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Charlotte Area News

Library presents 50% budget cut plans

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library officials presented a handful of scenarios today for dealing with a 50 percent cut in county funds. Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones notified library officials last month that the library would lose $2 million from its current budget. At the same time he told them to prepare for cuts of up to 50 percent beginning in July to help reduce the county's budget shortfall. Libraries Director Charles Brown presented those scenarios to the library board. "This is the time for rethinking everything we do so the community can continue to have a library presence in Mecklenburg County," said Brown. "However, a 50 percent reduction in county funding support will have a significant impact on the community no matter how you slice it." Library officials have come up with what Brown calls three "rough outlines." One would keep all library branches open 1-to-3 days a week. Another scenario would close all the community branches and only keep the library's eight regional libraries open. A third would close a combination of community and regional libraries. No specific branches were attached to that scenario. About 35 library employees came to hear the presentation. At the end of the meeting several were disappointed with the simplicity of the plan. One remarked 'I could've done that at home.' Library board chairman Robin Branstrom acknowledges there's a lot of fine-tuning to do. "We don't want to move too quickly," says Branstrom. "We want to be deliberate and thoughtful. We're making some tough choices so we have to look at it from every possible angle. And we now have a springboard to do that with." The board has hired a consultant to help the library determine different ways to trim its budget. Brown says the board raised private money to pay him, but he didn't immediately know how much. Library officials plan to hold a series of community meetings over the next few weeks to get public feedback.