Henry County has added $115,000 to the budget of its library system to avoid losing thousands in matching state funds. PHOTO: HENRY COUNTY GOVERNMENT.

Metro Atlanta county spends thousands to restore library funding

Henry County has restored thousands of dollars to the budget for its libraries after fears the system could be cut off from needed state funding.

The Henry Commission amended its fiscal 2019 budget to add $115,000 to the county’s libraries to comply with state regulations that require libraries be funded at the same or greater level than the year before to receive state and federal enhancement funds.

For Henry, failure to meet the standard would have resulted in the loss of almost $3 million in state and federal funds, said Kathy Pillatzki, director Henry Library System Director. The library system includes five branches and had 279,000 visitors in 2018. The Library System did not provide its overall budget.

The funding restoration comes as library systems across the state and the nation have faced cuts in library hours and staff, or outright closures because of budget shortfalls.

Cobb County last year considered shuttering or combining eight libraries before leaders agreed to implement a tax increase that saved the facilities. Macon proposed shutting down its branches — several closed temporarily — before a millage increase eliminated further threats.

Henry has put last minute money in its library system before. In late 2016, the county transferred $500,000 from the general fund to libraries. That followed a funding increase of $1.8 million from the county in the fiscal 2017 budget so that the system would be adequately funded.

“We are just restoring something that we should have had to begin with and I hope that in the future we will look to not have to do those kinds of cuts,” Henry Commissioner Gary Barham said about the decision.

Pillatzki said the state and federal grants pay for a handful of library positions, STEM, technology replacement and renovation, and software that help students with homework or GED preparation.

Henry County funds about $2.3 million of the library system’s annual budget, Pillatzki said. The state warned Henry it could lose funding after the library system lost its funding while the budgets of comparable county “quality of life” departments such as parks and recreation and senior services increased, she said.

“The only way you can cut library funding is if the cuts are consistent with cuts to other county departments. The state looks at how the board of commissioners is funding other county departments that provide comparable types of services,” she said.

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