2009-12-03 / Front Page

Library Next For County Budget Cuts

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The executive director and several board of directors representing the Fulton County Library learned last week their organization is next in a long line of “outside” groups that will have their annual county allocation reduced by half.

During a November 24 sitdown with Fulton County commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer, David Hoover II and Craig Cutchall, library Director Jamie Brambley outlined why the county’s yearly allotment is crucial to the library’s daily operations and in turn the wide variety of residents who would be ultimately affected by a reduction in services or hours.

According to Brambley, excluding any loss in county money, numerous cuts are already being eyed for 2010 at different levels, including $1,559 in county coordination funds, $14,500 in state aid and $867 in Access PA funds.

The library has requested $20,000 from the county for 2010, which represents a $5,000 increase. The commissioners would not elaborate if their proposed 50 percent allocation reduction would be taken from the $20,000 requested for next year or from the library’s current allocation of $15,000. The announcement will only be made after all budget requests are reviewed, Keefer said.

The commissioners’ board, however, was reminded by Brambley and library board members Lee Musselman and Loy Garber that for every dollar given on a local level by the county and municipalities, the state, in turn, provides the library with a percentage of money to utilize as a type of match.

The commissioners cited the economic downturn and high unemployment rate as two of their reasons for wanting to keep real estate millage rates level. Ironically, Brambley pointed out the library is where residents frequent in those same tough economic times for help in finding jobs, free Internet access and to better their financial and job outlook through resume improvements.

Hoover questioned the need for free Internet access and asked the library officials whether a fee could be charged for those services. He also mentioned seeing the same four to five individuals when he visited the library, which reportedly has a proposed balanced budget.

Director Brambley stated if it weren’t for the additional $5,000 county request and, in turn, extra money from the state, the library would not have a balanced budget.

“I feel like you’re punishing us because we’re fiscally responsible,” said Brambley. “I think you’ll hear from the citizens about this.”

“I think we’ll hear from the citizens if we raise taxes,” countered Hoover. “ ... There are people out there who don’t need the library, who would be upset if we didn’t make the cut.”

“There are 8,000 people (library patrons) who would disagree with you,” she replied.

Commissioner Keefer pointed out the county is also losing state money, while seeing increases in prisoner costs, retirement fund payments and 911 expenses. She added the board of commissioners hopes it won’t have to downsize county government and is trying to hold the line on taxes.

Cutchall assured the library officials the budget issue is just as hard on their side of the table as what it was on theirs. He further stated the commissioners were unable to give everyone what they want at this time.

Loy Garber concluded, “The good news I hear is that we have your moral support ... I know you’ll do whatever you can for us. You’re trying to do the best for your constituents, and we’ll go back, sharpen our pencils and try and do the same for our 8,000 constituents.”

Garber also urged all three commissioners to continue using their library card and visit the library.

The commissioners went on to air the same concerns about expenditures, taxes and the poor economy when Fulton County Extension Director Lori Hansroth and Michael Glenn, Extension Board president, gathered to tackle the same issue of budget cuts. Unlike what was discussed the prior week by the commissioners, an approximate $14,000 budget cut for the extension office would result in more than a loss of conferences, travel and meals.

Hansroth stated the money given by the county annually also cover matters such as a colored copier, office supplies, water, fax, telephone and cellular phones. Carryover is currently earmarked for equipment improvements such as computers and a new server.

“We’re spending our money wisely,” said Hansroth.

Keefer hesitated to offer a promise or reassurance if additional state funding would come in to the county that the extension office’s funding would be restored.

Hansroth questioned if unappropriated funding could be offered to groups deemed by the county as “outside organizations” through a grant process. She also asked if their office could be relocated to another rental location at a cheaper rate, if the county would continue to provide them with $800 a month.

Keefer stated she was unable to answer those questions nor could she tell Hansroth if they should anticipate a budget reduction of more than 50 percent.

“We need to keep an office here. There are people who need us,” said Hansroth. “I think we’re making a difference. 4-H numbers are up.”

Other outside organizations mentioned by the commissioners that are seeing reductions include the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce, Fulton County Parks and Recreation Commission, Area Agency on Aging, Fulton County Medical Center, Fulton County Library, Fulton County Law Library, Fulton County Conservation District and the Fulton Industrial Development Association (FIDA).

It was mentioned by the commissioners FIDA did not receive any allocation from the county in 2009. However, during a meeting with FIDA officials on November 17, the commissioners agreed to provide the organization with a county contribution of $24,000, which will serve as a local match for grant funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission. The money has been tentatively earmarked to hire at least a part-time staff person, creation of a Web site, implementation of a marketing program to sell lots in the business parks, technical assistance to businesses, financial development and preparation of annual Keystone Opportunity Zone applications.

Alan Smith, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging, also touched on the 2010 budget as well as the possibility of altering the agency’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the county to include additional fees for office space in the Neighborhood Service Center. Keefer responded they would not cut the allocation given by the county to Area Agency on Aging that is primarily used at this time for the guardianship program but will ask for an increase through the MOU.

Smith concluded he was willing to negotiate as the current office area is a “first-class” space and much less expensive than what is being paid for in neighboring Bedford County.

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