Dade County Schools won't fund public library

Dade County Schools won't fund public library

June 28th, 2012 by Tim Omarzu in News

Cathey Richardson, left, and Jason Doss work at two of the Dade County Public Library's public computers in the facility's temporary digs in Trenton, Ga., down the street from the facility now being renovated and expanded. Doss said he's anxious for the updated library to reopen with more available computers.

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

A grand opening ceremony was planned on Aug. 14 for the new Trenton Public Library.

But the renovated and expanded facility at 102 Court St. may only be open two days a week -- if it opens at all -- library officials said. That was after they learned Wednesday that the Dade County Schools plans to reduce to zero what had been an annual contribution of about $38,000 to the library's budget.

"It takes tax dollars to run a library. We were not asking for an unreasonable amount of money," said Lecia Eubanks, director of the Cherokee Regional Library system.

The library system recently announced it was laying off employees and cutting back to 30 hours a week at its branches in Trenton, Rossville, Chickamauga and LaFayette due to higher health insurance costs for its part-time employees and reduced funding from the Walker and Dade school districts. But the library system made those cutbacks expecting the Dade County Schools would cut its annual contribution in half, to about $19,000 -- not to zero.

Dade Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin said the school district has had its state funding cut while expense have gone up. It also is paying more for workers' insurance. The district has had to eliminate such things as driver's education and contributions to employees' life insurance and disability plans. Tobin said finances won't be getting better for the district anytime soon and predicts more cuts are coming in future years.

"Here's the reality: Do I fund the public library, or do I cut some more positions from the public school system?" said Tobin. "I've got to make sure that the resources are allocated to our students."

The $39,000 library allocation could fund two paraprofessionals or a teacher, he said.

Eubanks is concerned that cuts from local government will lead the state of Georgia to cut its support. Library supporters will state their case to each member of the Dade County Schools board before the board votes on the budget, which expected to occur on July 23.