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State freeze on funding puts library in red

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

The Committee of Chairs for the Uncle Remus Regional Library System (URRLS), met for a specially-called meeting on May 21 to discuss the ongoing freeze of the funding formula for state funds.

According to Steve Schaefer, director of URRLS, state funding cuts in the last six years have cost URRLS over $250,000, or close to 40 percent of its State funding. The new funding formula (for State funds) would restore about $120,000. The new formula was suppose to be implemented by July 1, 2014 but a minority of library directors were able to persuade a legislator, Republican State Representative Earl Ehrhart, to delay the implementation of the formula by one year which may also encourage further delays or changes in the proposed formula.

“This puts us in a terrible position. We have already budgeted based on that new funding formula. We just can’t turn around because we have gone down that path. Unfortunately for us, that funding formula decision has cost us between $90,000 and $110,000. We were crushed by it,” said Schaefer. “We had a $70,000 surplus, now we are over $30,000 in the hole.”

The changes implemented in the , based on the now delayed new formula, leaves the Regional budget with an estimated $32,000 deficit.

“We are an exceedingly healthy multi-county system, but my local money is running out. I am in a difficult position to hang on and stay alive to keep this organization running as it should be until we can get back to the funding formula,” said Schaefer.

Schaefer explained that if the new funding formula is finally implemented in time for the FY 15-16 budget, then the URRLS losses will be restored and a “healthy surplus” will exist again.

According to Schaefer, the delay in state funding is also causing a severe crisis in staffing for the URRLS, considering that salary grants have also been frozen for the last four years. Thise freeze is making it difficult to find a director to replace Schaeffer, who wishes to retire next year, and has prevented any raises for three staff librarians for the last four years.

Schaefer noted that the opposition to the new funding formula does not appreciate the equalization of distributed state funds across the state of Georgia.

“The old formula had a totally uneven distribution of cuts. The new formula starts over and applies the funding on one, standard rule of distribution. It takes funding and distributes it equally based on geography and population as required by law,” said Schaeffer. “Some systems felt that the change was too sudden (a six month warning) and some systems feel more State funding should go to metropolitan library systems (such as Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties) at the expense of rural systems.”

Schaefer is banking on the new funding formula to kick in for the FY 2015 budget. “We are going to have to ask people to write letters to the legislator to communicate just how important it will be that we make that state funding formula pass in 2015,” said Schaefer.

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