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Library makes do with less

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE — The prospect of hanging focuses your mind.

Board member Dick Goodman evoked Benjamin Franklin’s witticism Monday as the Gwinnett County Public Library unveiled its well-planned budget proposal for the fiscal year 2012, one aimed at making the most out of significantly reduced funding from the county.

By the end of the current fiscal year, the library system will have cut $1.4 million in expenditures, marking half of the 15-percent planned reduction from the county.

Monday’s budget workshop detailed an immediate plan for making do without the remaining $1.4 million, as well as a long-term framework for making the GCPL’s operations more sustainable.

“I commend the board and staff ... for the forward-looking thinking that we did,” vice chair Phillip Saxton said. “Because without that planning that we did in the last couple of years, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And the public would have suffered mightily.”

Essentially, the library system plans to balance its budget at $18.4 million ($16.1 million which will likely be granted by the county) through a piecemeal approach to cutting expenditures while pulling additional money from its fund balance.

Under the proposed plan, the materials budget would be $3.3 million for FY2012, marking a 7 percent decrease from the last fiscal year but keeping pace with Georgia Public Library standards.

Hiring and compensation freezes would remain in effect, as 34 full-time positions are eliminated from the budget while 40 part-time, benefit-free positions will be added.

Smaller cuts from nearly every facet of the library system will also be implemented.

Increased withdrawals from the reserve fund balance will be used as the library system works toward its 2014 sustainable service model, its goal “to keep libraries open as many hours as possible and deliver quality library service while striving for efficiencies to keep library costs minimal,” library director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam wrote in her executive statement.

All that, at least for the time being, means no reduced hours of service or branch closings.

The budget is expected to be approved by the library’s Board of Trustees at its June meeting before being passed along to Gwinnett County officials.

“We’ve planned for the worst and hoped for the best,” Saxton said. “And by doing that kind of solid planning, it allows us to maintain a certain level of performance where we are today, and hopefully we can get through the next few years.”