Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Library honchos: Budget cuts — take two

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 10:27 AM

So far, the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the Friends of the Library have raised roughly $135,000 in an effort to bolster the Charlotte Meckleburg Library's busted budget.

In other mildly hopeful news, the library's board of trustees plans to meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to discuss alternative ways to shave down the budget without axing half of the system's library locations.

Just like last week, the meeting will be live-tweeted. If you're interested in following the news as it happens, watch the #cmlibrary Twitter stream. (No need to sign up for an account if you don't already have one.)

Library Director Charles Brown said Monday that senior staff are reconsidering all their options on how to deal with immediate losses in county money, including additional salary and benefit cuts.

Steps already taken include four unpaid furlough days for the staff and a discontinuation of employer matches to the employee 401(k) program.

Brown said he and his staff will present their ideas to library trustees at a special meeting they've called for Wednesday, the deadline set to either find money to avoid the closure of 12 branches or to move ahead with them.

"We're looking at alternatives to see what steps can be worked on to avoid closings, such as having fairly significant service reductions instead," Brown said.

Library officials say cutting 148 staffers was the first option, because personnel accounts for 72 percent of the library system's budget.

Robin Branstrom, chair of the library board of trustees, said the board hopes to minimize the damage by significantly cutting hours or days of service at the system's 24 libraries, or charging fees for services.

Nearly every department and agency that receives county money has been told to brace for cuts, with the amount of possible reductions varying by where they fall on a list of priorities commissioners approved at their retreat last month, among other factors.

Some of the biggest cuts, percentage-wise, could come to areas like parks and libraries (50 percent each), public television station WTVI (100 percent) and non-profit agencies (about 74 percent).

The Sheriff's Office is facing nearly a $9 million cut for next year, or 11 percent.

Sheriff Chipp Bailey said he may cut services, such as shutting down the jail annex and moving inmates back into the central jail.

Read the entire Charlotte Observer article here.

Crossroads Charlotte is covering the impact of the library's closures from the patron's perspective. Here's yesterday's post, by Tonya Jameson: IMPACT ON ACCESS: Hickory Grove Just Opened, Faces Closure

To donate to the library's cause, click here. Sign up to volunteer here.

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