“We felt we had no choice,” Pace said, citing the tight labor market. “We just won’t have any workers if we don’t pay a livable wage.”
The library system is a creation of the state but more than 85% of its funding comes from the county. It has 15 branches, 223 full-time employees and 67 part-time workers.
The system had about $4 million in reserves not designated for emergencies, but without increased funding that money will be exhausted at some point next year, Pace said. If that happens, libraries would have to reduce staffing and operating hours, he said.
“I’m just letting out a warning that this is on the horizon,” he said.
About $3.4 million of the library system’s request would go to sustain this year’s raises.
The library will orally present the request in August to the board of commissioners. Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson will release a preliminary budget in November and the commission will vote on it in early January.