By Kim West
The Athens-Limestone Public Library is requesting $150,000 apiece from the County Commission and City Council to help cover the cost of purchasing more books and materials and to offset the loss of operating income after diverting $1 million from the Southard Trust to the new library project.
Rod Huffman, chairman of the library board of trustees, said Tuesday the Southard Trust is currently valued at “a little more than $2.7 million.” The endowment began with a $1 million bequest to the library 23 years ago by the late Shelby Southard, and the annual dividends are used to augment the library’s operating budget.
During the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the trust has provided $133,262 toward the library budget of $530,350. In fiscal 2013-14, library officials are predicting $93,992, or nearly $40,000 less from the previous year due to transfers made to the construction fund for the new library being built in the former Kroger’s building on South Jefferson Street.
Huffman said during the public comments portion of Monday’s County Commission meeting that the trust has paid $500,000 toward the new library, and an additional $500,000 is slated for construction costs. The Athens library grew from 10,188 cardholders in the previous fiscal year to 11,900 through June 2013, including 6,655 in the county.
“We’re asking for $150,000 from both the city and the county because the Southard Trust dividends will be down about $40,000,” said Huffman, who estimated a family could “save $50 to $100 in one trip to the library” from checking out books, DVDs and music and attending free programming to using the research resources and public computers.
Debbie Joyner, fundraising consultant for the Athens library, said Tuesday half of the $1 million being transferred from the trust to the construction fund went toward the Phase I exterior work, while the other $500,000 is expected to be transferred in September for interior expenses during Phase II. The new, 38,427-square-foot library could be completed by June 2014, according to project officials.
In the past three years, both the city and county have provided level funding despite being asked for $150,000 each year. During the current budget year, the library received $66,588 from the state, $80,000 from the county, $85,000 from TVA in-lieu-of-tax revenue and $115,000 from the city.
Huffman said during Monday’s meeting that another reason the library is asking for increased funding is to purchase more materials and books.
Library budget records show the library proposed spending $56,682 on books and materials during this fiscal year but adopted an actual expense of $20,000. During fiscal 2013-14, Huffman said the library, which has nine full-time and three part-time employees, hopes to spend $47,500 for these items.
“For an area of our size, we’re supposed to have 170,000 library materials, and we have a little over 73,000,” he said.
Following Monday’s meeting, Library Director Paula Laurita said Alabama Public Library Services has classified the Athens library’s collection size as below state standards based on population for the past 14 years. The APLS is the state office that oversees compliance for public library standards and authorizes state funding.
“We have been able to keep funding because the library board of trustees and foundation board have been actively planning for a new library building (that allows) space for an increased collection,” Laurita said.
Laurita said the local funding per capita for the Athens library is $2.37 with a circulation of 151,431 and 11.2 full-time equivalent employees. By comparison, she said the Cullman library receives $5.38 with a circulation of 124,145 and 14-full time workers.
Limestone County has 87,654 residents, according to a 2012 Census estimate. The current 9,760-square-foot library has been at 405 E. South St. since 1970, and has received at least 80,000 visitors each fiscal year since 2007-08.
Southard Trust library dividends
2013-14: $93,992 (projected)
*difference of $39,270
Major library income from FY 2012-13
• Southard Trust: $133, 262
• Limestone County: $115,000
• TVA in-lieu-of-tax: $85,000
• Athens: $80,000
• State: $66,588
Library fiscal budgets
• 2010-11: $499,706
• 2011-12: $501,931
• 2012-13: $523,850
• 2013-14: $595,205 (projected)