Budget battles

Libraray board members concerned county cuts may hurt services

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The Moffat County Library used to be open on Sundays. It used to be open late. And more people used to work there.

But in spite of those cuts, library board President Dave Longwell feels he still offers the community a good product. He said he still receives compliments about the library's service.

Now he's worried all that will change, since the Moffat County commissioners announced Monday night that the library's funding will be cut by .58 of one mill levy.

Since 65 to 75 percent of the library's budget goes towards personnel expenses, Longwell worries that to weather the mill levy cut, library hours will have to be further cut back, and some library employees might lose their jobs.

He can also foresee scenarios where the library system may be forced to close one of the county's three libraries' doors. The county has libraries in Craig, Maybell and Dinosaur.

When asked how he felt about the mill levy cut, Longwell answered, "I feel betrayed."

"My belief is that a healthy public library is part of a community's infrastructure," Longwell said. "This community's infrastructure is taking a hard hit."

But Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton insisted that the cuts shouldn't force the library to take such drastic measures as closing a building.

"They submitted a budget for $661,000 and they got their requested budget," Hampton said. "They're going to have ample money left according to the game plan."

To get the money to make up for the mill levy cut, the library board will have to use the reserve they have been building up since 2000. Hampton said the current projected reserve for 2003 is $310,000.

Hampton said that after the library makes up the rest of its budget with reserve funds, it would still have an ending fund balance of a minimum of 15 percent and a maximum of 25 percent (of the budget) to oversee expenses.

Longwell disagreed with those figures, saying that the cuts will exhaust the reserve fund, and services will have to be cut.

Three years ago, the library board made a conscious decision to develop a healthy reserve fund for non-routine emergencies.

Library board member Nadine Daszkiewicz said the library has a bad furnace that could give out soon. Longwell would like to see the reserve money saved in case a roof gets leaky, and to update computer software.

The county commissioners hit the library with a heavy expense this summer when they instructed the board to install Internet filtering software on library computers, even though the library already had instituted a policy that required minors to have parental approval to use computers.

But Hampton insists that the cut is just sound fiscal management.

"It will just take the reserve down to a reasonable level," Hampton said. "That's what reserves are for."

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos was of a similar mind.

"It's one thing to have a reserve, and I believe in that," Raftopoulos said. "But when building a reserve you need a purpose."

"We need that money to balance the budget," she said.

The library board's six members plan to meet Dec. 4 at the Moffat County Library to discuss what direction to take in light of the commissioners' decision. The meeting is open to the public.

"I don't feel good about the meeting," Longwell said. "I don't think there's a good idea out there."

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