Library hours can be extended if county tries

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 18, 2013 

The public and Beaufort County's library trustees asked the county to restore library hours after they were cut from 60 to 66 hours a week to 40 hours a week.

County Council set a reasonable goal of 50 hours at the four main branches, but we fumbled due to multiple errors:

The library director provided a cost of $368,000 to go from 40 hours to 51 hours at the four branches. But the Finance Committee used an incorrect figure of $225,000.

The libraries have had to turn back large sums each year to the county reserve fund ($320,000 in fiscal year 2013). The Finance Committee chairman insisted those dollars would be available to fund the extra hours, but they were not.

Council overwhelmingly supported the 50-hour goal and thought they had funded it. But because of those errors, they had not.

This could be repaired in a day, but requires leadership to:

  • Determine the budget needed for 10 extra hours at four branches, without gold plating or adding central office staff.

  • Ensure that the $320,000 returned to the reserve is available for the extra branch hours and not used for other purposes.

  • Provide an independent review of the first two items.

  • As promised by Council Chairman Paul Sommerville, authorize a supplement, if needed, to fill the gap.

    We just spent more than $1 million on Project Robot and the Lowcountry Economic Alliance. We should be able to find money for our libraries.

    Steven M. Baer

    Hilton Head Island

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