Midstate library system concerned about state funding drop

CARLISLE — Climbing into third-class territory won’t come without growing pains for Cumberland County — especially when it comes to how the state will supplement library system cash flow in 2015.


Library Executive Director Jonelle Darr told commissioners Thursday the county’s new classification, first awarded in 2010, will force state lawmakers to recalculate the funding formula that provides a 50 percent matching grant to county library systems each year. Darr projects the new formula would cut state support virtually in half, dropping to just a 30 percent match rate.


“We are very concerned, and we feel like we’ve been pedaling as fast as we can,” Darr said as she presented the results of this year’s system financial audit at the commissioners’ workshop meeting. “We feel like we are working very hard in trying to contain or reduce expenditures.”


Darr said last year’s library costs toppled the 2011 budget by about $375,000, in part due to renovations at system headquarters on Ritner Highway and the five-year upgrade plan for about 300 library computers throughout the county.


Meanwhile, yearly tax revenues — totaling about $2 million — remain virtually unchanged from 2008, when the state reduced library funding by 41 percent. Darr says the decision drains the library system of about $775,000 each year, only exasperating money problems stemming from a 38 percent cut in 2004.


Darr says the county increased revenue 46 percent through “fundraisers, fines and fees,” collecting about an additional $1.2 million over the last five years to help supplement budget holes left by state cuts. But, she said, it’s not nearly enough.


“We are in relatively good financial health,” Darr said. “But we are raiding our fund balance at the rate of 10 percent a year. This year’s raid is expected to be even higher.”


The county hasn’t raised the library tax since 2004, when the state’s first budget cut jeopardized services “significantly.” Since then, the library tax revenue has funded 75 percent of the library system’s total budget.


Darr said the library board will settle on a plan to balance the budget next month.


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