BOE at odds over proposal for more library closure days


POSTED: Friday, September 04, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.

The Board of Education failed to approve the state librarian's proposal yesterday to close libraries an additional two days a month to balance the budget.

The board voted 6-to-5 to pass the proposal, but was short one vote to pass the measure by the 13-member board.

State Librarian Richard Burns made the proposal after the board rejected another plan in July to close specific library branches.

“;We'll have to wait and see what's going on with labor negotiations ... and hope that fundraising takes off,”; said Keith Fujio, state librarian administrator. “;We're going to meet with board leadership in another week to see which direction they want to take.”;

The proposal, which would have furloughed employees two days a month, also included temporary emergency closures of state libraries when there are not enough employees at the branch to operate it.




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“;I have a real problem with the furlough part,”; said board member Maggie Cox, who opposed the proposal. “;This has to be done through the governor and (Hawaii Government Employees Association). You can't implement this anyway, until it's all settled.”;

Karen Knudsen supported the motion.

“;Maybe we can tinker it later, but he (the state librarian) needs direction,”; she said.

The plan would have saved $1.2 million with two-day furloughs and $2.4 million by freezing 72 vacant positions.

The Hawaii State Library System is trying to close a $3.6 million shortage for its 51 state libraries. If nothing is done, the library system will run out of money by May.

Breene Harimoto opposed the plan, saying he found his concern an issue of fairness.

“;The rural areas are taking the brunt of the impact,”; he said. “;Because the rural libraries are small with small staff they are the ones to be closed in this plan.”;

Under a state hiring freeze, the library system cannot replace people retiring; about one-third of employees are in place to retire, Burns said.

The library is also facing a limited budget for temporary employees.

Branches already running on minimum staffing—two staff and one janitor—could close if a temporary employee or someone else cannot be found to cover, he said.

Employees taking time off could lead to libraries closing because there is not enough staff to operate.

The Lahaina library, for instance, will close this month because one staff member is going on vacation.

The funding for temporary hires is already dwindling. Funding for temporary employees fell this year from $1.27 million to $290,000. Already this fiscal year, which ends next June, one-third of that has been spent.

Fujio said funding for temporary employees could run out by the end of this year, forcing the temporary closure of about 31 libraries.





        » The Board of Education is a 14-member board with 13 voting members and one student member. The above story incorrectly states 13 members are on the board. Also, the proposed budget does not take effect immediately, as the article reports, since it did not pass.