Cumberland Times-News

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March 25, 2014

House committees weigh in on measures

Legislation could up funding for local libraries

CUMBERLAND — A bill to increase library funding statewide seems to be making progress in the General Assembly, encouraging John Taube that the Allegany County Library System may get some help after several years of difficult budgets. Taube is the director of the library system.

“I am confident that it will pass and be signed by the governor,” Taube said. The bills would reinstate per capita funding of public libraries. The bill passed the Senate 47-0 in February, however, it remains in the House Ways and Means Committee at the moment.

“Our mandated increases have been deferred since 2008. ... This bill would increase per capita funding by $1 in fiscal year 2016. I would prefer if the increase took effect this year, but since per capita funding was last increased in 2008, this is progress,” Taube said. Per capita funding will be based on the county’s population.

State funding will decrease by almost $10,000 for fiscal 2015, according to figures provided by the library system. State funding for the system in 2015 will be $743,566, according to the estimate.

The reductions in state funding have caused problems.

The losses of state funding have forced the library system to dip into the principal of special accounts, mostly from donations and bequests. “The increase may appear modest, but we have dipped heavily into the accounts ... since the economic downturn of 2008,” Taube said.

If the bill passes, the Allegany system, like most throughout the state, could look for increases in state funding for 2016-19, according to a fiscal and policy note by the Department of Legislative Services. In 2016, the system would get an increase of $52,666; for 2017, an increase of $88,370; for 2018, $87,378; and for 2019, $86,303.

Of course the increases would have a cost.

“General fund expenditures increase by $3.2 million in FY 2016 due to increases in per capita aid amounts to local public library systems and to regional resource centers. Future year expenditure increases reflect accelerated per capita aid, population increases, and the estimated impact of increased state aid on library retirement costs beginning in FY 2018. Revenues are not affected,” according to the fiscal and policy note.

Statewide the aid would increase local library revenue by $3.2 million in fiscal 2016 and by $5.6 million in fiscal 2019, according to the fiscal and policy note.

Taube made the comments on the proposed law during the system’s budget request to Allegany County commissioners last week at county offices on Kelly Road. Taube asked commissioners for an increase of $55,000, for a total county-funded budget of $995,000.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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