Monday, March 26, 2012

More on Local Budget Cuts

I served on the Botetourt County Library Board of Trustees for nine years, with my time there ending under the organization's bylaws this past December. I am a library lover. I enjoyed the time I spent serving the community in that appointed position.

The county is currently facing a $3.7 million budget deficit. As I understand it, this is a result of state mandates, for the most part, and not a failure of management on the part of the county administration.

There will be a public meeting about this issue on Tuesday, March 27, at 6 p.m. at Lord Botetourt High School. If you read the "associated document" at this public notice, you will see a long list of items that may be cut due to lack of funds.

The potential budget cuts to the library:

35 hours a week (the libraries are open evenings and Saturdays, as well, at present)
cut all part-time employees (the library system uses a lot of young adults and students in these positions)
end most of the children's programs, including the summer reading program
cut one full-time position
cut the book budget so there will be few new materials, no magazines, and no newspaper
end or strictly limit the bookmobile service

The library is one of the few services the county offers that benefits everyone, if they wish to take advantage it. There is a nominal charge for the meeting rooms (some of which are not available except when the libraries are open, so those will have limited access) but many of the programs are free or nearly so. Anyone can use the computers, and many do. The branches are usually rocking at all hours of the day with people looking for jobs online, or reading, or browsing the stacks.

I am very unhappy about these proposed cuts.

Other potential cuts to the county budget are listed here at a story from The Fincastle Herald. This does not include the schools: they too are considering drastic cuts that include closing an elementary school and eliminating the high school and middle school athletic programs. Since my nephew will be a senior at JRHS next year, and he has hopes of wrestling, I hope these cuts do not happen, as well.

To be fair, potential cuts will be made in most departments. But the library cuts will affect me the most.

Botetourt County has always run a fairly tight governmental operation and I have never been unhappy with the amount of money they spend.

I guess when it comes down to it, people will have to decide if $150 or so they might keep in their pocket (if there is no tax increase) is worth more to them than the services the local government will no longer offer.

I know for me, I check out way more than $150 worth of books from the library, so I would rather pay higher taxes than have to buy more books.

Also, I imagine if there are fees imposed to play sports, those could add up quickly and would be significantly more than the taxes.

The county's tax rate is $0.65 per $100 value. In 1999, the tax rate was $0.75 per $100 value. It should never have been reduced; the county would not be in the pickle it is in now had the tax rate been left alone. I think it should be raised back up to this level, but given the conservative lean of the county supervisors, I don't expect them to do this unless there is a public outcry for the services.

So if you want the services, tell your supervisor.

You can read more about this issue here, here (Leffel says he opposes school closure), and here (Moorman says tax rate lowered twice since 1999).

3 comments:

  1. i don't mind paying higher taxes to keep our way of life the way it is....but i want to know that the tax money will go to the areas where need be, and not into more politician's pockets.

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    1. There are no guarantees in life, ever. If that is what it takes to make the country strong, guarantees that things we be spent the way each person wants it to be, then we are at a standstill and lost. No one will ever agree on the priorities. For example, I consider government assistance programs to be much more urgent and a better way to spend my tax dollars than money dumped on the military. Is my desire to better the plight of my neighbor any better or worse than the desire of those who want the money for guns? It all depends on your point of view.

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  2. This is all part of the "people should pay for the services they use" movement that the Taxpayers Alliances (or whatever they call themselves in different countries) are so keen on. So, if you can't afford to buy a book, why should "I" pay for you to have one. It's applied fairly universally now, and very few people seem to have the courage or social intelligence to speak up and point out that this means only the rich, who can afford anything they like, will end up with a stake in society. The more people are excluded by poverty, the more buying a book has to be balanced against buying a pair of shoes for your child or the petrol to take you to work, the less cohesive society will become. That's the opposite of progress.

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