Library in snow

The Athens-Limestone Public Library.

The Limestone County Commission will approve its fiscal year 2019-2020 budget Monday, which will include appropriation requests for departments and local agencies.

One agency hoping the commission will honor its full request is the Athens-Limestone County Public Library. Library officials spoke to commissioners during budget hearings in July, but officials on Wednesday sought to reiterate the importance of the facility to the growing community.

At Wednesday's work session, Frank McCollum, treasurer of the library's foundation board, said every dollar not received by the county would mean an equal amount of funding lost by the state. He also told commissioners that when the county's population surpasses 100,000 people, which could happen with the next census count, the library would have to hire additional staff to accommodate a growing patronage.

McCollum said the library had been level-funded by the commission for 10 years. The library is seeking $135,000 from the commission. It currently receives $80,000.

In comparing the Athens-Limestone County Public Library to libraries in Lauderdale and Cullman counties, McCollum said the local library ranks last in terms of county funding.

“We're substantially larger than Cullman County,” McCollum told commissioners. “We're growing rapidly, and they're not.”

District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison, who serves on the library's foundation board, explained Lauderdale County Commission provides $100,000 to the public library in Florence and $115,000 to be divided between three libraries in the county.

District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner, who has questioned library officials previously about their sources of funding, raised similar questions Wednesday. One of the library's primary source of revenue stems from the Southard Trust, and Turner asked library officials how much money is in the trust. They did not have an answer at the work session.

McCollum explained the trust is invested in three different ways but told Turner it is “a substantial amount of money.”

“The intent has been to never draw from the principle, but we do draw from it,” McCollum said.

He explained the library still owes $480,000 on a line of credit to turn the shuttered Kroger on South Jefferson Street into the new public library.

The commission will meet 10 a.m. Monday on the second floor of the Clinton Street courthouse annex.

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