Libraries ask for Saturday hours in yearly budget request

Drone photo of McDonough Library at sunset in February 2020 (staff photo)

Henry County Libraries Director Kathy Pillatzki presented the library system’s budget request earlier this week to commissioners during the board’s two-day budget workshop. The library board’s top priority in FY 2021 is a request for funding to provide Saturday hours at all locations.

March 10 update: the county management team is recommending funding for Saturday hours within the FY 2020–2021 budget.

Currently, only the Stockbridge library is open for part of the day on Saturday. If funded, the library system would be able to open all five libraries for a half-day on Saturdays for an additional $188,000 in annual funding.

The library board has also requested—listed in order of priority—a three percent raise for library staff at a cost of $57,600; funding for an additional professional position handling community partnerships and outreach at $66,000 including benefits, and $42,000 to equal-out a state funding cut to materials grant funding. The total request equals $353,600.

A major discussion among commissioners and county staff has been whether library employees are state employees or county employees and whose responsibility it is to cover pay increases. Library director Pillatzki commented the state provides approximately $200,000 in annual grant funding to cover the director and three assistant directors, but paying hourly employees is funded through the board’s annual contribution.

Pillatzki continued the majority of library system funding is sourced from local taxing authorities. Reductions in the local contribution to the library can jeopardize state funding and commissioners restored a five-percent cut in local funding in April 2019 to prevent that from happening.

Presently, Henry County provides $2.3 million in annual funding to the library system. Commissioners pushed back against increasing the contribution.

Commissioner Clemmons requested a line-by-line item budget for the library system and suggested they “trim back on some of [their] spending” to fund Saturday hours. Commissioner Wilson added “the municipalities need to step up and [contribute] into the library system as well.”

Pillatzki closed by saying “we are operating five libraries on what we were previously pre-recession operating four libraries.” In FY 2009, prior to the opening of the county’s fifth library in Fairview, the BOC budgeted $2.15 million towards the system. She continued “we are at a point where we need to expand service.”