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Kanawha library board OKs budget $1 million less than usual

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Public Library board of directors approved its 2013-14 budget on Monday, with about $1 million less than it's had to work with in previous years.

When the state Supreme Court ruled in February that the county school board was no longer forced by law to help pay for library services, it meant a loss of about $3 million -- 40 percent of the library's total budget.

The school board now plans to sponsor an excess levy in November that would allow taxpayers to keep the library financially afloat, and has also committed $1.9 million to the library for next year to help with the transition.

Library officials had initially requested $2.5 million from Kanawha County Schools officials after the court nixed the school system's financial responsibility to the library.

A budget proposal presented to board members Monday evening said that "while difficult, the budget as proposed allows us to keep all of our current facilities open and operating without reducing hours and keeps the materials budget intact."

"The focus for the year will be on maintaining operations while working to pass an excess levy."

The proposed budget includes elimination of 20 positions but does not require layoffs of current staff. Total revenue for the 2013-14 fiscal year is projected to decrease by more than 8 percent.

"This is going to be an interesting year to manage," said library director Alan Engelbert. "We're as hopeful as one can be when one loses $1 million."

Library officials already decided in March to cancel the annual West Virginia Book Festival as part of cost-saving measures, in addition to closing branches on Sundays to cut back operation hours.

Engelbert said the budget was "very conservative" but that a slight increase in state government grants was helpful. Grants are provided to libraries on a per capita basis and will increase by 1.9 percent. The grant money will total $900,000.

The proposed budget does not allow salary increases. Engelbert said that because of the library's fragile future, he's "very concerned" about what effect staff turnover could have on the library.

"We're just hopeful that everyone says that they're sticking around and that we prevail in this election and everything's fine," he said.

If the levy passes, the library would receive $2.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

By its fifth and final year in 2019, the levy would bring in about $3.4 million for the library.

A special election will be held Nov. 9 in which voters will be given the choice to support the library in a combined vote with the Kanawha County school levy.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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