Budget for library cut by $226,000
Hours shortened, jobs lost

COVINGTON - A 20 percent funding cut by Newton County has resulted in reduced hours and employees for the Newton County Library.

The library slashed $226,700 of its county funding to comply with commissioners' requests to help make up for a countywide shortfall. That represents an overall decrease of 14 percent to the library's $1.9 million budget.

As a result, the library will now be closed on Saturdays and reduce hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Effective Monday, new library hours are: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Director Greg Heid said the decision to close Saturday was based on a study that showed it is the least busy day of the week, with an average of 1,124 visitors. Tuesday is the busiest day of the week with an average of 1,815 visitors.

Being closed all weekend is the most effective way to reduce utility costs, Heid said.

Also, library vendors typically deliver on Mondays and Tuesdays, so the library must be opened on those days, he said.

Seven employees have also been terminated, reducing the library's total staff from 31 to 24.

Additional cost-cutting measures include trimming the supply budget by 30 percent and reducing travel and training for employees.

The charge for making copies and printouts has also increased, from 15 cents to 20 cents per page. Color printouts have increased from 75 cents to $1 per page.

The library is also now charging for proctored exams. Students taking university classes online are sometimes required to go to an approved location to be monitored and timed while they are taking exams. The library previously offered this service for free but will now be charging $15 per student per exam, Heid said.

Several fund drives are in the planning stages to raise money for book purchases, which have been low in recent years due to no increased funding from the county, he said.

"I'm very hopeful that it will only be temporary," Heid said of the cutbacks. "There will be a slow recovery. You'll see different services throughout the county coming back to full service again. We're all a team in the county, and we're all responding to the decline in revenue."

The library also gets funding from the state and the Newton County School System.

In order to get state funds, local funding must be maintained at the same or an increased level from year to year. Heid has applied for a waiver of that requirement in hopes the state won't also cut its funding.

The reduction in maintenance and operation costs for the library will not impact construction of a new library planned for Ga. Highway 212, which is being funded through impact fees and the state, Heid said. It will be 2011 before books and material are purchased for that building, he added.

Debbie Manget, director of the Conyers-Rockdale Library System, anticipates that the Newton Library being closed on Saturday will impact the Nancy Guinn Library in Conyers.

"We're assuming our volume of business will increase on Saturdays," she said. "It is especially unfortunate because the library is already operating in half of its normal space due to construction."

A renovation and expansion has reduced the library from 25,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet and about 40 percent of the library's collection is in storage, Manget said.

"It just puts us in a kind of unfortunate position to handle more traffic, but we will strive to do our very best like we always do," she said, adding that a security guard currently on duty in the evenings may be working Saturdays now as well.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.