Library hours to be cut

Published 12:24 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Hours are being cut at the Carrollton and Smithfield libraries because the Blackwater Regional Library system did not receive its full funding request from Isle of Wight County, according to its Director Jenny Bailey.

Carrollton will close on Fridays and Smithfield will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning July 1.

The library system had requested $662,209 — which included a 4 percent salary increase for library employees. The full amount was included in interim County Administrator Sanford “Sandy” Wanner’s proposed budget, but $11,000 was removed during the final stages of budget negotiations by the Board of Supervisors as one of the cuts made to avoid a 3-cent tax increase. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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Bailey said the library system went ahead and instituted the 4 percent salary increase, which meant operating hours would have to be cut to balance the budget.

Bailey expressed her displeasure with the county’s budget decision in a Letter to the Editor published on page 2 of this week’s Times. In the letter, she wrote:

“According to the contract with Blackwater Regional Library that Isle of Wight County officials signed, the library puts in a fair budget request, and if any of our contracted counties do not meet our request, we have no option but to cut services for that county’s libraries. So, unless the budget gets revised, we’re closing the Carrollton branch on Fridays, and closing Smithfield Wednesday evenings effective July 1.”

The Carrollton and Smithfield libraries were chosen to have its hours cut due to staffing considerations and because Windsor has already lost a day in a prior round of cuts, Bailey said.

The $11,000 was cut because Wanner could not justify giving the library staff a raise when county staff did not get a proposed cost-of-living increase in fiscal 2017, said Isle of Wight County spokesman Don Robertson.

The proposed cost-of-living increase for county employees was in Wanner’s intial proposed budget.

Yet last year, and prior to the fiscal 2017 budget being adopted, all county staffers received a 2 percent pay raise to cover health care cost increases and then two-thirds of the staff received raises based on a salary compensation study — with a median increase of $3,700.

Bailey said library staff has not received raises in years. And so far, member localities Southampton and Surry counties included the raise in its fiscal 2017 contribution, while Sussex County and the city of Franklin have it in its proposed budgets, Bailey said.

The Blackwater Regional Library reduced the hours of its three Isle of Wight libraries in 2013 due to the county cutting its yearly contribution. The contribution is based on each localities percentage of library operations in terms of usage and population. Isle of Wight County represents 47 percent of the system’s operations, according to Bailey.  {/mprestriction}