Library trustee Heselton urges colleagues to be aggressive in seeking funds 'You have to go out and fight'

April 18, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Harford's library system, already forced to reduce hours and services, would resort to more of the same if county lawmakers cut spending, library officials say.

The newest trustee, County Council member Susan Heselton, advised fellow trustees to assume a get-tough attitude when they go before the County Council in budget hearings this week.

"You're nickel and diming yourself to death here," Mrs. Heselton said Thursday as the trustees agonized over how they might borrow from one fund to cover another with the county executive's proposed $4.2 million appropriation for fiscal 1994.

The trustees reluctantly approved the 1994 budget, 4-2, which includes no increase in the books and materials budget for the second straight year and no money for increases in workers necessary to resume former hours of operation.

The council must approve the county executive's budget by the end of May. It cannot add to the library's share of the pie, but they can take from it to enhance that of the Board of Education.

When trustees meet with the council Thursday to discuss the line-by-line budget, they should take more than a defensive tact, Mrs. Heselton says. She urged other trustees to take to the council records showing how services, hours and supplies have diminished over the years as a result of insufficient funding.

"You have to go out and fight for what you need," said Mrs. Heselton, the board's nonvoting member and liaison to the County Council, which reviews each department's budget in individual sessions before voting on the total county package.

"We're definitely worse off than we were five years ago," said Irene Padilla, interim director of the library.

She said the county appropriation represents a $518,426 increase over fiscal '93, but that only $100,000 of that is "new money." The budget also includes $219,625 to accommodate a 6.5 percent raise in salaries proposed for all county workers; $183,801 for Social Security benefits no longer covered by the state, and $15,000 the county executive promised this year to keep the Highland branch open for one more year.

The library had requested $425,715 for books and $671,836 for personnel and services "to bring the library service back to where it was in fiscal '92," Ms. Padilla said.

The library has reduced its operating hours by more than 50 a week at major branches in the last two years. In addition, books have been reduced from 17.4 percent of the budget in fiscal '92 to 14.2 percent today.

The $100,000 in new money will hardly cover additional expenses in the next year, Ms. Padilla said. The library anticipates spending $90,000 for telecommunications costs for a newly installed electronic system, $52,515 in new health plan costs, and a $10,000 increase in gas and electric costs.

"We've barely been able to handle the basic services of keeping the buildings open, not to mention the staggering increases in health care costs," she said.

Ms. Padilla said the library's state aid, too, has been reduced -- from $669,363 to $648,904.

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