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Library board to consider 20 percent budget cut
Director plans to propose layoffs, facility closings
Adrian Hernandez looks for a book at the Gainesville Branch of the Hall County Library System Monday. - photo by Tom Reed

Hall County Library System Board of Trustees meeting

When: 6 tonight
Where: Gainesville library branch, 127 Main St. NW, Gainesville

Local libraries will move one step closer to drastic cuts at tonight’s meeting of the Hall County Library System Board of Trustees.

Though Hall County’s budget hasn’t been finalized, Hall County Library System Director Adrian Mixson said the system will be preparing for a 20 percent cut.

“I can’t wait on the county to make their decision,” he said. “We have to go ahead and do what’s responsible.”

The Board of Trustees has the final say on any changes, but Mixson said he is going to recommend layoffs and facility closings.

One possibility is leaving the Gainesville and Spout Springs locations open six days a week, Murrayville and Blackshear Place four days a week and closing the Clermont and East Hall branches altogether.

According to Mixson, the Clermont and East Hall locations were chosen to close because combined they account for less then 8 percent of the county’s total library visits.

“The people who will have the worst access will be people at the extreme ends of North Hall,” he said, naming Clermont, Gillsville and Lula as those most affected. “But I dare say 85 percent of the county will at least be within a 20-minute drive of a public library.”

Mixson also said construction on the Nopone Road facility will proceed as planned, but he doesn’t expect it to open any time soon.

“I think you should be able to pay your employees and not put them on furlough,” he said. “When you can afford what you have, then you open up what’s new.”

Money to build the Nopone facility comes from special purpose local option sales tax money and not from the general fund. SPLOST money, by law, can only be used for projects approved by the voters.

Though decisions may not be finalized tonight, the board will discuss layoffs and library closings so the community and employees can plan ahead.

“We need to discuss it,” he said. “We’re talking about people’s lives. I’m the one who’s going to be doing the dirty work and I don’t look forward to it. ... But we need to discuss it so (the board) understands what I’m recommending. They should be grilling me for my recommendation and I should be able to at least justify my recommendation. And come to some kind of a consensus so they understand what’s probably going to happen the next time we meet as a board.”

Mixson said he expects to keep funding through July 30. This will give the board time to meet again and finalize any changes after the Hall County Board of Commissioners decides on the county budget.

This won’t be the first time the library system has been asked to cut back.

If the proposed 20 percent cut goes through, the system’s budget would be 60 percent of what it was three years ago.

But even before the cuts, the system has been comparatively underfunded.

In 2010, Hall County provided $14.24 per capita to the system. The national average of local funding is $31.94 and the state average is $16.54, according to statistics provided by the Georgia Public Library Service.

“We’re in the position right now where we’re at basic operating,” Mixson said. “Anything else after that and you’re getting rid of people.”