The $25.6 billion state budget proposal awaiting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature eliminates funding that local libraries rely upon to buy books, pay the Internet bill and upgrade computers.
“It will impact us. It will hurt, especially small, rural libraries (that) don’t have much of a budget at all,” Larie Myers, associate library director for Ascension Parish, said Monday.
Urban library systems will better absorb the funding loss because they draw property tax dollars from well-populated areas.
Patricia Husband, co-director of the East Baton Rouge Parish library system, said the city’s libraries use state dollars to buy books.
“It’s not a major source of income ... It’s not going to interrupt our services,” she said.
Myers said her library system will have to edit its budget.
She said the funding elimination will affect the purchases of computers and databases.
“We’ll have to make some adjustments,” Myers said.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Jindal excluded $896,000 in state aid to public libraries when he presented the Legislature his proposed state spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in July. After being alerted to the problem, legislators failed to scrape together dollars for libraries during the regular session.
Libraries across the state traditionally get the money every year to buy materials and enhance technology. For rural libraries, with small revenue bases, the aid ensures they can provide the Internet and the latest books to patrons.
“It’s a huge blow to every public library in the state,” Dardenne said.
He said libraries will have to find alternative revenue sources or discontinue expenses such as Internet service.
The governor’s spokesman, Kyle Plotkin, referred questions about the lack of funding for libraries to the Division of Administration.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor’s chief budget aide, said in a prepared statement that the state lacks the funding for the libraries in the upcoming budget year.
“In tight budget times, we prioritized funding for health care and education. Operations such as local libraries can be supported with local, not state dollars,” Rainwater said in a prepared statement.
Mary Lindsey, director of Audubon Regional Library in East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes, unsuccessfully pleaded with legislators during the session to put the money into a state operating budget that also funds roads, hospitals and colleges.
“That is a great deal of our book and technology money,” Lindsey said Monday.
She said her libraries received $23,000 from the state in the current fiscal year. She said the money helps buy books and computers.
With more state services moving to the Internet, Lindsey said it is essential her libraries offer computer to allow patrons to access benefits such as welfare.
Money issues hampered the state budget writing process this year.
Even though Jindal insists the state’s economy is faring well, economists agree Louisiana still is feeling the effects of the national recession. State revenue collections are not meeting targets.
Jindal proposed a budget that relied on property sales, legal settlements and other nonrecurring revenue sources to fill the gaps in money needed to keep state government services at their current level.
The patchwork approach to the budget now is on his desk, awaiting his signature.
For Lindsey, the lack of funding is just one more headache. She said she already is grappling with shrinking library space because of escalating rent and a computer server that needs to be replaced.
“We’ll do what we can with what we have, but it’s not a good situation,” Lindsey said.