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Tight city budget limits programs
For city resident Nancy Bowens, the Brunswick-Glynn County Library is a place to relax.

She takes her children to the library where they use the computers and peruse shelves of books after school.

But on some days, like Monday, the facility closes at 5 p.m. Bowens wishes the library was open longer, like it is on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the doors are locked at 8 p.m.

Budget cuts have forced the library to revamp its schedule and discontinue some programs.

The city is one revenue source that has pulled away. During the days when the economy was healthy, the city provided as much as $60,000 annually to the facility in the heart of downtown Brunswick.

There's hardly any chance the city commission will consider restoring funding when it approves a millage rate at its regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. today at old City Hall on Gloucester Street.

Commissioners said they want to pass a budget without raising taxes, and they intend to keep to that plan when adopting the millage rate for the next fiscal year, which began July 1.

But some say the tight budget is costing the city in other areas, like the public library.

"It's really a shame because a lot of city residents use the library," said Lori Lasson, manager of the library. "I know (the city) understands, but we've done so much on a shoestring budget. It's frustrating."

The library is a vital part of the community. Losing funding hurts people from all walks of life who benefit from library services, Lasson said.

"(The library) is really helping people and giving them opportunities... like using computers to apply for jobs," Lasson said. "It's just so uncertain, and I hope better times are ahead for the city."

The library is not the only program feeling the impact of a stingy commission this year.

That bothers City Commissioner Johnny Cason, who has long been concerned with the maintenance of parks and squares, valuable assets to the city which he says are suffering because of a bare-bones budget.

Cason supports keeping the promise of not raising taxes but adds that the whole city has to be taken care of -- and that means scrutinizing the budget for money that can be used to supplement other departments.

"There are certain areas in the city that we can't afford to allow to be unalluring," Cason said. "I know we've allocated our (workers) to other things, and we're going to get it done, but it's going to take patience."

City Manager Bill Weeks said departments did not cut already reduced staffing and hours. That meant cuts had to be made in other areas to satisfy the goal of not raising taxes.

"It's a balancing act. We pared where we could," he said.

Weeks said the outcome of negotiations with the county over the redivision of the 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax, where millions of dollars are at stake, and the savings the city will realize by contracting sanitation services are unknowns in the city's budget future.

"I have no idea how it will turn out," Weeks said.

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