The proposed FY 2019 Halifax County budget has been released for public review. In this budget, developed by County Administrator Jim Halasz, the Halifax County-South Boston Public Library System will receive a reduction of $10,000 in funding from the county. That reduction is not from the amount of funding the library requested for FY 2019, but from the amount of funding the library is receiving in FY 2018.
State aid makes up nearly 25 percent of the library’s overall annual budget. There are certain rules in place for Virginia public libraries that receive state aid. One of these rules states that “if the library’s budget is reduced and other agencies’ budgets are not, then the library would receive no state grant-in- aid and would be ineligible for one until local expenditures shall have again reached or exceeded the local effort at the time of the last previous grant.”
The county budget proposed by Mr. Halasz includes level or increased funding for 23 county agencies and departments, while some will see their funding decreased.
The cut proposed for the library is in no way part of an “across the board” reduction.
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors, as an entity within the county, would have their funding reduced from $213,858 in FY 2018 to $213,708 in FY 2019, a loss of $150.
Meanwhile, the library would see funding reduced from $195,000 in FY 2018 to $185,000 in FY 2019, a cut of $10,000.
The potential loss of state aid that this proposed $10,000 cut from the county would trigger would be disastrous for the library. The library would lose the $119,966 it is scheduled to receive in state aid in FY 2019 and would also be ineligible to receive federal e-rate funding, which is slated to be $5,760 in FY 2019.
This proposed cut could lead to a loss of $125,726 in state and federal funding for the library and the community.
In addition, the library would also lose access to the online databases and resources provided by the Library of Virginia through Find It Virginia and to summer reading program resources provided by the Library of Virginia.
The total loss in cash and in-kind resources would be well over $130,000.
A reduction in funding of this magnitude would result in the elimination of all library programs for children and adults. All magazine subscriptions would be canceled, and new book purchases would be drastically slashed.
The library’s Local History Room would be closed. Members of the library staff would have to be laid off, and one of the two library buildings would have to be shuttered.
The library has taken steps in recent years to increase efficiency, including moving from a proprietary to an open source automation system and investigating the possibility of regionalization with other area public libraries.
According to data available on the website of the Library of Virginia, the library had a per capita expenditure amount of $16.83 for FY 2016, which was almost half of the state-wide average of $32.77.
Public libraries in the counties of Pittsylvania and Mecklenburg had amounts of $19.92 and $21.43, respectively.
This proposed $10,000 cut in funding from Halifax County falls under the heading of being penny wise and pound foolish. Yes, on paper it will save Halifax County $10,000 in the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In reality, it will cost the community over $130,000 in lost funding and resources, and it will decimate a library system that can trace its roots back for more than 100 years in Halifax County.
Please contact the members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and urge them to remove this cut from the budget.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jay Stephens is the director of the Halifax County South Boston Public Library. After writing and submitting the above letter on Wednesday, Stephens said the Library of Virginia has informed the library that the proposed $10,000 cut in funding to the library would not jeopardize state aid and other resources.
The reason given was that other county departments and agencies also will receive cuts.
The proposed county budget does list cuts for other departments, in addition to the library.
At the same time, some departments will see increases. Of those departments proposed for cuts, some are looking at very miniscule reductions of a few hundred dollars, as compared to thousands of dollars for the library.
“This is hardly a fair, across the board reduction in funding to all departments,” Stephens said.
While the library's state funding appears to be safe, Stephens said it is still important for library supporters to lobby against the proposed $10,000 cut, which would mean fewer resources and programs for the community.)