Board hears library budget request

WOODSTOCK – A Shenandoah County supervisor has suggested the area library use reserves or foundation funds rather than local money to balance next year’s budget.

But library Director Sandy Whitesides warned the Board of Supervisors at a work session Thursday that using money from reserves could actually end up hurting the organization financially.

Supervisors heard Whitesides’s pitch for a 7 percent funding increase for the library in the county’s fiscal 2018 budget. Members of the Library Board sat in on the work session.

“I believe it’s a modest increase that has a disproportionate benefit to the cost of our ability to provide the services, specifically at the Strasburg library but also throughout our community library system,” Whitesides said.

The library requested $348,160 to cover salaries for its full-time employees and $126,989 for part-time workers. County Administrator Mary T. Price’s proposed budget increases those amounts. The proposed budget calls for the county to increase library funds for part-time workers by almost 27 percent and full time by 3 percent. Price recommends allocating $773,221 to the library in fiscal 2018 – an increase of $50,562 over the current budget.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey asked if the Library Board could use its trust fund to cover budget costs. The board has a general reserve fund that it can use for program enhancements as needs arise, Whitesides explained. The board also has a foundation that receives roughly $25,000 per year through community contributions that also can help the library, the director added.

The library’s operating budget of approximately $332,000 includes the reserve fund, Whitesides said. The foundation’s holdings total roughly $1.2 million, much of which includes an endowment built up over years and used for recurring purchases of books and technology, Whitesides added.

Bailey asked Whitesides how much of the foundation’s money could the library use to fund its budget. The state uses a formula that relies on the local contribution to determine how much to allocate to the library, Whitesides explained. The library system receives approximately $150,000 from the state, Whitesides said. The county supports the library in terms of courier service, internet, computers and technology. The library uses the state money to “put those books on the shelves and to put those books in peoples’ hands,” Whitesides said.

The library would expect to receive less money from the state if the county reduced its local allocation, Whitesides said.

“If there’s a disproportionate reduction in our budget – and if we want to get into sort of specific hypotheticals – if you say I want to take $50,000 from the library and $50,000 from nine other departments and put a half a million dollars toward fire and rescue, we would be in what the state calls a waiver situation,” Whitesides said. “We’d have to work with county administration and the finance office to justify that cut and ask them to give us a waiver to continue to the state aid.”

If the state denied the waiver, the library would lose the $50,000 in local funds and the $150,000 from the state, Whitesides said. The state has taken aid from libraries until they return to a certain level of local funding, he added.

When asked what the library does with its foundation money, Whitesides said “we’re working on that.” The director said he hasn’t presented information to his board about spending the foundation money but explained the funds would go toward “proactive community library needs.” Such needs possibly could include paving the parking lot at the Strasburg library, Whitesides said.

Bailey said that beyond requested amounts for the salaries and benefits as well as professional services, “I came up with $230,000 that we could use somewhere else out of your budget that you all could use those (foundation) funds for, which are there to help the library.”

The library’s loss of state aid would be temporary, Bailey added. The supervisor asked Whitesides and the library board to explore what out of its budget, excluding salaries and benefits, they could cover with foundation funds in the upcoming fiscal year. The county faces the task of finding money for other government needs, Bailey said.

The $230,000 figure likely covers the bulk of the library’s operating budget not including personnel costs, Whitesides said.

“That’s dramatic enough that I’m positive the state would take away our $150,000,” Whitesides said.

Supervisors Vice Chairman Richard Walker acknowledged that regulations restrict the spending of the foundation money.

The main driver for the increase comes out of a need to fund a part-time employee needed at the Strasburg library, Whitesides explained.

Employees often need to go from the front-line service desk to help with technology support, Whitesides said. The budget also covers instances when employees need to bring books from one library facility to another to help patrons find materials.

The Strasburg community library pays for a 20-hour per week position through fundraising, Whitesides said.

The library system spends $98 per hour of operation compared with the next lowest amount of $180 in Rockingham County, Whitesides said. Samuels Library in Front Royal spends approximately $430 per hour of operation, Whitesides added. The director said his budget request would increase the hourly expense of the Shenandoah County library system to $100.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com