HAMMOND | The Hammond City Council on Monday denied an $800,000 budget increase for the Hammond Public Library as Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. pledged to approach the Indiana General Assembly to consolidate the library with the Lake County system.
“We don't want to see the library shut down. None of us do,” McDermott said. “I don't think a Hammond resident cares whether it's a Hammond Public Library or Lake County public library. I don't think a Hammond resident cares what it says as long as they can go to that building and check out a book.”
However, Rene Greenleaf, the library's director, said consolidating presents its own costs because Hammond uses a different computer system than Lake County.
Greenleaf said she would need to speak with the Library Board about the proposed consolidation.
“Lake County and Hammond are two different library systems,” Greenleaf said. “There's no legal ramification for consolidation. There is only merger and the two boards have to agree. Lake County has several branches to their library system ... and they also have a larger revenue than Hammond has, so you are not comparing apples to apples.”
The City Council's denial means the library will revert to its current budget for next year, which library administrators argued doesn't provide funding for necessary computer upgrades and may lead to more than 20 layoffs.
The library had petitioned the council to increase its budget from $2.8 million to $3.6 million and tax rate from 17 cents to 22 cents per $100 of taxable property for the general fund.
The City Council defeated a motion by Councilman Bob Markovich, D-at large, to set the library's budget at $3 million, a move that Cornell White, the library's financial analyst, said may have covered the computer upgrades.
McDermott said consolidation, which he expects to sell well in the General Assembly, would result in a tax savings for residents.
McDermott said this year the Lake County Public Library had a general fund budget of $13.3 million to operate its 11 branches and a lower tax rate at 8 cents.
Pat Deering, a library worker for more than 20 years, said the union that represents library staff has worked with management to save money.
“We have doubled up,” Deering said. “We've done two people's work, and we have gone without raises while we did that. We serviced the city of Hammond. People come to us to fill out resumes. There is not one job that you can go to that will accept an application without a resume."
The City Council voted 8-1 to defeat the budget proposal with Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, casting the lone vote in favor of the increase.
State law required the council to take up the budget for the first time this year because the library's board is appointed and it was requesting a budget increase.