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Library System Gets $500,000 Boost

While cutting elsewhere, San Bernardino County supervisors approve the one-time book-buying binge to restock shelves after several lean years.

September 24, 2003|Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writer

While cutting several county jobs in response to the state budget crisis, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to spend $500,000 on books to boost a library system that has suffered years of reductions.

The supervisors said they approved the one-time allocation for acquisitions despite difficult financial times because the county library system's problems have become dire. The library's book budget has been slashed by more than 40% over the last three years and was expected to suffer more reductions under the state's latest budget.

Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, who championed a budget increase for the library, had originally recommended $924,000 for the library but agreed to the lower amount after negotiating with his board colleagues.

"It will still keep us below [the funding level] of a dozen years ago, but it's a step in the right direction," he said.

After the meeting, county Librarian Ed Kieczykowski said he had hoped to get the higher budget increase, but "half a million dollars is nothing to sneeze at."

Over the last few years, the budget cuts to Kieczykowski's libraries have forced librarians and volunteers to fill numerous gaps in the library shelves with stuffed animals and books that had been propped open. The number of magazine subscriptions has been cut by a third, and most reference books are 3 to 5 years old. The budget allows the librarian at the branch in the tiny desert community of Trona to buy three books a year.

Kieczykowski said the $500,000 infusion is enough to buy about 30,000 books, which will be spread among the county's 29 branches, based on the number of patrons.

While the additional money provides temporary relief, it does little to solve the library's long-term budget problems.

San Bernardino County is one of the few in Southern California that does not charge developers a fee to help schools and libraries accommodate the population growth, Kieczykowski said.

County Administrator Wally Hill said the idea of imposing developer "impact" fees has not been raised since he took office five months ago. Still, he said the Board of Supervisors may consider such a fee in the next few months as it studies the county's five-year budget forecast.

The library's budget problems were discussed Tuesday as the board struggled to cut spending to absorb the revenue reductions imposed by the state. Before the state budget was adopted, the county had cut 218 positions, including about 100 workers, in anticipation of cutbacks due to the state crisis.

But Hill said that based on the final state budget, the board must make even more cuts. In response, the board voted to cut 10 additional positions and use $30 million in reserve funds to balance its budget.

In another debate Tuesday, the board was divided on a proposal to increase planning fees charged to developers and builders. Supervisors Gerald "Jerry" Eaves and Paul Biane proposed increasing the fees to recoup the county's cost of providing planning services to developers. The county now subsidizes that cost by about $207,000 per year, according to county staff.

But the proposal was blocked by board members, Dennis Hansberger, Bill Postmus and Fred Aguiar, who worried that the higher fees would deter construction or increase housing prices.

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