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Hall library furlough days hurt workers, patrons alike

POSTED: July 30, 2014 12:33 a.m.

Hall County Library System Gainesville Branch Manager Jeanne Hozak talks about the furloughs for this fiscal year being maintained in the library system.

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When the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved its 2015 fiscal year budget in June, the spending plan included a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for full-time county workers and called for no furlough days.

But employees of the Hall County Library System weren’t so rewarded. 

Even though Hall County covers about 75 percent of funding for local libraries, workers are considered state employees. And that means some tough times ahead.

“Every employee will take 10 furlough days this year,” library system Director Adrian Mixson said. “This year it will be $50,531 the library will not spend on salaries.”

The library system closed two branches and laid off 20 workers four years ago.

But for those who stuck around or have started working since, things haven’t improved much.

The mandatory furlough days have forced George Souza, who works at the Gainesville branch, to pick up a part-time job at Kroger.

Souza said the furlough days will deplete his savings.

Moreover, furloughs have increased employee turnover at county libraries, with workers moving elsewhere for better pay, said Jeanne Hozak, Gainesville branch manager.

Of course, furlough days impact not just library workers, but patrons, too.

“We’re punishing the public,” Hozak said.

Furloughs have resulted in reduced hours of operation and cuts to kids’ reading programs, among other things.

Kay, who declined to give her last name, frequently uses the Internet services at the Gainesville branch.

Like arts, music and physical education programs, she said libraries tend to be first on the chopping block when budget cuts are made.

Jonathan Warren, an avid reader who walked out of the Gainesville branch on a recent sunny afternoon with books stacked under his arm, said the reduction in branch hours has caused additional wait times for popular novels.

“Patrons are angry,” Souza said.

But the financial struggles of the library system don’t end there.

The system is dipping heavily into its reserves to cover operational costs this year.

“If we remain in the same boat next fiscal year ... and need another $152,000 in fund balance, we will not be looking at furloughs but reduced hours, maybe a closure, but hopefully not layoffs,” Mixson said.

Mixson said funding for book purchases also is dwindling, and the money could run dry by the end of the fiscal year.

“The e-book has not even replaced 5 percent of the circulation in libraries with a real book budget,” Mixson added.

The library system could get additional funding if county voters approve a new five-year round of special purpose local option sales tax in March to support capital projects.

Mixson has identified $3.5 million in SPLOST VII money to renovate the Gainesville branch and purchase 60,000 books.

But ensuring workers are taken care of remains a top priority.

“They all want what is best for the library and the citizens of Hall County when it comes to library services,” Mixson said.


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