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County libraries may restore hours
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If the county approves the Hall County Library System’s fiscal year 2014 budget later this month, the system will be able to restore hours to all branches.

The system’s executive committee approved a budget of $2,032,538 at a called meeting Thursday morning at the Spout Springs library branch in Flowery Branch.

The committee discussed two potential budgets to submit to the Hall County commissioners. Both addressed funding concerns for employee health insurance costs and furlough days. One also addressed the library’s reduced hours, which were cut last year to help offset the system’s tight budget.

Each of the system’s branches would be able to stay open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and also open longer on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

The system operates separately from the county but gets the majority of its funding through county dollars. The system is also funded through the state, grants and local fines and fees. The library board determines the system’s spending.

The system’s operating budget from the county for fiscal year 2013, which doesn’t end until June, is about $1.7 million. The approved budget requests an addition $302,276 from the county.

Adrian Mixson, the Hall County Library System’s executive director, said $85,000 pay for eight new part-time positions that would operate the additional hours.

Mixson said it’s important to think about the people who use the library, the families, students, unemployed and retired people who depend on the services and access to information they find at the library. There are more than 180,000 library card holders in Hall County.

Mixson said he isn’t sure whether or not the commissioners will approve the requested budget but said there is no harm in asking for the increased funds.

“If we don’t get it, well, we can’t say it’s because of the board,” Mixson said. “It’s going to be our government that makes that decision.”

The system struggled with budgeting last year because of an unexpected increase in state health care costs, a new branch in North Hall County and cuts.

“The organization of a library is no different than a household,” Mixson said. “You can only do with your revenue.”
He said the system’s best chance of approval will be in giving the commissioners a presentation on its situation.
The budget requests must be turned in to the county today. The commissioners will vote on whether or not to approve the request later this month.

Though the library has faced significant funding challenges over the last year and has lost staffing, board member Andy Henderson commended the staff for its successful programming and youth activities.

“With all of these wonderful programs, we don’t need to forget that we are doing that with our current staff,” Henderson said. “We’re doing so much with so little. ... You do more with less than anyone I’ve ever seen, and you also deserve a lot of recognition and credit, but you also deserve some tangible feedback. And I hope we’ll be able to do that.”