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Charlotte Area

3 Meck commissioners ask city, towns for library life-line

Funding for public libraries is Mecklenburg County's responsibility, but three county commissioners are pressing the City of Charlotte to pitch in anyway. The topic is sure to come up at a public hearing slated to begin tonight at 6 p.m. Public libraries are facing budget cuts that could mean closing more than a dozen branches. Library officials say they need an extra $8 million to keep basic services going for the next year. Mecklenburg County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts and two of her at-large colleagues are turning to the City of Charlotte for a library life-line. "We're looking at it as giving the library system a year to explore a lot of alternatives to really build a new business plan so they can be sustainable in the long-run," says Roberts. She's asking Charlotte to put up $2 million and the towns in Mecklenburg County to find $1 million between them. The other $5 million would come out of the county budget, says Roberts. But only if the public library system makes a serious effort to restructure, consolidate and find new funding sources. Roberts says making the library a county department is one option that would eliminate the need for separate administrative services like HR. But with the county already $81 million short in next year's budget, where will the extra five million for libraries come from? Roberts says she's still working on that. The county commission will take public comment on their full budget plan tonight at 6 p.m. in the Government Center.