Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Cherokee Regional Library Director Lecia Eubanks is waiting to see how many tax dollars the library system will receive from the Walker County Board of Education after submitting a request for funding to the Walker County School Board last week.
The library’s board of trustees is requesting $59,497 from the BOE for fiscal year 2014.
“The Walker County Board of Education has helped support the Walker County Public Libraries for more than 50 years,” said Eubanks in a letter submitted to School Board members at the Feb. 12 meeting. “The past four years have been hard ones economically. Public libraries are also experiencing a continued reduction in state dollars while experiencing an increase in mandates from the state such as the increase in the library’s share of health insurance.
“The three public libraries in Walker, including LaFayette, Rossville and Chickamauga, receive 98 percent of their total support from the Walker County commissioner, the cities of Rossville, Chickamauga and LaFayette, the Chickamauga City Board of Education and the Walker County Board of Education,” Eubanks also wrote in the letter.
She noted that the regional library system’s staff educates Walker County school students after 3 p.m. and during school breaks. The libraries provide early childhood literacy programs, space for tutoring, Internet access and books for research.
Eubanks showed a video to School Board members that featured homebound teachers who teach students in the libraries.
“One parent said the library felt more like school,” retired teacher and homebound teacher Joyce Brown said on the video. “Students can access encyclopedias and the Internet here. The library is the only public place in town.”
On the video, fellow homebound teacher Linda O’Brien said the library is a good meeting place for students and teachers.
“When you do budget considerations, if you could consider that we serve your students and constituents,” Eubanks said to School Board members Feb. 12. “We are trying to accomplish a lot. All of our state dollars go to support our four public libraries. I do know there are very little tax dollars. We are at the mercy of those [libraries] receiving tax dollars.”
Last year, the Walker County BOE cut its portion of funding for the local library system down to $25,000.
“We asked them to reinstate the amount they cut from last year,” Eubanks said after the Feb. 12 meeting. “We need $59,497. We are partners in education there for students after school. Times are tough, but what we do is important to the mission and we need their help.”
Prior to budget cuts, due to cutbacks from all the library system’s funding sources, the LaFayette Library was open 56 hours a week but now only operates 30 hours a week. The Chickamauga Library was open 39 hours a week and now is open 30 hours a week. The Rossville Library was open 52 hours a week but is now down to 30 hours a week.
The ultimate goal is to restore some of the operating hours, Eubanks said, adding that she hopes the School Board will consider sharing ESPLOST tax dollars with the libraries.
The libraries have hosted a few fundraisers throughout this fiscal year to attempt to make up for reductions in amounts presented by local municipalities, including one in which the Friends of the Library recently raised $4,000 through a fundraiser at the LaFayette Library.