A still-sluggish economy has forced many city and local governments to tighten up their belts. But a new-found frugality has paid off with big benefits for the city of Madison, where savings have been found in the most unexpected of places.
The Madison Public Library has saved taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars recently, thanks to a new anti-theft security system.
Library officials told WHNT News 19 that they had been losing more than half of their DVD's per month to theft, costing city taxpayers several thousand dollars per year.
Head librarian Sarah Sledge said patrons simply took advantage of the old honor system, and walked out with unchecked DVD's that would never return. After realizing the enormity of the problem, the library was able to convince city leaders to install a theft deterrent system commonly used in grocery and convenience stores, along with electronic checkout for customers. City officials said the payoff was almost immediate, saving an estimated $30,000 annually.
"It was staggering, we were shocked by it," said head librarian Sarah Sledge, when asked about the amount of theft occurring before the security system was installed. "Since then, we have been able to retain our DVD collection for use for our patrons...Staff time is not spent in the rote procedure of checking books out so they're able to have more one-on-one time with our customers."
Madison Mayor Paul Finley said the library's adjustments were just one example of a citywide emphasis on budget efficiency. Finley told WHNT News 19 that nearly every department has generated increased savings over the last two years, despite some initial cutbacks in total allocations.
"It's the taxpayers' money, and we work for them," said Finley. "We can take the tax dollars further and make a bigger difference for our citizens."