Kanawha County library board has tough funding decisions to make

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County voters have spoken and now the county’s library board has some tough decisions to make in regards to its financial future.

“Our budget has now been cut by 40 percent and we simply are going to have to take steps to address the budget and live within the reduced budget that we now have,” said Mike Albert, the library board’s president. “It’s going to be serious.”

Board members met for the first time Tuesday in Charleston since voters defeated the proposed school and library levy over the weekend which would have provided $3 million annually for the library system.

“We had hopes that we might be able to get this funding dispute and problem that we have had now for eight or ten years behind but obviously we don’t have it there,” Albert said.

With the levy funding the library was planning to replace the funding it will no longer get from the Kanawha County Board of Education come July 2014, which accounted for 40 percent of its budget. The state Supreme Court ruled earlier in the year the school board was no longer mandated to fund the library system.

Now with no funding assistance coming from the levy, the library board is left with some tough decisions to make in the near future and Albert adds that will include a reduction in services in the county.

“We are going to have to look and see which facilities we’re going to have to target either for reduction or closer,” he said. “Certainly reduced hours, reduced employees and in some instances just cessation of operation.”

A list of 21 possible options was presented to board members during Tuesday’s meeting. Those options included the possible closure of up to six library branches in the county, out of the nine total, and the discontinuing of the Mobile Library.

Albert said he will form a committee to look at all of those possible options as well as look into more possible funding sources and have recommendations put together to be presented to the library board at a later date.

Another levy election is also not out of the question at this point, but the library would not legally be allowed to do that themselves, but would have to partner with either the school or the county.

Albert said they will proceed in a thoughtful, diligent manner when it comes to areas to save money, but admits it’s not going to be easy moving forward.

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