While plans for a new public library at Academy Square appear to be within budget, operating costs at the existing library are running behind anticipated tax revenue.

The library is facing as much as a $200,000 shortfall in fiscal 1998-99. The library, which is funded mostly with property tax and motor vehicle fees, survived this year on a $320,000 subsidy sent its way by former mayor George Stewart.That money won't be available next year.

Mayor Lewis Billings has offered a $150,000 loan from the general fund. But library director Gene Nelson expects the library will still be short $170,000 to $200,000 next year. Its current budget is $1.8 million.

Nelson said operating costs are rising faster than property tax revenue. Prices for books and periodicals swell about 10 percent to 15 percent a year while income from taxes goes up at a much lower percentage. Cost of living raises for library personnel also exceed additional revenue.

"Even if we maintain, we're actually losing a little bit," he said.

Nelson said city officials are trying to find sources of revenue.

One possibility is to raise the library mill levy to the maximum allowed under state law. The levy is currently running at 53 percent of the total taxable income. Voters approved raising the tax to the limit last year when the $16.8 million bond for Academy Square renovation passed. Nelson said the City Council has yet to implement the higher rate.

Most elected leaders are loathe to raise property taxes. The council last increased taxes for the library in 1991.

Nelson said there's a question as to when the voter-approved increase should be put in place. It was earmarked to operate an expanded library, not the current one. Council members feared last year that Provo wouldn't have the funds to run the library not to mention a new one at Academy Square.

City officials also might consider moving funds from other areas of the city to tide the library over for another year.