Union Daily Times

Fund library satellite locations

Dear County Council,

When I learned that, after two readings of the budget ordinance, the county would not be funding the library satellite locations, I was surprised and a little disappointed. I felt it was my duty as library board chair to plead that you amend the budget to allow us to serve the entire county. We would be devastated to be opening a new facility while having to decrease services county-wide due to lack of county support.

I am proud to be a Union native. I grew up here, retired here, and it’s where my family is from. The library has always played an important role in my life and been a key to my success and the health and well-being of my family. I have many fond memories involving the library, as do many of the other library board members, who have dedicated their time and resources to seeing the library be successful.

I am proud of the library, both as a representation of what is so special about Union, and also for how it continues to grow and serve the community. The library plays a crucial role in economic development — facilitating connections between businesses and individuals, providing support to families, and supporting education. If recent years, the library had expanded partnerships, providing support for nearly every summer program in Union in addition to providing the largest summer program in the county. The library works with First Steps, the school district, adult education, Spartanburg Community College and USC Union — ensuring that every step of the way, from birth to adulthood, Union’s residents have the tools to be successful. Near to my heart is the work the library does and the resources it provides to support seniors in partnership with the Council on Aging.

In fact, the library is the only county funded agency serving seniors or providing free programs for children and families.

I asked for input for talking points to present to each of you concerning funding for the Union County Library System. The following are some of the comments that I received:

• It has been at least 15 years since the library has received an increase in operating funds (money) from the county. Without an increase in funding, we cannot maintain our satellite, which have received tremendous public support, as was evident from the turnout at our budget request presentation and in the form of community petitions.

• Our current funding level is the 7th lowest per capita out of 42 systems statewide. This puts us in the bottom 14 percent.

• The library secures more than $100,000 every year in additional funding to support library programs. This funding equals revenue for the county. This money does not cover staff’s salaries and benefits and is a one-time funding which is tied directly to the specific programs.

We know that things have changed in Union. Expenses have increased for county offices, EMS, and state benefits. And the Union County Council has done an excellent job addressing these changes. For example, the 1 cent sales tax increase produced more than 1 million dollars for the county and the 6 and a half mill increase must have produced about $400,000. This was needed to fund the $800,000 EMS bill. Good job!

We have repeatedly heard how the county wants to improve the quality of life of its residents. We ask that you do this by supporting the library. We can help stop the downward spiral of illiteracy and poverty in Union and help support our children and families, because supporting and retaining families is the key to seek this county grow.

There are more than 30 revenue resources available to the county, such as economic development, hospitality and accommodation, and fees, etc. Surely one of these can support the library. For instance, council recently approved $20,000 from economic development funds to support 29 hours of training for up to 20 at-risk youth; however, this could have been strategically used to hire a staff person at the library to providing ongoing training rather than funding one short-term program. Another option would be to contract non-league recreational programs with the library, which would allow the library to reopen the now close rec facility.

Yes, we do appreciate all that you have done for us, such as the use of 2 vehicles, inmate labor to move our books and lawn care services the past, as well as the construction loan, which will be paid back to the county. And yes we too are only trying to help improve the quality of life in Union County.

We respectfully ask the county council for an increase of 1 mil in funding for the Union County Library System.

We also respectfully ask engaged citizens of Union County to contact their respective council members and ask them to fund the satellite locations.

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By William Rochester

Contributing Columnist

William Rochester is Chairman of the Union County Library System.