By DEBBIE HALL AND MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writers
Local governing boards on Tuesday voted unanimously to reduce funding to the Blue Ridge Regional Library system by a total of $117,016 in response to the system’s decision to stop operating the Bassett Historical Center.
The Henry County Board of Supervisors voted to keep $80,310 in county funds that the system was to use toward the center in the new fiscal year starting July 1.
“This is not cutting the budget,” board Vice Chairman Tommy Slaughter said. “It’s something you’re not providing anymore.”
Martinsville’s share of funds toward the center had been set at $64,563. However, Martinsville City Council voted to cut that amount by $36,766 to $27,797. The latter sum is how much the system needed, due to increased expenses, to avoid cutting services at the city’s library branch, according to library board Chairman Paula Burnette.
Mayor Kim Adkins favored not cutting the city’s share, but because other council members favored cutting it, she voted in favor of the $36,766 cut.
Amid a tight budget for fiscal 2013, council members think the city must save as much money as possible, Adkins said after the meeting.
Councilman Gene Teague made a motion to cut the entire $64,563. The motion died due to a lack of support by other council members.
“I value the library very much,” Teague said. But because the council cut funds to the city schools and city departments, “I just don’t feel ... I can in good conscience” let the library system get away without a cut.
“I’m trying to be consistent” with cuts, he said.
The historical center will split from the library system Saturday and will become a stand-alone agency effective the following day.
The county’s budget for fiscal 2013, as it was approved by the board of supervisors, provided a total of $786,574 to the library system. That total included the $80,310 that library system Director Drusilla Carter said had been spent on the historical center.
Burnette attended the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday and asked them to leave $59,558 of the funding that had been spent on the historical center intact.
“How can you account for $80,000 when it was supposed to go to the historical center,” Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant asked Burnette, who is a former supervisor.
The historical center “isn’t there for us to manage anymore,” Burnette said. “But the money can be used by the (library) system” to cover the costs of increased contributions to the state pension fund and associated raises required by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
A cut in local funds also would translate into reduced state funds and would jeopardize materials for summer reading programs, Burnette said.
Problems between the library board and the historical center “actually started when she (Carter) came on board (as director), and it’s been a problem ever since, don’t you agree,” Bryant asked Burnette. She did not respond.
He was referring to an incident last year in which Pat Ross, director of the historical center, was put on two weeks of paid suspension while Carter and others went through records in the historical center. Ross was not accused of any wrongdoing, and she returned to work after the suspension.
Bryant said when the county asked Carter how much county money was spent on the historical center, “she came back with (the $80,310 amount.) We trusted her record keeping.”
Carter informed the library board last week that she will resign effective next month to care for ill relatives out of state.
The supervisors also recommended that the library system apply for a waiver from the state library board to help keep any funding losses from the state at a minimum.
The city’s approved fiscal 2013 budget included $321,143 for the library system, including the $64,563 for the historical center.
Burnette told the council Tuesday that based on information she received from the state library, a local funding cut would put the regional library at a “higher risk” for cuts in state funds. She indicated that lesser state funding could result in cuts in services at the Martinsville library.
Councilman Danny Turner made the motion to reduce the city’s share by $36,766. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr.