The Island News encourages all our readers to share their thoughts, reactions, and concerns with us about what we publish or the larger world around us and we will share the appropriate ones with you. Mr. Baer has strong feelings about the financial cuts happening to our Libraries and we have heard from others that this is an issue. It is all of our responsibilities to participate fully in the budget process or we lose the right to complain. So let Town Hall know what you are thinking.
– Molly Ingram, Editor
What happened to our libraries?
From FY 2010 to 2015 County Council reduced the Library budget by 22%, while the number of major branches increased by 33%. • In addition, because of staffing freezes, our Libraries had to return roughly an additional 8% ($300,000) per year to the General Fund. Over $1 million more was pulled from the Libraries this way. Those funds went to the County Reserve and could be used elsewhere. This was reported to Council in 2013, but they did nothing. • Those budget cuts forced Library hours to be cut from 60 (66 at Bluffton) to 40. We got them back to 50, but that is now threatened again. • According to State data for 8 similar Counties, we are at the bottom in key Library indicators despite being the wealthiest. • The buck stops with Councilpersons: Sommerville, Rodman, Stewart, McBride, and Administrator Kubic. They were made aware of these problems in 2013 but did no investigation or search for cures. That’s especially sad when contrasted with the energy they put into their own pet projects.
Most of County Council looked the other way while our Library System was stripped and sank to a low State ranking. Citizens must step in. An independent, quantitative oversight group needs to study the numbers, make recommendations, monitor their implementation, and ring alarm bells when needed. The Trustees, Library Director and Friends should be a part of this. We should not aim to have the worst Library System in the State.
Steven M. Baer
Former member of the County Council from 2007 to mid – 2013