Siskiyou County faces shortfall, may close libraries

Facing a $3.7 million shortfall, Northern California's Siskiyou County next week will consider closing its libraries and slicing budgets across the board, resulting in possible layoffs of 50 employees.

Administrative Officer Brian McDermott on Tuesday will recommend that the County Board of Supervisors trim $716,330 from the budget by closing the Yreka main library and 10 other libraries for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"There could very well be a public outcry (about libraries)," McDermott said. "I'm in charge of bringing in a balanced budget. €… My idea is to (cut) non-mandated services."

McDermott said he also will propose elimination of the county museum, two farm offices and the county's contribution to county fire service. The fire service, he noted, gets most of its revenues from property taxes.

These cuts would trim a total of $863,000 from the budget. The rest — almost $3 million — would be recovered in across-the-board cuts to general fund-supported departments without "crippling" such essential services as the sheriff's department, jail, juvenile hall and probation, he said.

The cuts would come in an equal percentage from all departments, said board chairwoman Marcia Armstrong.

The drastic shortfall, she added, comes from "a perfect storm of state reductions in revenues to counties, increased salary expenses from union agreements" and the economy.

Nancy O'Connor of the Siskiyou County Friends of the Library assailed the proposed action, saying McDermott and the board could develop new revenue sources, reduce department head salaries and slim the sheriff's department, but "they're just cutting."

The proposed cuts are preliminary and could be changed, said McDermott.

— John Darling, for the Mail Tribune

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