Library will remain open

Commissioners reduce the number of mills they'd planned to divert from library revenue

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Changing a few numbers means a big difference in the fate of funding for the Craig/Moffat County Library, officials witnessed at the Monday night's board meeting.

Earlier this month, library board members wrangled over the prospect of losing .58 of their total 1.9 mill levy allocation in a move proposed by Moffat County Commissioners to boost the county's flailing general fund balance.

Instead, commissioners voted during Monday's commission meeting earlier that day, to divert a smaller fraction of those dollars away from library funds -- a difference library officials said would help keep library doors open.

The library's adjusted 1.539 mill levy handed down by commissioners, offers the library a little more breathing room with an ending fund balance of $228,675. Under the formerly proposed mill levy diversion, the library would have received 1.3 mills, reflecting a $157,497 balance -- a figure that library board members said could have only floated library expenses for 18 months of the next two years.

"That additional two tenths of a mill eases our concerns," said board chair David Longwell, after hearing the commissioners decision. "I think that's good news."

Library Director Donna Watkins said the Craig library and branches in Maybell and Dinosaur will continue to operate with the same services and hours, "until we absolutely run out of money."

"After that," she said, referring to library board ex-offico, commissioner Les Hampton, "it's your problem."

The library receives county funding, but it is a separate entity responsible for its own budget and operating decisions. Commissioners believed the library's fund balance and its reserves were excessive. Last year the library received $637,090 in taxes and expect to end this year with $357,283. Library officials said they intended to save the money to build up reserves for necessities such as new roof and new furnaces, yet commissioners said those items need to be specifically addressed in the budget.

To keep the same hours into the new year, library workers will rotate days off during their workweek to keep the library doors open on Saturday, usually the library's most visited day.

But, Watkins said, with a reduced staff of five full-time employees, and three workers in the library on any given day, the staff may have to break for lunch during the week thereby closing the library for a time.

Still board members agreed the mill levy compromise instated by commissioners offers more flexibility than the one proposed earlier this month.

"I'm very pleased that the library can continue to offer services to the entire county," said Rebekah Vowels, the library branch manager for Maybell.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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