Kern County libraries got a green wave of support Monday when Kern County supervisors asked the public what it thought of the county’s proposed 2008-2009 budget.
A large group from a coalition of churches called Faith in Action came to the meeting in lime-green T-shirts to lobby for protecting libraries. Many of them spoke against the budget’s recommended cuts to library funding, which would reduce hours at most of the county libraries 16 percent and force sharp reductions in staff and money for resources.
Amy Green said her 23-year-old daughter is a success in life largely because she had the resources of the Kern County library systems.
“I attribute the training — the stories that were told, the books I was able to get at no cost — to her love of reading,” Green said.
Supervisors will take up the county’s annual budget, and debate issues such as the proposed library cuts at 9 a.m. today at the county administrative building, 1115 Truxtun Ave.
PAINFUL CUTS AHEAD
The county will have $11 million less to spend than it did last year.
Libraries, parks and social services will all offer less service to the public under the proposed budget. The fire and sheriff’s departments will have to do without equipment they’d prefer to buy now. And seven of the county’s nearly 9,000 employees will be laid off.
The biggest financial problems may still be on the horizon because legislators are at a standstill on the state budget.
There is talk that the state will balance its budget by seizing local government revenue. According to Kern County legislative analyst Allan Krauter, that could cost the county an additional $33.85 million. It also could kill another $11.2 million in funding for the widening of 7th Standard Road.
It will also force a tough decision over a bond that would fund more jail beds at Lerdo Jail. The county has tentatively received a $100 million state grant from AB900 to build a new jail building at Lerdo.
But supervisors will have to decide if that money is worth what it will cost the county.
“In order to get the $100 million you have to provide just over $40 million and pay for ongoing operation costs,”
Supervisor Michael Rubio said Monday night.
The cost of debt service on the bond and the staff costs of the jail could create an annual drain on the county budget of $9.3 million a year, according to county estimates.