Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library System Hit by Major Budget Crisis

Librarians and library patrons across North Carolina have no doubt been stunned by developments in Mecklenburg County this past week, where for a few days it appeared that a huge budget gap would necessitate the closing of half of the County’s public library branches.

The library’s problems originated with a $34.6 million dollar shortfall in Mecklenburg County’s budget for FY 2009-10.  As a consequence, departments throughout Mecklenburg County government were asked to reduce their budgets and the Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County had to find $2 million in reductions. 

Faced with only grim alternatives, on March 18th Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s board of trustees voted to close twelve of the system’s twenty-four branches effective April 3rd.  Under this proposal, 148 staff would also have been laid off.   

However, following a sustained public outcry — including a fund-raising effort which has now reached almost $250,000 — on Wednesday of this week the trustees rescinded the decision to close the branches.  Instead, they decided to reduce staff salaries 5-20%, lay off fewer staff (82-84), and reduce hours/days of operation and services.  The new hours take effect April 5th. 

The latest plan is nonetheless hardly cause to breathe a sigh of relief, and projections for next year’s budget for Charlotte-Mecklenburg continue to be dire.  According to this article, “the real pain” is coming in the budget for 2010-11 when county officials face the possibility of close to $100 million in cuts to the current $1.4 billion dollar county budget.  As many as 500 county staff may lose their jobs.

Charlotte-Meck’s library system is not the only one in North Carolina with budget woes.  For example, Wake County may have to close their Southeast Regional branch in Garner in order to close a $1.2 budget gap next year.

According to this New York Times article, state and local governments across the country cut 45,000 jobs during January and February, and more layoffs are expected as these governments begin to plan their budgets for the next fiscal year.  

Times are simply tough all around.  And libraries are no exception.

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One Response

  1. […] in March we heard of the dire situation for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library (NC), which had to lay off staff, reduce hours and cut salaries just to get through FY 2009-10.  They now face the prospect of a 45.5% reduction for FY 2010-11 which would necessitate […]

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