Beltrami Co. Residents Voice Concerns Over Potential Library Budget Cuts
The Beltrami County Board is considering a reported 35% budget cut to the two Kitchigami Regional Libraries that reside within the county, that being the Bemidji and Blackduck Public Libraries. The commissioners recently heard from concerned citizens about this piece of information after the Bemidji Public Library posted about the budget cuts to their Facebook page on August 8th.
Then, on August 16th, Northern Town Hall was packed as those who support the library came to voice said support. They also shared their love for the facilities, as they say it allows a wide range of people to access its resources, something that could be affected by the reported 35% budget cut.
“This kind of a cut will have a huge impact on services that the library can perform. Hours would have to be cut, staff would have to be cut,” said Deb Rossman, Bemidji Public Library Board Vice Chair.
“If Beltrami County stops funding the library and goes back to the minimum maintenance required by the state, what is to stop Cass, Hubbard and Wadena counties as well?” asked Bemidji Public Library Assistant Branch Manager Ara Gallo during the public comment portion of the board meeting.
According to Gallo, Beltrami County Libraries requested a 3% raise to their budget in order to combat inflation. County Commissioner Tim Sumner, who is also on the budget committee, recognized this challenge, stating that rising inflation can be seen virtually everywhere in the county.
“It’s not easy,” said Sumner. “The price of inflation is going up. The cost of food is going up, fuel. But our paychecks are getting thinner and thinner.”
Sumner also added that a opportunity was missed for more communication between the county and the libraries. He urged for people to get both sides of the story to develop a conclusion.
The Beltrami County Board will have a regular meeting on September 6th. However, they will not take formal action on the budget until September 20th, when they will approve a preliminary version.