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Library funds at issue
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Paula Burnette, chairman of the Blue Ridge Library Board, will attend the Henry County Board of Supervisors meeting today to oppose a more than $80,000 funding cut to the Blue Ridge Regional Library System.
During a meeting last week, the library board indicated that it expects Henry County may cut $80,310 in library funding. That amount reflects the county funds that the library system has been spending on the Bassett Historical Center.
After learning that the historical center will become a stand-alone agency July 1 — and will not be a part of, nor receive funds from, the library system — the Henry County Board of Supervisors directed County Administrator Benny Summerlin to determine the amount of the county’s contribution to the library system that is dedicated to the historical center.
To that end, Summerlin said, he wrote a letter to Drusilla Carter, director of the library system.
A cost analysis included in Carter’s response to Summerlin showed the county’s portion of funding spent on the historical center was $80,310.
Burnette said the library system will be in good shape if the county cuts only a portion of the $80,000 funding earmarked for the historical center. She did not specify an amount.
“That’s for this fiscal year, anyway. Who knows about next fiscal year,” she said.
The county’s budget for fiscal 2013 provides a total of $786,574 to the library system.
In a letter to Summerlin, Carter stated that even though the library system will not incur expenses for the historical center after July 1, the full amount of county funding is needed due to increased hours of operation at all county branches and the additional staff hours needed; the number of patrons served, 83,941 as of April 30 at the three branches of county libraries contrasted to the 4,769 visitors to the historical center; and a possible loss of state aid if the county reduced its annual contribution to the library.
The latter reason prompted the city of Martinsville to leave its $64,563 share of funding to the library system and spent on the historical center intact, according to Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki, who recalled that Carter attended a budget work session when the funding was discussed.
“There was a fair amount of discussion, but in a nutshell, what I came away with was the local contribution to the library is leveraged toward additional state funding, and the concern was a decrease in level funding could result in decreased state funds,” Towarnicki said.
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors also voted to provide level funding to the library system, according to Burnette, also a former Henry County supervisor.
Burnette identified other reasons the full amount of funding from Henry County is needed, including increased contributions to the state pension fund that she said the library system did not know about until recently.
New state mandates require affected employees to contribute an additional 5 percent to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) and to receive an equal pay raise to help offset the additional expense.
Burnette said the increase will be implemented 1 percent per year for each of the next five years, and the additional cost this year to the library system for salary and benefit increases for full-time employees will be $44,352.75.
She noted there are a total of 40 employees in the library system, but only the 24 full-time employees are eligible to participate in VRS.
Library employees include six full-time and seven part-time in Henry County branches; four each full- and part-time in Patrick County; and six full-time and five part-time in Martinsville. Additionally, there are eight full-time, system-wide employees, Burnette said of the director, a courier and others.
There are four employees at the historical center — two part-time and two full-time — but because the center is splitting from the library system, the library system will not pay VRS-related costs for those employees, Burnette said.
County funds also are needed for a $6,489 increase in cost of fuel for a courier, maintenance contracts, buildings and grounds, postage and supplies; as well as $5,700 for the county’s portion of the cost of a limited introductory collection of ebooks, Burnette said.
Some of those costs are new because of increased costs in some areas, “but I don’t know how much,” Burnette said.
She also said she did not know whether there would have been a request for increased county funding if the historical center remained a part of the library system.
“You’re asking a what-if, and we can’t cover that because that’s not a fact anymore. I don’t know how it would work out,” Burnette said.
She noted that just as expenses are split among jurisdictions, so are revenues related to or generated by the historical center.
The library system also will lose $22,000 provided annually by the Bassett Public Library Association as a result of the historical center split. That includes the county’s $12,540 portion of those funds.
The system also will lose $570 — the county’s portion of $1,000 generated by fees for copies and printouts at the historical center, Burnette said.
The county currently funds the total costs of the Bassett, Collinsville and Ridgeway branches, according to the cost analysis Carter created.
The supervisors will meet at 3 p.m. today at the County Administration Building.