments from the public at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Room of the main library, 564 State St.
Rene L. Greenleaf, library director, said in a news release the library has had declining property tax revenue because of the state's circuit breaker tax cap that voters added to the Indiana constitution last year. Libraries are among the multiple taxing units in a county, and property taxes are the library's largest source of operating revenue, Greenleaf said in the release.
In addition to the tax cap, Greenleaf said with the current economic instability, "homeowners have found it increasingly difficult to pay their property taxes, thus the percentage of uncollected taxes increased."
She also cited the tax levy freeze imposed on Lake County by state legislators because the county hasn't adopted a local option income tax.
The Hammond Public Library's advertised budget for 2012 is $4,804,717. Property taxes account for about 93 percent of total revenue, or $3,514,095.
Declining revenue has been anticipated since 2010, and the need to hold down spending became more urgent at the library, Greenleaf said in the release.
"The Indiana Legislative Services Agency originally estimated that the library would lose $511,075 due to the circuit breaker cap. However, at the end of July 2011, we were given a new, much higher estimated loss of $801,055," she said.
Revenue lost will total $1,207,565 in 2012, or about 33 percent of the library's total operating revenue.
For several years, the Hammond Public Library Board has taken steps to reduce spending, Greenleaf said in the release. These actions have included not filling vacant full-time and part-time positions; freezing staff pay and reducing spending on supplies, subscriptions and other library materials.
More steps, including the closing of the two branches, are being considered, Greenleaf said. Those possible reductions include continuing to cut personnel through future attrition when possible.
"Personnel costs represent the largest percentage of all operation costs," she said in the release.
The board also will look for ways to save on employee benefit costs and cut spending on library materials.