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Libraries face layoffs if funds cut
Thursday, June 21, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Layoffs of some part-time staff are among budget cuts the Blue Ridge Regional Library may have to make if its local funds are reduced in the coming fiscal year, according to officials.
Cuts, which also could include eliminating periodicals and not fixing broken computers, would be made only at libraries in the localities where funds are reduced, said Drusilla Carter, the library system’s director.
Information presented to the system’s board Wednesday shows anticipated cuts of $80,310 from Henry County and $64,563 from Martinsville — a total of $144,873 — for fiscal 2013, which will start July 1. That is close to the amount that the library system has been spending on the Bassett Historical Center, which it will give up July 1.
Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki said Wednesday afternoon, however, that the city council does not plan to cut the library’s funds in the coming fiscal year. The idea had been discussed, but not acted upon, in a council budget work session recently, he said.
Carter said that is “certainly different” than what he told her in a recent email.
She said the system needs the local funds to make up for increased expenses, such as contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.
Potential layoffs include three employees at the Martinsville library if the council cuts its funding, three at the Collinsville library and one at the Bassett library. Also, a full-time position at the Ridgeway library could be made part-time, information provided to the board shows.
The library system has 41 employees. At least half of them are part-time, Carter estimated.
The county budgeted $786,574 for the library system for fiscal 2013, and the city budgeted $321,143, their budget proposals show.
The system expects to have a budget of roughly $1.8 million for the new fiscal year, officials indicated. The board on Wednesday adopted a working budget, based on the current fiscal year’s budget, because the city — the system’s fiscal agent — needed one from the system, officials said.
Library officials said they can adjust that budget in the future if any funding cuts are imposed.
Due to losing staff, affected libraries would have to reduce their operating hours, Carter said. Head librarians at those branches are trying to figure out how hours could be reduced without greatly affecting patrons, she said.
Carter said employees who might be laid off have been told. She declined to specify the exact positions that would be affected but said they are the part-timers among “front line staff” at each library.
If local funds are cut, Carter said she voluntarily plans to reduce her annual salary by about $8,000 — to about $55,000 — to continue funding a part-time position she thinks is essential. She did not identify that position.
She said she did not think it was appropriate to ask other full-time workers to take pay cuts, and “it made me sick” to have to plan to eliminate the part-time positions.
Other cuts could include canceling subscriptions to magazines and newspapers except the Martinsville Bulletin — because it is the local paper — and others for which subscriptions have been donated as well as cuts to supplies for children’s programs, according to officials and information the board received.
No new computers could be purchased, and if any existing computers were to malfunction, they would not be repaired, Carter said.
Board Chairman Paula Burnette said that if the localities reduce their funds, it could prompt the state library to reduce its allocation to Blue Ridge.
Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin said the county’s board of supervisors is set to discuss reducing the library’s funds by $80,310 when the board meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Burnette and at least one other library board member plans to be there to fight the proposed cut.
Martinsville City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Burnette had planned to attend that meeting to oppose the expected cut in city funds.
After learning of Towarnicki’s comments after Wednesday’s board meeting about the city not cutting library funds, Burnette said she will not attend the council meeting but instead will share information about the effects of library funding cuts with him beforehand.
If Martinsville does not reduce its funds, the city’s library on East Church Street uptown would not see any budget cuts, Carter said.
Based on an analysis of cost increases and income, the county could cut its library funds by $10,659 or less and services and hours at its branches would not have to be reduced, a document shows.
Burnette and Carter encourage county residents to contact county officials and encourage them not to reduce library funds.
Also Tuesday, the library board:
• Adopted a revised long-range plan for the library system through June 2014.
A key objective, officials said, will be keeping the system’s website up-to-date, adding technology as needed so patrons can receive as many services as is possible and appropriate online.
For example, Carter said employees want patrons to be able to “instant message” the reference desk when they need information.
• Elected a new slate of officers for the new fiscal year.
Starting July 1, Janet Demiray will be chairman, and Burnette will be vice chairman. Linda Wilson will be treasurer, and Bernice Scales will remain as secretary.