Most libraries in Georgia to lose funding
by Mark Andrews
Dec 26, 2013 | 2205 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Beginning July 2014, the Bartow County Library System, along with two dozen other library systems across the state, will see a reduction in its local funding formula based on recommendations from the Georgia Public Library Service under its board of regents. For Bartow, this means a projected loss of $60,543 in funding in Fiscal Year 2015 and an overall loss of more than $600,000 in the next 10 years, says BCLS Director Carmen Sims.

“Over the years there have been discussions about the funding formula and it’s always been an ongoing debate,” Sims said. “... GPLS was told it’s their turn to create a zero-based budget, so in the course of doing that, they revisited the funding formula.”

She continued, “We had discussions, we had work sessions, and they took the information they received from the directors and presented their new funding formula at the September directors meeting in Augusta and that’s when we found out. There is an advisory committee to GPLS, known as [the Regents Public Library Advisory Committee], and I am one of the representatives on the urban/single-county [division] ... and at the directors meeting in Savannah, RPLAC voted to approve the formula in a vote of 5-3.”

In Georgia there are multiple categories of library systems, including rural single-county, urban single-county, rural multi-county and urban/rural multi-county. Sims said multi-county systems typically fare a little better because they get positions based on the number of counties they have.

“The systems that have the highest population, obviously are the urban single-counties and some of the urban multi-counties. ... Cobb County for example, their population is 743,357,” she said.

Under the new formula, the lone system to see a gain is the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. It will see a gain of $70,097 in FY 2015 and about $700,970 over the next 10 years.

She said the GPLS’ budget is not being cut, and the amount to be distributed to the public library system is remaining exactly the same at $24,458,437. Since 2008, Sims said, the BCLS has taken cuts every year except for FY 2013.

“We’ve absorbed everything internally. In 2008 when we were cut by the county and the city of Cartersville, we did reduce service hours in Cartersville by 2 [hours], which is why we close [the Cartersville branch] at 6 [p.m.] on Monday and that enabled us to reduce staff time by having one shift instead of two,” Sims said. “When we have evening hours we have two shifts, one to cover the morning and one to cover the evening.”

She said library representatives on RPLAC were told an underlying reason in suggesting the changing of the formula is that the current funding formula is too difficult to explain and follow, because the change was strongly suggested by the office of planning and budget, and because the board of regents does not use a payscale.

“The existing funding formula provides three grants,” Sims explained in a prepared statement. “The materials grant for single county systems is .35 cents per capita. The system services grant (SSG) for our system includes $6,000 base grant, $1,200 travel grant, $10,000 for population over 100,000, plus .15 cents per capita.

“As annual state budget cuts have occurred during the past years, these grants have not been received per formula but have been cut in a local decision to maintain the funding in the state salaries and benefits grant. Each single county system receives one Director, one [Master of Library and Information Science] librarian per county, and one MLIS librarian per 85,000 populations; Bartow County presently receives salary and benefits grant funds for three positions which are paid according to the state salary scale which has been frozen for several years.

“... State funded positions are determined by the number of counties served plus one position per 80,000 population; Bartow county receives two positions. Of the state funded positions, half must hold MLIS degrees and the other half may be support positions such as IT, finance, and non-degreed service personnel who work full or part time. The salary pay scale is eliminated and each state funded position equates to $85,608 in salaries and benefits; there is an additional $6,939 for a director’s supplement which may be pooled with other state salaries.

“This is great if your present state salaried positions are not at the top of the pay scale; however, any presently funded position higher than the allocated amount is not completely funded even when including the director’s supplement.”

Sims said she is unclear as to the urgency for transferring from the old formula to the new formula.

“It is very shocking and disheartening to hear that when you’re struggling to make ends meet and to provide the best service you can for your community and to think about what direction the library needs, because the face of libraries is changing and how we fit into this new flow of information, ... and [to learn] now you’re losing more money on top of that when you think that you have a year where you won’t have to worry about coming up with more money,” Sims said.

She said the library has not at this time evaluated its options regarding a reduction of staff or services.

“We’re not really going to have [evaluated options] until we start budget planning in January,” she said. “Right now it’s just [examining] is there anything we can do to slow it down, but it doesn’t sound like it,” Sims said.