0

Georgia Archives way underfunded

Georgia Archives supporters protest outside the state Capital in Atlanta Jan. 14 to convince legislators to restore full funding for the archives. Gov. Nathan Deal is recommending a budget allocation of $4.38 million for the archives in 2014.

Georgia Archives supporters protest outside the state Capital in Atlanta Jan. 14 to convince legislators to restore full funding for the archives. Gov. Nathan Deal is recommending a budget allocation of $4.38 million for the archives in 2014.

— The Georgia Archives apparently doesn’t have enough money to hire someone to answer the telephone.

Anyone who calls the archives is met by a recorded message telling them what to do.

If it is a state legislator, state employee or local government representative calling, they are instructed to leave a voice mail and wait for a call back. However, members of the general public are told to check the archives website or visit the facility in person.

“We regret our current staffing level does not allow us to accept general reference questions by telephone,” the recorded message states.

As the archives’ expected move from the Secretary of State’s Office to the University System of Georgia looms, the funding situation for the embattled agency is coming into focus.

Gov. Nathan Deal has set aside $4.38 million for the Georgia Archives in his proposed fiscal year 2014 state budget.

The budget items called for the “transfer of the archives and records program and 10 positions from the Secretary of State.” That would allow the archives to restore five positions it lost last fall during a public funding battle that threatened public access to the archives.

“The purpose of this appropriation is to maintain the state’s archives, document and interpret the history of the Georgia State Capitol building and assist state agencies with adequately documenting their activities, administering their records management programs, scheduling their records and transferring their non-current records to the State Records Center,” the budget states.

The archives was originally budgeted to receive $4.97 million during the current fiscal year, but a mid-year $607,626 budget cut reduced that amount to $4.36 million. Secretary of State Brian Kemp originally wanted to cut the archives funding by even more money, but Deal stopped him after a public outcry from genealogists and historians across the state.

The proposed funding would mark a funding increase of $25,165 for the archives when it moves to the university system.

The archives has seen its operations cut repeatedly in recent years because of budget cuts.

In 2008, the archives was open 43 hours a week and had 517,817 scanned documents and images available to the public on its website. The number of scanned documents has increased each subsequent years, while the number of hours the archives was open went down.

In 2010, the archives was open 26 hours a week and had 891,612 scanned documents and images available on the Internet. In 2011, it dropped to 17 hours a week and the number of scanned documents jumped to 1.4 million.

The budget for the archives also dropped from $5.6 million in 2010.