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STATUS BLOW / July 01, 2010
You can take the “regional” out of the Halifax County-South Boston Regional Library System.

Along with the name change, the system will have to make do with $19,000 less in the budget as the new fiscal year kicks in today, June 1.

Library Board members on Tuesday afternoon approved a $443,101 budget for FY 2011 to cover the cost of operations at the two branches, Halifax and South Boston, in the local system. The system is losing $19,368 in the 2010 budget that expired yesterday, June 30, the end of the fiscal year. State aid for the upcoming year is pegged at $107,101, down from $127,254.40 in FY 2010.

Explaining the loss of the system’s regional designation, Library Director Rhonda Griffin attributed the change to South Boston’s reversion from a city to a town back in 1995. The state legislature extended regional funding for 15 years, but that status ended yesterday, she said.

In order to be considered a regional system, Griffin explained that the library must serve the populations of two distinct counties or cities, and that’s no longer the case for the local system. The state provides extra funding for regional systems based on a contribution of 10 cents per person and $20 per square mile per locality. Halifax-South Boston will forfeit $3500 (the per person contribution) and $16,600 (based on the county area of 830 square miles) for a total loss of $20,100.

Both the Town of South Boston and the County of Halifax are maintaining “level” library funding from a year ago, $62,000 and $220,000 respectively, while the Chastain Foundation is giving $10,000, up from their contribution of $8,000 last year.

Also helping to fund the new budget is an increase in fees and fines. This source of revenue has risen from $18,000 last year to a projected level of $27,000 this year, said Griffin. Also, donations of $5,000 have also helped to close the funding gap, she said.

Griffin said the new budget includes no pay increases and she has trimmed funds for travel, furniture and in any other place she can.

One of the biggest concerns facing the Library Board is the cost of operating the bookmobile. The upcoming budget has allocated $2,000 for its operation and maintenance for the coming year, but recent problems with the vehicle have driven up costs, Griffin said.

She pointed out that the last four times the bookmobile has started on its route, it had broken down four times. The 21-year-old bookmobile costs an estimated $13,233 to operate annually, including staff time and a part-time driver’s salary. During the past year, 65 bookmobile patrons checked out a total of 2,926 books while the Halifax Library served 1,745 patrons who borrowed 42,149 items and South Boston served 2,596 customers who borrowed 50,383 items.

Noting the high cost of replacing the bookmobile — about $200,000 — board members said they would look at options for the future, such as seeking a donation of a van that might be suitable for making the bookmobile route. Members also said they would seek help from church or civic groups in arranging for book deliveries to those unable to visit the local libraries.

Board members also approved the charge of $2.50 to cover the cost of borrowing items unavailable locally from other libraries. “We have not charged a fee for this before,” Griffin said, “but this amount is only to cover the cost of returning the items which we have to pay.”

The Library Board will meet again on July 27 at 4:30 p.m. in the South Boston Library.

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