Spencer Library cutting back business hours

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 13, 2011

By Emily Ford
SPENCER — After a $472,000 renovation, the Spencer Public Library may open only two afternoons a week and one Saturday a month due to budget cuts.
“Our tax dollars provided for the renovation,” said Elaine Raymer, a frequent library user. “We should be getting our money’s worth.”
Library hours appear in a long list of cuts Town Manager Larry Smith said he had to include to balance the proposed 2011-12 budget.
Currently open four afternoons and Saturdays, the library would open Mondays and Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. and the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., if the budget passes.
“We were just building the library back up, and now they’re cutting the hours,” supporter Beth Nance said.
The library was closed for about a year for major renovations and reopened Thanksgiving 2010. Since the renovation, more people are using the library, Raymer said.
Check-out records show:
March 116 adults, 139 children
April 88 adults, 66 children
May 133 adults, 105 children
The library also offers a new tutoring program, which started Jan. 31. Since then, 29 North Rowan middle and high school students have volunteered 590 hours to tutor 27 students.
More than 300 people walked through the library’s door in May.
Part-time librarian Cindy Atwell said she was told not to comment on the proposed cuts.
Savings from the cuts would total $5,923.
“With school just being out, I feel that’s a mistake,” Raymer said. “We want children to have books at their fingertips all the time.”
It doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on a renovation and then cut hours, she said.
“If you were in a business and talked about cutbacks after doing renovations, people would look at you like you’re crazy,” Raymer said.
Including principal and interest, the town will spend $472,876 on the library project, which will be paid off in fiscal year 2019-20, Smith said.
Last month, aldermen asked Smith to present a budget that did not use reserves and set the property tax rate at 62.8 cents, down from the 65.6 cents Smith had proposed earlier.
The current tax rate is 60 cents.
“We’ve been cutting and cutting for the last six years,” Smith said. “Now, about the only thing we have left is personnel costs.”
Department heads tried to protect public safety — police and fire — as much as possible, Smith said. Even then, the police department could lose a replacement patrol car and an in-car camera replacement, and the fire department won’t have a set of turnout gear.
When weighing the options, staff had to make hard choices, he said.
“The library is not a core service,” Smith said.
The following cuts are included in the proposed 2011-12 budget. Smith recommends the Town Board adopt the cuts in this order, with those at the top of the list the first to go and those at the bottom restored if possible:
• Public Works steam cleaner, $4,500 saved
• Changing to in-house curbside garbage
collection, $22,534 saved
• Additional operational cuts, $4,800 saved
• Cutting library hours of operation to two afternoons a week and one Saturday per month, $5,923 saved
• Public Works truck, $25,000 saved
• Police Department in-car camera replacement, $5,000 saved
• Police car, $26,500 saved
• Fire Department turnout gear, $2,000 saved
• Account Clerk II position
• Code enforcement officer cut to part-time position
• Longevity pay for employees
• Employee furloughs (24 hours without pay for each worker)
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.