GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Public Library is cutting positions again, saying it’s due to a budget shortfall — but at the same time, the library’s director received a pay raise just months ago.
Library employees and fellow city workers held a rally Tuesday in front of the downtown branch to protest the decision.
Library representatives said they plan to cut 18 jobs because of a budget deficit of $914,000 that is expected to continue for the next five years. The shortfall, according to the library, is the result of several factors, including reduced property tax income, tax captures and increased expenses.
Library representatives said that of those 18 positions, four people have retired, four people took exit incentives or buyouts and five have been placed in new or different positions within the library system.
Of those five in different positions, two full-time employees were promoted and three part-time employees were demoted. Leaders said the number of people without jobs will be closer to five, and full-time workers who get laid off would likely be eligible for a part-time position.
“The Board of Library Commissioners determined that the priority was we would not cut library hours and we would not close branches,” library spokeswoman Kristen Corrado said. “Our goal was to be as accessible to the people who need us in our community and to be as good of stewards as possible to the taxpayer dollars.”
Members of the Grand Rapids Employees Independent Union (GREIU),which represents the people in those cut positions, said they understand effort. But they simply don’t get why so many positions had to be cut, rather than trimming costs from another part of the budget.
“We feel that there are some ways that they can cut money out of the budget without having to cut all of these jobs,” GREIU President Jerry Toogood said. “We understand that they have to cut money out of their budgets and so forth, but we feel there are other options that they don’t want to explore.”
And just six months ago, Marcia Warner, the library’s director, got a $9,000-per-year raise. The about 8% increase means she’s making about $124,000 per year.
“And we have 18 people losing jobs? That doesn’t set well with people,” Toogood said.
Corrado said she couldn’t speak to the director’s raise.
“If you want that information, it is available through the city attorney’s office,” she said. “I can tell you that last fall, the Board of Library Commissioners, after a year-long review of other library directors’ salaries within the state of Michigan, determined that to adjust her pay scale.”
The president of the library’s board, James Botts, declined to go on camera, but told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone the decision to give Warner a raise took about a year and was made before directors knew about the shortfall.
“We spent a year looking at this. This was not done hastily and we did not know that there were all these cuts that were going to be made,” Botts said of the November board decision. “When all this happened, we were suddenly forced to look at almost a million dollars of loss that we didn’t know would happen.”
When asked if there was any talk of getting rid of the raise once the cash crunch became apparent, he said there wasn’t.
He said Warner “could easily be wooed away because she’s getting close to the end of her career someone might offer her a salary that’s way more than she’s making in Grand Rapids. We’re trying to protect sort of a treasure.”
Botts said that the board also made the decision, since Warner is near the end of her career, to increase the pay level in that position to make it more competitive when they do have to hire her replacement.
“If your salary level is less than what’s around Michigan or the Midwest, you are going to be left with trying to find people to fill a job that this stellar woman has done and you’re screwed,” said Botts.
The cuts will take place July 1.