At what price ignorance?

by Brian Clarey

Cutting a budget is like pulling out a tooth: it’s gonna hurt, no matter how badly the extraction needs to be performed.

New-ish Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young made a reasonable case after he crunched the numbers in a shrinking city budget and came up with a few nice cuts — like a freeze on pay raises, which is pretty much the rule of the day in the private sector; a raise in parking rates that, frankly, is long overdue; an elimination of funding for school crossing guards, which should rightly be the province of the county. which funds the school board; some practical reduction in trash and yard-waste pickup; and a sensible limit to bond projects.

And then there are those unkind cuts of the type that need to be made when money is tight but which are regrettable nonetheless, among them hits to the city-owned parks that Greensboroans consider such a contributive factor to our quality of life.

‘Let’s get reaL here: Nobody is goiNg to pay $175 for a Library card.’

But in our eyes, the most egregious slashing, one that strikes close to our hearts, comes as a result of another budget cut, this one at the county level.

There are seven library branches in the Greensboro Library system, available to all city residents but also to anyone who lives Guilford County, which is why the county generally kicks in $1.7 million to the total cost of $8.4 million.

But this year, amid its own slash-and-burn fest, the county says it plans to contribute just over $1 million, a move which Young says will necessitate either the closing of a branch and cessation of plans to build a new one at Lake Jeannette, or another scheme in which families who live outside the city but within the county will pay $175 for access to the facilities.

For one, we object in principle to making libraries prohibitively expensive for anyone. The whole point of a public library is the democratization of knowledge, an idea espoused by no less than steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who funded the establishment of more than 2,500 of them, including the first Greensboro Main Library in 1902.

And let’s get real here: Nobody is going to pay $175 for a library card, no matter how much they love the library. That means the number is meaningless, and the monetary shortfall will still exist.

So tell us, Guilford County Commission: Which flame of knowledge shall we snuff out?

Wealthy industrialists don’t fund libraries anymore — the communities that benefit from them do, a fact that needs to be recognized by the Guilford County Commission.

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