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Martinsburg-Berkeley County library to give back to county, city

Hours will be reduced as part of effort to ease budget crunch

Hours will be reduced as part of effort to ease budget crunch

May 23, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Public library hours will be reduced as part of a voluntary effort by county library leaders to help the Berkeley County Commission get through an ongoing budget crunch, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Libraries director said Thursday.

Pamela Coyle told commissioners on Thursday that the four-library system's board of directors decided to return 10 percent of the property tax revenue that state law requires the county commission to give them in the next two fiscal years.

The next fiscal year begins July 1, 2008, and the amount of money returned to the county commission would amount to just less than $70,000, Coyle said.

In the current fiscal year, the commission and school board each were required to contribute $668,285 toward the library system's $1.8 million budget. The City of Martinsburg's appropriation was $113,265.

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After reaching a similar agreement earlier this year with the county's board of education, Coyle said the library board decided to offer both the County Commission and the City of Martinsburg a similar 10 percent return of their portion of funding.

The combination of all three voluntary funding reductions by the library, including a now pending offer to the city, would result in a reduction of 12 hours of operation for the library system's largest facility in Martinsburg, Coyle said.

If Martinsburg City Council declines the offer, then some hours could be restored there, Coyle said.

Library branches are in Hedgesville, Inwood and Marlowe, W.Va.

Coyle hopes the agreements with the library's principal funding entities provide enough time to address the controversial funding mandate in a state law passed in 1970 that only applied to Berkeley County.

The current formula requires a portion of "anticipated" property tax revenue generated through levies for the school board, city and county governments to be given to the library system.

Coyle conceded Thursday that the amount of funding allocated should be based on "real" revenue collected each year, not what is anticipated. But she also defended the state law's mandate of support for the county's library system, which she said is among the best statewide because of the law.

The County Commission became more critical of the funding mechanism for the library system when budget shortfalls forced across-the-board department cuts earlier this year. The fiscal year ends June 30.

Evidence of the budget tightening surfaced again on Thursday when commissioners approved the elimination of the county's Worthless Check program. The decision freed up $32,815 in salary and benefits for one employee. In other budgetary moves Thursday, the commission also decided to ask City National Bank to extend the term of outstanding bonds issued last year to finance the $3.1 million purchase of the former Martin's shopping plaza along South Raleigh Street by 18 months.

The commission also decided to dedicate about half of the $280,000 they had set aside for county employee insurance benefits for the coming year, increasing the county's contribution by 10 percent.

When asked whether the adjustment would be enough to slow the exodus of deputies from the sheriff's department, Commission President Steven C. Teufel said he worked hard for five years to increase their salaries from $23,000 to more than $30,000 in the last five years.

"Every little bit helps," Teufel said. He said he wanted to designate a small portion of the unspent money budgeted for employee benefits to CCAP/Loaves & Fishes, a cooperative ministry of area churches that assists people with financial burdens.

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