Staffing change cancels library’s computer classes

CARLISLE — Bosler Memorial Library canceled computer classes during November due to a staffing change — not lack of funds.


Cumberland County Library System Executive Director Jonelle Darr said Tuesday that classes would resume once the position is filled. Darr said the library wants a candidate with “a high level of technical skill” to help “expand and diversify the offerings.”


Two weeks earlier, Darr told commissioners that the county’s new third-class status, first awarded in 2010 based on population, 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 could 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’ Oct. 10 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.


An increase, however, seems unlikely as commissioners push forward through the state-sponsored Early Intervention Program, aimed at identifying cost-saving strategies and “intelligent” cuts to prevent another double-digit property tax increase next year.


Darr said the library board remains in the budget planning process and will present the 2014 financial plan to commissioners in early November.


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