Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 5, 2010

Manchin veto to force cuts at Mineral, other W.Va. libraries

Keyser — KEYSER, W.Va. — The Keyser-Mineral County Public Library and public library systems around the state will see budget cuts in fiscal 2011 as a result of a line item veto by Gov. Joe Manchin.

Library Director Connie Sutton said the Mineral County libraries will be reducing hours and staff pay to make up for the funding reduction.

“Because library funding is so tight, we never have any wiggle room,” Sutton said. “At this point there’s just no place else to go but to cut staff hours and the hours that we’re open.”

Libraries faced cuts early in the state’s budget process, but a successful lobbying effort by library supporters convinced the Legislature to approve the same amount of state funding as in this year’s budget. That amounted to a total of about $8.35 million in grants for the nearly 100 public libraries across West Virginia.

But on March 25, Manchin vetoed the measure, implementing a 5 percent decrease to reduce the funding to just over $7.9 million.

“I believe a 5 percent reduction is reasonable in light of the reduced state revenue available for all state-funded projects,” his veto letter stated.

Manchin also cut funding for library special projects by 7 percent, from $800,000 to $744,800.

Matt Turner, spokesman for Manchin, told the Associated Press that the governor is not trying to kill library services in the state, but rather to cut funding to programs he thinks can still operate with less state money.

Manchin also applied 5 percent reductions to a wide swath of other social programs, including senior citizens centers, the state fair, the West Virginia Symphony and the Appalachian Children's Chorus.

Sutton said the library has become significantly busier than it was 18 months ago, as the recession drives more people to use the library for services and to save on entertainment.

She doesn’t yet know for certain how many hours the Mineral County libraries will cut, but she said the staff pay reductions will amount to 5 percent for everyone, across the board.

“We’re a team. We’re taking the hit together,” she said.

Sutton added that in order to tighten up the library budget this year, they’d cut the book budget by 8 percent. Further book budget cuts are not an option for fiscal 2011, she said.

“We can’t do that anymore and maintain the services we provide to the community,” she said. “We just can’t.”

At the county level, the library will receive the same amount of funding as this year — $50,300 from the general budget and another $12,500 in coal severance tax funds.

During budget meetings, Sutton had asked for a $9,843 increase for the libraries, as well as staff pay raises. But she and other agency directors were warned by the Mineral County Commission that it would be a “very unpleasant” budget year.

Sutton said she’s just grateful to receive the same amount of county funding as this year.

“I'm really happy that neither the county nor the city had to reduce our funding,” she said. “And I'm sorry the governor saw it the way he did.”

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