Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Library faces reduced cuts, waiver application

Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Library faces reduced cuts, waiver application
Community members came to the meeting (Source: WALB)
The chairman spoke to state library officials (Source: WALB)
The chairman spoke to state library officials (Source: WALB)

BEN HILL CO., GA (WALB) - The Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Library is one step closer to avoiding a shutdown in the face of a massive budget deficit.

County commissioners worked with the state librarian to keep funds coming in and adjusted their own budget.

The Ben Hill County Courthouse Annex was standing room only. Many seats were filled by Ben Hill County residents waiting to hear the fate of their library.

"Cuts were made because what we were going through financially," Commissioner Hope Harmon said. "All departments are to be cut."

That's the case, officials said, due to more than $818,000 worth of overspending by the county last year, which puts them in a deficit of $626,000.

"People are acting like $600,000 is $100," a woman said, during a public comment period. "That's not $100 dollars."

But an initial suggested cut of 50 percent, and then 25 percent, in library funding could've proven to be a fatal blow.

State library funds would've been lost if the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Library didn't meet certain funding levels, and initially it didn't.

"She will grant that waiver if we have our budget at this 12.5 percent," Commission Chairman Steve Taylor said, regarding a proposed amendment to the library budget cut.

So, Tuesday, an amendment of that 12.5 percent cut in library funds and support of a maintenance of effort waiver application to keep state funds coming in was approved.

"We're very sympathetic with the situation the county is in," Martha Powers-Jones, the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Library Director, said. "It's an awful budgetary situation. We'd love it if nobody had to be cut."

But that won't be the case. A new county manager will lead the way to get the budget back in order.

"They are willing to do whatever it takes to get us back to the black," County Manager Michael Dinnerman said.

He adds that isn't going to necessarily be easy.

"It's going to take a little time to turn it around," Dinnerman said. "I think with their willingness and some things I bring to the table, I think we can do it."

The library will now have a budget of around $111,000.

A special meeting will have to be called by the city-county library board to submit the maintenance of effort waiver request.

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