Pa. budget would cut library funds

February 06, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed a 2.3 percent reduction in public library funding for 2009-10, a cut the Franklin County Library System can probably sustain without a visible loss of services, Director Bernice Crouse said.

With the state running up a deficit for the current year expected to exceed $2 billion, many programs will be forced to make do with less funding than they received in 2008-09. The hit libraries will take is minuscule compared to the 50 percent cut in 2003-04, Crouse said.

"We could certainly use the $20,000 we're going to be missing, but compared to other people's losses, it's reasonable and fair," Crouse said. The state has already cut the system's budget as the new year begins, the January payment, one of two it receives each year, being about $6,000 less than the January 2008 check, Crouse said.

When the state slashed library funding in half, the libraries in the county system ended Sunday service, cut Saturday hours and some weekday hours, and reduced the purchases of new materials, Crouse said.


The county library system has benefited from a 2007 increase in county funding, which raised the real estate tax levied in 18 of Franklin County's 22 municipalities from 0.6 mills to 0.8 mills, Crouse said. That is 80 cents on every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.

While state funding will likely go down, the number of people using county libraries was up about 2 percent to more than 406,000 visits from 2007 to 2008, Crouse said. The number of books, videos and other materials circulated, however, was up 9 percent to more than 532,000 during the same period, according to system figures.

The Alexander Hamilton Library in Waynesboro, Pa., this week reduced operations by six hours a week, closing at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, said Patricia Groff, president of the board of trustees for that library and its Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., branch.

"We depend on our fund-raising and that has not been fulfilled to its goal," said Groff, who also cited the reduced state funding. Hours at the Blue Ridge Summit branch are remaining the same for the time being, she said.

"We want to try and get ahead of the game, if possible," Groff said. The hours could be restored later in the year, she said.

The county system includes the Grove Family Library and Coyle Free Library in the Chambersburg area; the Lilian S. Besore Library in Greencastle, Pa.; branches in St. Thomas, Pa. and Fort Loudon, Pa.; the Bookmobile and a new mobile service for younger readers.

The Alexander Hamilton and Blue Ridge Summit libraries receive financial support through the county system, but are administered by a separate board of trustees, Crouse said.

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