Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
After receiving letters from the community expressing concern with the county’s support of the Macon County Public Library, County Manager Derek Roland presented with commissioners with a break down of how Macon County stacks up in regards to library funding compared to other counties in the Fontana Regional Library network as well as other counties in Western North Carolina.
Macon County Library Director Karen Wallace requested a funding increase from county commissioners during this year’s budget cycle, and when the increase wasn’t granted, Wallace informed commissioners that the library will be reducing operation hours by one hour a day in the evenings. Members of the community shared concerns with commissioners, prompting a comparison being presented at the last board of commissioners meeting.
Macon County houses three libraries, the Macon County Public Library, the Nantahala Library and the Hudson Library located in Highlands. All three libraries are part of the Fontana Regional Library which also manages libraries in Jackson and Swain counties.
Macon County Commissioners allocate $999,390 to the Fontana Regional Library System to help fund the libraries’ operations. In addition to the operational funds allocated to the library system, Macon County spends an additional $343,255 annually in maintenance, loan payments, water, sewer, and electricity bills for the library.
While Macon County provides funding for all three libraries in the county, without a budget increase, the library made the decision to decrease hours at the Macon County Public Library located in Franklin. According to the Macon County Public Library’s 2016-17 budget, total expenditures for the library total $866,650. Of the library’s overall budget, $91,346 are used for operating expenses, $65,300 is spent on collection materials such as new books and electronic resources, and the remaining $710,004 of the library’s overall budget is spend on personnel expenses.
The Macon County Public Library lists $763,500 of county dollars as revenues in their budget, leaving $235,890 in county dollars to be used for funding at the Hudson and Nantahala libraries.
Library funding makes up 2.1 percent of the county’s overall $47,694,248 budget. For operational expenses alone, Macon County spends $29.20 per capita for the library.
In Jackson County, funding to the Fontana Regional Library system’s operation expenses sits at $1,076,622 or 1.6 percent of Jackson County’s overall $66,201,687 budget. Jackson County’s per capita library spending sits at $26.
In Swain County, funding to the library system is $205,000 or 1.2 percent of the county’s overall $17,4000 budget. In Swain County, per capita spending equates to $14.2.
When compared to library funding in Haywood, Madison, Henderson, Buncombe, Wake and Orange counties, the next closest per capita spending compared to Macon County is Henderson County which spends about $26 per person on library funds. Henderson County has an annual budget of $130,287,224 and allocates about 2.2 percent of the budget to the library system.