Proposed budget cut could force changes at Halifax County Libraries

Programs could be cut, fewer books purchased, some positions frozen

SOUTH BOSTON, Va. – Up until Thursday morning, Halifax County Library Director Jay Stephens thought he could lose one of his two libraries.

That's because the county's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year calls for a $10,000 cut to library funding.

Stephens said he was very surprised when he first saw the proposed cut.

"I had submitted my budget request for the upcoming fiscal year and didn't have any idea that there would be a cut of any kind," Stephens said. "I had asked for an increase. I did not know if we would get that."

He thought the $10,000 cut would trigger the loss of more than $125,000 in funds from the Commonwealth and the federal government.

"We get about a quarter of our overall budget from the state. There are certain guidelines in place that your local funding has to stay at a certain level or it will affect your state funding," Stephens explained.

But his worry went away this morning thanks to a phone call.

"We've been told by the Library of Virginia just this morning that it should not have any impact," Stephens said.

Depending on how the county's final budget shakes out, Stephens said even just losing the $10,000 in local funds would likely still cause some programs to be canceled, books and materials to be reduced, and some positions to be frozen.

Halifax County resident Mellvinnal Richardson said not having the libraries would be frustrating.

"This is a small town. To have a library is like having a Walmart. It's great," Richardson said. "For my children, (it's) wonderful. My son is 19. I can drop him off anytime with my daughter. They come here, do whatever they have to do, and I come get them."

If the libraries were to lose the state and federal funding, one of the two libraries would have to be closed and almost all of the libraries' programs would have to be cut, according to Stephens.

JMU student Shadavia Reed said she relies heavily on the libraries to get classwork done, so having one less library to go to and fewer services offered would be stressful.

"Not being able to get (work) done over spring break, I would have to do it before (break). It would be very, very stressful," Reed said. "(Being able to work in the library is) like a stress reliever for me."

Stephens said he has not spoken with Halifax County Administrator Jim Halasz about why a cut to library funding has been proposed.

On Thursday, 10 News reached out to Halasz but was told that he is out of town for the week.

The county's finance director declined to comment Thursday, saying that all questions regarding the budget have to be answered by Halasz.

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