County budget proposal asks for cash for library system
by Mike Parks
People with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library System are very excited about the possibility of working on Sunday.
Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones’ recommended budget calls for increased funding to the library system after local libraries had to deal with cut backs, decreased services, less staff and fewer hours as a result of the recession. The county would spend an additional $811,393 for regional library operations, meaning the six regional libraries – including south Charlotte’s South County and Morrison libraries – could open four hours on Sunday. If the library portion of the budget is approved as it is, the libraries could start opening on Sunday around Labor Day, according to Cordelia Anderson with the library system.
“What it would mean is that, basically, for (around) $800,000 every citizen will be within a 10-minute drive of a library on a Sunday,” Anderson said. “We’re very excited about that because one of the things we’ve heard from citizens over the years is they’d like their Sunday hours back.”
The library saw drastic cuts in hours and staff starting with the fiscal year 2011-12 budget, when the county had to cut back to deal with declining tax dollars and the recession. In all, library hours were cut by around 50 percent, Anderson said. The county found an additional $2 million in last year’s budget to get library hours up from 37 a week to 54 per week, and this additional increase, if approved, would get regional library hours up to 58 per week right as students start getting homework assignments in September.
“During the school year, kids are in school during the day during the week and they need those weekend hours to come in,” Anderson said, adding that many students in the past would use Sunday as a chance to research projects, use library computers for homework or check out books.
“We think this will be a real benefit to kids … this coming school year,” Anderson said.
Currently, the regional libraries are open on weekends Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Morrison Regional is located at 7015 Morrison Blvd., and South County Regional is located at 5801 Rea Road.
County commissioners could start making tweaks to the proposed budget soon, with a vote scheduled in June. At any point commissioners could vote to change the amount of funding for the library system in the $1.4 billion budget proposal.