Gwinnett libraries request $6.7M budget increase next year

The new Norcross branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library offers 40 computer stations, study rooms, learning labs and a game room. (Tyler Wilkins / tyler.wilkins@ajc.com)

Credit: Tyler Wilkins

Credit: Tyler Wilkins

The new Norcross branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library offers 40 computer stations, study rooms, learning labs and a game room. (Tyler Wilkins / tyler.wilkins@ajc.com)

The Gwinnett County Public Library system last week requested an additional $6.7 million from the county for next year’s budget, warning the library could exhaust reserve funds next year if at least half of that increase is not granted.

Agencies funded by the county’s community services department faced a June 3 deadline to submit budget requests for next year. The library system requested about $26 million, documents show.

Costs are spiking for books, database services and utilities, Executive Director Charles Pace said, adding the county did not provide the increased funding necessary to bring library employees to a minimum wage of $15 per hour, which the library board decided to fund with reserves.

“We felt we had no choice,” Pace said, citing the tight labor market. “We just won’t have any workers if we don’t pay a livable wage.”

The library system is a creation of the state but more than 85% of its funding comes from the county. It has 15 branches, 223 full-time employees and 67 part-time workers.

The system had about $4 million in reserves not designated for emergencies, but without increased funding that money will be exhausted at some point next year, Pace said. If that happens, libraries would have to reduce staffing and operating hours, he said.

“I’m just letting out a warning that this is on the horizon,” he said.

About $3.4 million of the library system’s request would go to sustain this year’s raises.

The library will orally present the request in August to the board of commissioners. Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson will release a preliminary budget in November and the commission will vote on it in early January.

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