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Library will get reduced state funding
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Update, Friday, 11:37 a.m.: The Newton County Library System will get state money this year, though that funding will be 16 percent less than last year.

The library will receive a total of $283,884 from the state, a reduction from the $337,949 it received last year. Library Director Lace Keaton said the county isn't getting any money for new books or materials.

That cut comes on top of an 18 percent reduction in local funding to $916,452, leaving the library system to operate two branches on a $1.79 million budget. The library originally was hoping for a total of about $2.35 million.

The library is not planning to purchase any books or materials this year, Keaton said. Further cuts to hours, personnel or programs will be decided during the course of the next month and throughout the year, she said.

"(Cuts) will probably be a progressive thing. We're evaluating all the options," she said Friday morning. "We're exploring the option of having fundraising events in the community for materials."

The library board of trustees will meet next at 9 a.m., Aug. 4 at the Covington Branch Library.

Original story: Newton County's library's state funding may be safe after all, based on some interesting accounting.

Counties risk losing state funding if they chose to cut libraries to a greater extent than other, similar departments. At first glance, Newton County would appear to be doing just that.

The Newton County Library System received $1.11 million from the county last year, including $300,000 for the new Porter Memorial Branch, but the system will only receive $916,452 in fiscal year 2012, which began July 1. That's an 18 percent cut, one of the largest among departments.

However, Chairman Kathy Morgan said the $300,000 for the Porter branch was a one-time only transfer from the public works department, while the Covington branch received $816,452.

The two branches are combined into a single line item at $916,452 this year, so one could take the view that the library is actually receiving an additional $100,000. If the Georgia Public Library System takes that view, Newton will continue to receive $337,949 of state funding.

The library board of trustees discussed the issues at a called meeting Thursday morning and will wait to hear official word from the state librarian. The state librarian will either say the budget has actually increased, say the 18 percent cut is not disproportionate or say the cut is too great. Under the last option, the county would likely have to revisit the depth of the cut.

In any case, trustees agreed the budget is in bad shape, and they worried the library won't be getting state funding in upcoming years.

The board then entered into executive session to discuss potential personnel cuts in order to operate two branches on a shoestring budget. Officials expect to make a final decision on cuts at the board's regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m., Aug. 4 at the Covington Branch Library.