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Halifax County libary director rallies opposition, citing ‘massive’ hit with local cut (UPDATE) / March 08, 2018
Halifax County/South Boston Library Director Jay Stephens is criticizing a Halifax County budget plan as harmful to the library system, but he has backed off assertions that a $10,000 county funding cut will trigger massive losses in state and federal aid.

Stephens issued a statement Wednesday in response to a draft budget proposal by Halifax County Administrator Jim Halasz that cuts county library funding by $10,000 in the coming budget year. In the statement, Stephens claimed the reduction in local funding would jeopardize state and federal aid to the system and raised the possibility of a overall loss of $125,500 in funding.

Such a large revenue loss could lead to the closing of one of the two library branches in the towns of South Boston and Halifax, Stephens said.

On Thursday, Stephens said his initial assessment of the draft budget's impact was wrong.

"The Library of Virginia has informed the library that the proposed $10,000 cut in funding to the library would not jeopardize state aid and other resources," wrote Stephens in a follow-up statement. "The reason given was that other county departments and agencies will also receive cuts.

The proposed county budget does list cuts for other departments, including the library. At the same time, some departments will see increases. Of those departments proposed for cuts, some are looking at very miniscule reductions of a few hundred dollars, as compared to thousands of dollars for the library. This is hardly a fair, across the board reduction in funding to all departments.

"While the library's state funding appears to be safe it is still important for library supporters to lobby against the proposed $10,000 cut, which would mean fewer resources and programs for the community," Stephens said.

A day earlier, Stephens warned of downstream funding cuts from state and federal sources if the county's library reductions are upheld.

“The potential loss of state aid that this proposed $10,000 cut from the county would trigger would be disastrous for the library,” stated Stephens in a letter to the News & Record. “The library would lose the $119,966 it is scheduled to receive in state aid in FY 2019 and would also be ineligible to receive federal e-rate funding, which is slated to be $5,760 in FY 2019.”

The combined loss would be $125,726, and the library also would lose access to the resources of the Library of Virginia — including its online database and summer reading program resources — for an overall lose in excess of $130,000, he said.

Stephens suggested the result would be "the elimination of programs for children and adults, the cancellation of all magazine subscriptions, a number of library staff members would be laid off, book purchases would be drastically slashed, and one of the two library buildings would have to be closed.”

Stephens explained that state aid makes up about 25 percent of the library’s overall budget. As a condition of this grant-in-aid funding, the state bars local governments from cutting library contributions unless the step is part of an across-the-board reduction.

While he no longer fears repercussions in outside funding, Stephens said it still is important for library supporters to contact county supervisors to express their opposition to the cut and ask for level funding for the library.

Stephen's letter in Thursday's News & Record reads as follows:

"The proposed FY 2019 Halifax County budget has been released for public review. In this budget, developed by county administrator Jim Halasz, the Halifax County-South Boston Public Library System will receive a reduction of $10,000 in funding from the county. That reduction is not from the amount of funding the library requested for FY 2019, but from the amount of funding the library is receiving in FY 2018.

"State aid makes up nearly 25 percent of the library’s overall annual budget. There are certain rules in place for Virginia public libraries that receive state aid. One of these rules states that “if the library’s budget is reduced and other agencies’ budgets are not, then the library would receive no state grant-in- aid and would be ineligible for one until local expenditures shall have again reached or exceeded the local effort at the time of the last previous grant.”

"The county budget proposed by Mr. Halasz includes level or increased funding for 23 county agencies and departments, while some will see their funding decreased. The cut proposed for the library is in no way part of an “across the board” reduction.

"The Halifax County Board of Supervisors, as an entity within the county, would have their funding reduced from $213,858 in FY 2018 to $213,708 in FY 2019, a loss of $150. Meanwhile, the library would see funding reduced from $195,000 in FY 2018 to $185,000 in FY 2019, a cut of $10,000.

"The potential loss of state aid that this proposed $10,000 cut from the county would trigger would be disastrous for the library. The library would lose the $119,966 it is scheduled to receive in state aid in FY 2019 and would also be ineligible to receive federal e-rate funding, which is slated to be $5,760 in FY 2019.

"This proposed cut could lead to a loss of $125,726 in state and federal funding for the library and the community. In addition, the library would also lose access to the online databases and resources provided by the Library of Virginia through Find It Virginia, and to summer reading program resources provided by the Library of Virginia. The total loss in cash and in-kind resources would be well over $130,000.

"A reduction in funding of this magnitude would result in the elimination of all library programs for children and adults. All magazine subscriptions would be canceled and new book purchases would be drastically slashed. The library’s Local History Room would be closed. Members of the library staff would have to be laid off and one of the two library buildings would have to be shuttered.

"The library has taken steps in recent years to increase efficiency, including moving from a proprietary to an open source automation system and investigating the possibility of regionalization with other area public libraries. According to data available on the web site of the Library of Virginia, the library had a per capita expenditure amount of $16.83 for FY 2016, which was almost half of the state-wide average of $32.77. Public libraries in the counties of Pittsylvania and Mecklenburg had amounts of $19.92 and $21.43, respectively.

"This proposed $10,000 cut in funding from Halifax County falls under the heading of being penny wise and pound foolish. Yes, on paper it will save Halifax County $10,000 in the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In reality, it will cost the community over $130,000 in lost funding and resources and it will decimate a library system that can trace its roots back for more than 100 years in Halifax County.

"Please contact the members of the Halifax County board of supervisors and urge them to remove this cut from the budget."

Jay Stephens, Library Director

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Then cut 10k from every county dept! problem solved and the library will get its 125k from the state and feds! This will solve the need to raise the trash fee etc. We need to go back to burning our trash in a burn barrel, like we did years ago.


Such a short-sighted proposal, yet with long-term negative implications. Public libraries are one of the best investments a community can make, yet seldom receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Please help preserve Halifax County's public library service, for the sake of the future of your people and your communities.


We only need one library. Period


County Administrator Jim Halasz has made another dumb decision by cutting the library budget by $10,000.
Make Halifax County great again by providing full funding for the library and firing Jim Halasz. We don't need him but we do need our libraries at full funding.

Frank E. Booker, III


Halifax County is one of the largest counties in Va. One library location is not enough, and two barely adequate. Ideally, each town in Halifax County should have a branch library or bookmobile service.

Those who assume one library is enough for all of Halifax County must be unaware of all that libraries offer - they're not just book collections, but much more: libraries provide information of all kinds, programs for all ages, reference and readers'advisory, audiovisual materials, summer reading to keep kids' reading on track, books to stretch and grow the mind, the imagination and creativity.

But access is key, and two locations barely adequate for a county the size of Halifax, despite the noble efforts of the library staff. Further cutting library funding would be a terrible disservice to Halifax County's people and to her future.

Please reconsider, and fully fund the library - no better investment in the presence and future of Halifax County could be made!

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