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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Keyser Library facing deep funding cuts

  • KEYSER – Several months before the normal budgeting process begins, the director of the Mineral County Library appeared Tuesday before the county commissioners to alert them to a possible $25,000 to $30,000 loss of funding that could force a reduction in library staffing and hours.
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  • By Richard Kerns
    rkerns@newstribune.info
    Tribune Staff Writer
    KEYSER – Several months before the normal budgeting process begins, the director of the Mineral County Library appeared Tuesday before the county commissioners to alert them to a possible $25,000 to $30,000 loss of funding that could force a reduction in library staffing and hours.
    The meeting also saw the commissioners appoint a Keyser dentist to the Mineral County Board of Health.
    Library Director Connie Sutton did not request any funds from the county during her brief appearance, but advised the commissioners that an already perilous funding situation promises to get worse as budget figures for the upcoming fiscal year are finalized in the spring.
    "If we have more cuts I see the library going down a road where the only things left I can cut are hours and staff," she said.
    Sutton attributed the problems to a lack of adequate local funding – the county, school system and city of Keyser jointly help to fund the library, together with state support – as well as a state funding formula that effectively punishes systems that cannot raise enough local funds.
    As a result of that one-two punch, the library system this year saw its state funding cut by $9,900 when the system could not meet its state-imposed local funding quota.
    For the fiscal year that begins July 1, that cut could be as much as $30,000 if the system again comes up short locally. Possible state funding reductions to local libraries are part of that figure.
    "Obviously the Keyser-Mineral County Library cannot continue to operate in the same manner with a continued loss of funds," Sutton said.
    Sutton said the library system has cut in every possible area to meet the shortfall, with budgets slashed for materials, children's programming and periodicals. The library system also tapped a reserve fund that is normally held back for emergency building repairs and other unforeseen expenses.
    While Sutton made no formal request for additional county funds – she thanked the commissioners for maintaining their level of support in the current year – the implication was clear that hard decisions are on the horizon.
    "Frankly, the library system is traveling down a road that has less money," Sutton said. "And the place that road leads to is a library system with less services, less hours and less staff."
    The commissioners were sympathetic to Sutton's plight, and applauded her management of the library system, which she joined as director in 1999. But earlier in the meeting they had been wrestling with their own shortfalls, including a regional jail bill several months overdue that totals nearly $600,000.
    Commissioners President Janice LaRue placed part of the blame on the state's library funding formula, which leaves in its wake clear winners and losers, with Mineral County in the latter category.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I'm not sure how they came up with the formula they use, but it certainly is not good," she said.
    Sutton concluded her presentation by bringing the discussion back to jail expenses, noting that a recent report found that 42 percent of children who do not read at-level by the fourth grade end up later in life either on public assistance or in jail. Noting the library's role in fostering good reading habits, Sutton encouraged the commissioners to "take the long view" and support the library as a way to reduce future jail expenses.
    In other business Tuesday, the commissioners appointed Keyser dentist Dr. William Ludwick to the Mineral County Board of Health. In supporting Ludwick's appointment, Commissioner Richard Lechliter noted that the health department is trying to obtain a dental clinic, and a dentist on the Board of Health may help make the clinic a reality.
    The commissioners are still looking for a citizen-member of the Planning Commission who resides in either District 2 or 3. The county Development Authority is also seeking two additional members.

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