The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 8, 2014

Finance committee to study library funding

By Pamela Pritt
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — The Joint Committee on Finance will continue to study the disparity in funding for local libraries, but one area senator said he thinks other groups will work on proposed legislation to keep library doors open and books in readers’ hands.

Sen. William Laird, D-Fayette, said his county funds the library system through an excess levy, but other counties in the state fund their libraries through the board of education.

“We found a real hodgepodge of funding mechanisms,” Laird said. “Lack of consistency is one thing I noted as being a problem.”

Laird said libraries are important to state communities and a stable funding source is a must.

Although he recognizes the need for more funding for libraries where local residents check out books, movies and have access to high-speed Internet, Laird said the current economic climate will not allow for increased taxes or fees. Instead, he said, the proposed legislation would likely “stimulate fundraising efforts.”

The joint committee will recommend pay raises for civilian employees of the West Virginia State Police, and also funding for expansion of Medicaid’s Aged and Disabled Waiver “in an effort to provide additional services to the state’s elderly and disabled populations.”

Subcommittees explored the financial solvency of the state’s volunteer fire departments, maintaining State Parks and the financial status of local health departments. The joint committee will recommend legislation granting the State Fire Marshal authority to continue the study on fire departments and continue the study of state parks during interim sessions later this year. It will continue to monitor the fiscal status of health departments through audits.

The committee recommends cooperation between the legislative and executive branches to examine the impacts of federal shutdowns on state government, including the possibility of authorizing furloughs or layoffs of state employees under emergency fiscal conditions.

It went on to recommend that in light of “anticipated budgetary shortfalls,” the “Legislature affirm its constitutional responsibility to retain discretion in any circumstance over the use of the state’s reserves and any surplus revenues” and spend those funds where the state's citizens dictate the need.