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Charlotte Area News

Library asks the city and Meck towns to chip in money

Charlotte Mecklenburg library officials are looking for a few new donors. They're asking the City of Charlotte and all the towns in Mecklenburg County to help offset the money they may lose from the county next year. Over the past month and a half, the libraries have had plenty of first-time donors. Kids have handed over their money from lemonade and cupcake sales and plenty of $20 bills have come in. But library officials are looking for some deeper pockets and they're hoping the City of Charlotte and all the county's towns will chip in to help make up for cuts from the county that could total $17 million. Library Chair Robin Branstrom acknowledges it's an unusual step since the county provides nearly all the library's funding. "Well, we're just looking under every rock to try come up with enough funds to make this work," says Branstrom. "The municipalities have been receiving a 100 percent funding from the public libraries and the reality is we just can't afford that any more... In other words, Mint Hill, Matthews, Davidson, we have not been receiving any direct funding from those townships, municipalities." Branstrom says if the library loses half its budget next year, it will need $8 million to avoid closing all but three branches. Otherwise, she says the library board will likely decide to close sixteen of its smaller community branches. Four of those are in the towns of Davidson, Cornelius, Mint Hill and Matthews. "If the county could make up the $8 million that would be great, but if they can't we're going to need to have the funding come from somewhere," says Branstrom. "If we don't get it from the county or the city, we don't have any other revenue streams so our only option is to close branches." Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte says he's open to the idea of helping out the library system, but it would be extremely difficult to find the extra money. "You know it's a tough one because the libraries are absolutely critical to all of our communities, but there are so many needs," says Tarte. "And for the municipalities it's kind of a double whammy in that all of our residents are already paying taxes to the county to provide the library services." Tarte also points out Cornelius residents donated the land to the library and the town helped raised the money to build it. The towns and the City of Charlotte will have to decide quickly if they're going to give, since budgets are due July 1.