Picayune supports library with separate millage; library board faces historic crisis

Published 1:31 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

A two-mill tax levy applied by the City of Picayune will generate an estimated $160,140 for the county library system’s 2010 budget, an analysis of the library’s new budget adopted Tuesday by the library board shows.

The Item incorrectly reported in its Wednesday edition that Picayune’s funding for the library was $39,900. The Item regrets the error.

According to Linda Tufaro, library director, Picayune’s funding, which is accomplished through a set millage rate, gradually has risen because of the increase of property values over the years since it was put in place in 1998, and she added that “for years” the library board has requested supervisors to fund the library system through a set millage as Picayune does.

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Supervisors fund the library system through an annual appropriation from the general fund, which they must vote on each year.

State law allows supervisors to apply up to four mills for the library system and allows cities to apply up to three mills. “The state has set up a reliable means of support of the library systems throughout the state by allowing the application of millage by supervisors and cities,” said Tufaro.

She added, “What it amounts to is that each year we have to go to supervisors and beg for our appropriation, and we don’t really know what we are going to get. Picayune’s funding comes automatically through millage, and I don’t even have to ask Picayune for the funding.”

The City of Poplarville appropriated $24,000 in its new budget for the library, upping it $1,000 over last year’s appropriation. Like the county, the City of Poplarville has no set millage for library support. However, most small cities don’t set a millage rate for library support, Tufaro said.

Millage rates are set annually by county, city and school governing bodies and applied to home and property values to generate revenue for supporting government services. It’s called an ad valorem tax.

Prior to the Sept. 14 adoption of their new budget, Pearl River County supervisors said they were not going to raise taxes this year and began trimming their budget during August and September budget hearings.

On Aug. 24, Tufaro appeared before supervisors and requested a $30,000 increase in her last year’s county appropriation of $274,600, or $304,600.

After Tafuro got word of the $100,000 cut instead, she said, “We were pretty sure that we would see no increase when we went before supervisors, and that we might see a slight decrease because of the hard economic times. But we had no idea that we would see anything like this.”

Supervisors on Sept. 14 generated a crisis in library ranks when they officially cut last year’s $274,600 library appropriation by $100,000 to $174,600. While that was a hefty cut in library funding from last year’s budget, approximately 36 percent, the cut triggered a bigger crisis.

After the cut, the State Library Commission notified the Pearl River County library system that the local cut by supervisors would “jeopardize” $152,753 in state personnel grants the system receives annually from the state.

The supervisors’ $100,000 cut, combined with the state’s probable additional cut of $152,753 — a total of $252,753, or a loss of 40 percent of last year’s library budget — sent library officials and citizens who support the system into a lather.

Tufaro said that if those cuts materialize, it will “devastate” the county’s library system.

Already, the library board is making plans for possible personnel layoffs and drastic cutback in operations. Mentioned at Tuesday’s board meeting was possibly cutting back to only one or two days of operation per week in both Picayune and Poplarville.

The crisis has generated an effort to get the county funding restored. On Tuesday the board decided to go before supervisors at 9 a.m. on Monday in Poplarville and request that the $100,000 be restored to the library appropriation. They will point to the possible loss of state funding to support their request.

Supervisors had said earlier that the budget figures are not “set in stone” and that they would look at the budget from month-to-month and make adjustments if necessary. However, so far they have given no indication of what they might do in relation to restoring the library’s full appropriation.

A large crowd of library supporters is expected at Monday’s meeting. The library board decided to close the Poplarville and Picayune libraries a half-day on Monday so employees could attend the supervisors’ meeting on Monday. The library system employs about 19 people, 8 full-time.

The library board on Tuesday adopted a bare-bones new 2010 library budget of $579,064, an 11 percent cut in last year’s $647,789 budget, which reflected a portion of the county’s $100,000 revenue reduction.

Revenues in the new library budget breaks down this way:

County $174,600; City of Picayune (millage) $160,140; City of Poplarville $24,000; Xerox fees $5,200; fines-fees $16,350; room rental $500; interest $8,500; state personnel grants $152,752; book sale $1,000; video, DVD, CD charges $750; a carry-over equipment replacement fund $10,000, and carry-over funds $25,250.

That adds up to approximately $579,064 figure for the new 2010 budget.

There is nothing the library board can do if the supervisors’ reduction stands and the state personnel grant cuts kick in but to severely begin cutting personnel and hours of operation.

If all the reductions kick in, that means the library system is facing an overall cut of $252,752 in its last year’s budget of $647,780, or right at a 40 percent reduction in last year’s budget.

While the county adopted its 2009-10 budget on Sept. 14, it does not go into effect until Oct. 1.