County budget cuts could force Carroll's library board to delay plans for continued growth, at a time when book circulation is up 10 percent over last year.

However, board members have decided to request what they say they need in the operating budget for fiscal 1992 -- which begins July 1 -- and make cuts after the commissioners tell them how much money is available.

"When we know what we are going to get, then we can prioritize," said new board member Scott W. Markle, adding that county officials would probably cut the proposals anyway.

Board member Eugenia Gartrell agreed.

"I don't see how we can make choices," she said. "I think the commissioners feel that what they have given us we have used responsibly."

Library Director Martha M. Makosky told trustees Wednesday night that the county expects a $2.5 million deficit this year and has asked all departments and agencies to curtail excess spending.

"We can slow down the replacement of people and look at our travel budget," she said. "Next fiscal year is the real problem."

Budget Director Steven D. Powell has asked county agencies to submit next year's operating budgets with the same totals as fiscal 1991.

The budget for fiscal 1991 was $4.09 million.

Salaries are not included in the cutbacks, Makosky said.

Makosky noted that even if library services don't increase, board members will have to make cuts in the budget because inflation has increased the cost of most materials.

However, she added that trustees may submit a budget addendum for things the library really needs.

Items in the additional request will include $85,000 for the Union Bridge mini-branch, $70,000 for one month's operation of the Mount Airy branch -- scheduled to open in June 1992 -- and $90,000 for rent for the headquarters, Makosky said.

"We have to pay the rent, and we're obligated to Mount Airy," Makosky said.

Makosky said she also hoped to receive an increase in the book budget, since purchase prices have risen about 15 percent.

"We always get statements from our suppliers, since Steve (Powell) can't believe costs go up that much," she said.

Although board members said the Union Bridge branch was probably a lower priority, the community has responded enthusiastically to the increase in library services.

"I think we have to be prepared to offer something else, like a second bookmobile stop, if (the Union Bridge branch) doesn't go through," said board President Nancy Zeleski.

Circulation system-wide for this year is up 10 percent over last year's figures, and October 1990 was up 19.9 percent over last October, said Assistant Director Gail Griffith.

These numbers represent a turnaround after circulation declines at the Westminster and Eldersburg branches -- the system's busiest -- over the summer and through September, she said.

Library workers used merchandising courses and book and holiday displays to boost circulation, Griffith said.

"We don't know if any one of these things is the thing that turned the circulation around," she said. "But we agreed that these were good things to do, regardless."

The library's operating budget, due to the county by Dec. 28, will be approved by the trustees at their Dec. 19 meeting.

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