Library board to seek restoration of county funding

Published 3:09 pm Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pearl River County library board of directors will ask supervisors at the supervisors’ 9 a.m. Monday meeting to restore $100,000 in budget cuts to the library system, or, library directors will tell the board of supervisors, the library system will face an additional $152,753 in cuts in state library commission personnel grants.

The library board met Tuesday evening at the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library, 900 Goodyear Blvd.

“If the cuts stand, we might have to make drastic decisions in cutting personnel and hours,” board member Martha Stewart told fellow library board members, and board chairman James L. Schrock said, “The library system is not something that is nice to have; it is a necessity, something we have to have.”

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If the supervisors refuse to budge on the request and the state follows through with the personnel cuts, the county library system will be facing $253,000 in wholesale cuts to a proposed new fiscal year budget of $644,000, or right at a 40 percent reduction in revenue.

County library system director Linda Tufaro earlier said that huge a reduction will “devastate” the system. She told the library board if those cuts occur the system will definitely have to cut personnel and cut back on operations drastically, maybe being open only one or two days a week.

Tufaro presented the 10-member library board with a letter from the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) that said, “A reduction in local income can result in loss of all funds the library system receives in connection with this grant program.”

In another section of the letter, Christy Williams, director of administrative services and grant programs with MLC, wrote Schrock that the cuts would “jeopardize” the grants, and added, “We urge you to share the agency’s concern with the funding authorities (supervisors) for the library system as soon as possible.”

Supervisors convene for a recessed meeting at the Poplarville Justice Court building at 9 a.m. on Monday.

A large crowd, including county library board members, library employees and concerned citizens are expected to attend the meeting, according to Tufaro. She said 400 persons have already signed at the library a letter of protest to supervisors that was included in a mailout by the Friends of the Library, a support organization for the system.

The letter Friends sent out says the 36 percent cut in the county’s appropriation is “unconscionable” and ask supervisor to “reconsider this drastic cut in the Library System’s budget.”

The library board adopted a $579,064.41 bare-bones 2010 budget on Tuesday that reflected the $100,000 cut from supervisors. The budget was $68,715.91 less than last year’s $647,789.32 budget.

Tufaro said that will have to be trimmed further if the supervisors do not restore the cuts, and she told the board they will have to “take it week by week and month by month.”

“It’s going to be bad if this stands,” she said.

Tufaro said the library system will be closed a half-day Monday at Poplarville and Picayune so employees can attend the board of supervisors meeting, too.

On Sept. 8 Tufaro asked supervisors for a $30,000 increase in the county’s tax contribution of $274,600, but on Sept. 14 when supervisors adopted their budget it showed a $100,000 cut instead.

The county adopted its budget on Sept. 14, and the new budget takes effect on Oct. 1. The new budget included no new taxes.

In their new budgets, Picayune’s two-mill tax levy will generate about $160,140 in funding and Poplarville upped their appropriation of $1,000 to $24,000 for the library system.