By Tracy Ihnot, Delta County Independent
Delta County Libraries has administered an adult literacy program in Delta County for nearly 20 years with funds acquired through a federal grant. In June 2017, denial of the 2017-2018 grant application left library district staff in shock.
"The program took a big hit," says Gail Srebnik, the literacy program's administrator. We relied entirely on the grant to compensate eight highly qualified educators as well as covering other program expenses."
The Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFLA) Grant, administered by the Colorado Department of Education, aims to improve and expand adult education and literacy services in Colorado. Historically, the grant covered a vast majority of the budget for Delta County Libraries' adult literacy program.
Most significantly, the library district budget included the annual salary of the literacy program administrator while outside funding sources, including the grant, covered all other program salaries and expenses.
The competitive grant application submitted by the district for fiscal year 2017-18 requested $150,000 and scored high enough to meet funding criteria, despite its denial. Library district staff filed and lost an appeal with the state and then began the inevitable restructuring of the program under severe budgetary constraints.
Srebnik's position as program administrator continues on a part-time basis in the hope of securing alternative sources of funding. Her efforts have resulted in three separate grant awards since June 2017.
El Pomar awarded the district a two-year grant that provides $5,000 each year and the Wish You Well Foundation awarded the district $10,000. Both grants will fund ESL programming and high school equivalency preparation and testing. Vernon School Supplies awarded $1,000 for ESL programming and a small gift certificate for supplies.
"While we are grateful for the support, it is a temporary fix," says Srebnik. "If we are going to continue offering a program to the people of Delta County who need these services, we will need to find other sources of funding in the future."
As of January 2018, two educators resumed teaching ESL classes at the Delta and Hotchkiss locations. The district continues to offer high school equivalency preparation and testing, and an online distance learning option. "We have been accommodating adults seeking high school equivalency diplomas with flexible test scheduling," Srebnik states. "Since June, we have awarded six diplomas."
Srebnik will continue to administrator the program part-time as long as funding remains. "Unfortunately, along with losing the grant, the district is facing other financial challenges," says Lea Hart, district director of Delta County Libraries. "The library district's overall budget is down considerably due to the devaluing of the mill levy increment from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent of property value in Delta County and all of Colorado. It may not seem like much but that percentage translates to an overall 5 percent budget cut for the libraries in 2018. It is just not feasible for the district to absorb the expenses once covered by the grant. However, we are doing everything we can to continue providing these much-needed services in Delta County."
To learn more about Delta County Libraries' literacy program, visit deltalibraries.org/literacy/.