published Monday, September 24th, 2012

Cherokee Regional Library weighs options amid budget cuts

Lecia Eubanks, assistant director of the LaFayette Walker County Public Library, reshelves books in the children's section. 
Staff File Photo
Lecia Eubanks, assistant director of the LaFayette Walker County Public Library, reshelves books in the children's section. Staff File Photo

The budget didn't budge Thursday night in Rossville.

City Council members approved the first reading of a budget that doesn't raise taxes, keeps intact a $6.50-per-month city administration fee sent to every residence with a water meter and dips into reserves to the tune of $105,000.

The budget also cuts the Rossville Public Library's annual funding to $54,000, down from $67,000 in a previous budget.

So the boards of the Cherokee Regional Library system and its Rossville branch scheduled a 9 a.m. meeting today in LaFayette, Ga., to discuss the options.

"Maybe this is a sign that there is not enough money to operate three libraries in Walker County," system Director Lecia Eubanks said. "That's kind of what we'll be talking about at the meeting."

The regional library has Walker County branches in Rossville, Chickamauga and LaFayette and a fourth library in Trenton in Dade County.

"The other option is to reduce that [Rossville] library down to 20 hours per week," Eubanks said. The third option would be to hold a one-time fundraiser to make up the $12,000 shortfall.

"You can't do that every year," she said of fundraising, because the state library system won't allow it.

Eubanks plans to push her boards to ask voters to approve a binding resolution in 2014 to set aside a portion of property tax specifically for the library system.

"We have nine different funding agencies with three different fiscal years," she said. "The way we're funded just doesn't work."

Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell has yet to announce how much funding the county will provide the library system.

The county now contributes $158,000, and Eubanks would like $100,000 more.

Heiskell said money's tight for the county and its cities. She said 2013 "will be the toughest year that I've seen since I've been here."

Heiskell isn't raising the county's millage rate and expects the county to see a $200,000 shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, because the overall value of property in Walker has fallen by millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, she expects the county to at best hold steady and at worst lose revenue from negotiations with its cities to reapportion local option sales tax money over the next decade.

"I've told them I'll do everything I can do to support the library," Heiskell said, adding, "I don't have a magic wand."

She doesn't oppose Eubanks' idea of seeking a dedicated library tax.

"If she can get [residents] to vote for additional millage to fund the library, I certainly wouldn't stand in her way," Heiskell said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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