By Nick Nunn staff writer
Uncle Remus Regional Library System (URRLS) Director Steve Schaefer informed the URRLS board during their quarterly meeting that the state legislature made the “unprecedented” decision to postpone the enactment of a recently revised state grant funding formula, which would have gone into effect on July 1, 2014, for a full year The revised formula, which Schaefer described as “the best formula of the possibilities” last October during a board meeting, would allocate one professional, state-paid librarian position per county covered by the library system. Additional positions would be earned per 80,000 people covered by the system. Schaefer said that a small number of library systems, which cover larger populations within a single county, are opposed to the change and were responsible for the one-year postponement in the formula revision.
“That is harmful for the majority of library systems,” said Schaefer about the postponement. “This really complicates things for Uncle Remus.” Schaefer said that the library systems that want to base funding predominately on population tend to receive additional funding from entities other than the state because they are located in high-density areas. He added that such systems are against the “economy of scale” of multi-county systems, which are able to cover a wider geographic range and that the struggle between systems based on population as opposed to geography will continue.
Schaefer said that the legislature’s direct involvement in the state funding allocation is without precedent and has put the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) in a “terrible position.” He stated that Georgia’s public library systems have been budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year based on the revised funding formula and that those budgeting estimates are now moot. “[URRLS] has driven down that road banking on the new formula,” said Schaefer about the pre-budgeting preparation that the system has already undertaken. Schaefer recommended that board members speak to their state representatives about the needs of URRLS. “It’s all politics,” said Schafer.
Schaefer also told the board that the Georgia Assembly has dedicated $2,100,000 to go to computers and technology for public libraries, but he said that he did not know how much URRLS would receive from that total. “We don’t know what that formula is,” said Schaefer.
The Georgia General Assembly also passed House Bill 490, which extended the amount of hours that public school teachers and employees of county and regional libraries can work before they must be offered health insurance from 20 hours to 30 hours. Schaefer described the change, which he said will predominantly affect library workers, as “great,” while acknowledging that the system is “not exactly worker-friendly.” The change will allow URRLS greater flexibility in the scheduling of its part-time employees, which was previously restricted by the need to keep their hours lower than the 20-hour limit.