The Hall County Library System may begin a review of operating hours based on worries about future finances going sour.
Library Director Adrian Mixson pushed the library board Tuesday night to form a group to study the issue and bring back recommendations by the next board meeting Feb. 24.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with funding from the county next year, nor do I know what’s going to happen with state funding,” he said.
“The loss of money is really a big concern,” Mixson added. “I think this is the time now to prepare. You can’t wait until the last minute.”
Money troubles have plagued the system for several years, since the economic downturn.
The system decided in 2012 to reduce hours at each of its five branches.
Currently, all branches are open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, according to the system’s website.
The Gainesville branch is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the Spout Springs branch is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month, and the North Hall Community and Technology Center is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the second and fourth Saturday of the month.
“We may not be getting our best bang for the buck with our current Saturday hours,” he said in an email before the meeting.
The budget increased less than 1 percent this year to about $2.669 million from $2.645 million.
Furlough days for employees and the use of reserve money to cover operational expenses are among the budget constraints the system faced entering the current fiscal year.
“We’re surviving, but this next fiscal year coming up is a critical one for us,” Mixson told the board.
“Next year, if we lose money from the state, we could have to lay off some people.”
The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Andy Henderson, the library board chairman, asked Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell to find out why the Board of Commissioners “will not fund us at a level where we can eliminate furlough days.”
“There’s a reason, I know there’s a reason. I’ve talked individually to (the commissioners) and none of them has given me a reason.”
Henderson went on to say, “If there’s something we’re doing as a library or as a staff or community that’s preventing us from receiving that funding, I’d like to know what it is so we can correct it, so that we can get our funding.”
Powell represents the Board of Commissioners on the library board.
“I’m asking you, respectfully, to bring us that information when we meet in February. Is that fair?” Henderson asked Powell.
“Sure,” Powell said.
Board member Nancy Sulhoff asked Mixson whether the system could address the idea of a Christmas bonus for employees.
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.
“Can we discuss why?” Sulhoff asked.
Henderson said he sympathized with Sulhoff.
“I feel like we’ve asked so much and given not in return what is proportionate to what we’ve asked,” he said.