By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Addressing a full house last week at an emergency “Save the Library” meeting of the Friends of the Dade County Public Library, Cherokee Regional Director Lecia Eubanks gave an accounting of what happens to county tax dollars sent to the regional office on behalf of the library: Except for a $17,000 regional participation fee, she said, Dade dollars stay at Dade’s library.
Ms. Eubanks spoke to a friendly crowd of 30-plus gathered in the newly renovated permanent library building on the town square, many of whom themselves spoke passionately on the importance of saving Dade’s library, now threatened with extinction by the board of education’s proposal to withdraw all funding. But she addressed matters that attendees said might be issues for the larger community.
First, she said, the $17,000 pays for Dade’s portion of Cherokee Regional’s shared operations, including administration, yearly audit and personnel to the tune of a bookkeeper, technical services person and cataloguer. “It operates like central office does at the board of education,” said Ms. Eubanks.
Participation fees per library – there are four in the system – vary from library to library according to the size of their operation. With the downsizing that began July 1, though, that will equalize somewhat as each library now operates for only 30 hours a week.
Of Dade’s $17,000, $4,000 goes as a supplement to Ms. Eubanks’ salary. Besides the supplement, which is paid by each of the libraries, Ms. Eubanks like other system librarians is compensated by the state according to the same pay scale as Georgia schoolteachers, based on education level and years of service. The supplement is meant to remunerate her for the extra responsibility of administering the four libraries.
Ms. Eubanks confirmed at Monday night’s public hearing that that salary was $74,899 augmented by the supplements to $90,089. The confirmation was in response to the one anti-library speaker at Monday’s two public hearings, Ann Brown, whose main beef seemed to be a perception the library director makes too much money.
Ms. Eubanks said the library’s administrative personnel had been progressively shaved through the years until now her office was left with zero support staff. “I’m telling you, we are bare bones in that office,” she said.
Besides the $17,000 participation fee, said Ms. Eubanks, Dade’s library dollars from the three taxing authorities that have historically supported it – county, city of Trenton and board of education – are required to stay in Dade.
Ms. Eubanks clarified, too, that though Georgia considers all contributions from regional taxing authorities together in determining the level of “maintenance of effort,” the local funding without which the system does not qualify for state support, that does not affect the strict budget process that keeps Dade dollars in Dade’s library.
During this economic downturn, when budget cuts are rife, Georgia has come up with a maintenance of effort waiver, said Ms. Eubanks. This allows for cuts like the one that came from Dade County, which downsized its contribution to the library in equal share with other departments. “You didn’t hear us scream and holler about that,” she said.
But lessening support all the way to zero, she said, sends the state the message that the community does not put that high a priority on its library. “We’re not going to get a waiver if the board of education cuts us 100 percent,” said Ms. Eubanks.