Supervisors restore funding to library

Published 2:39 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Supervisors on Monday restored the funding to the county library system and to the SPCA-operated Picayune Animal Shelter they had cut, but it will be done on a month-by-month basis until the supervisors thoroughly review and then amend their new 2009-’10 budget.

Supervisor Hudson Holliday made the motion for the restoration of funding to the library system, seconded by Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith. That motion was carried unanimously. The group of library supporters, about 60 persons crowded into the supervisors’ board room, broke into spontaneous applause when Holliday made the motion.

Then Smith mad the motion that the funding cut for the animal shelter be reinstated, Holliday seconded Smith’s motion and that motion also carried unanimously.

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However, the funding for both organizations, which sustained some of the largest cuts percentagewise in the county’s new budget, was done with a caveat.

Supervisor Anthony Hales said the millage and the budget had already been set on Sept. 14 and the budget will take effect on Thursday. However, he said that supervisors can amend the budget after it takes effect, if they decide to.

The supervisors’ motions included the proviso that they will fund the two systems on the same level as last year — but on a month-by-month basis until they can review and adjust the budget in the coming months.

Supervisors, when they adopted their new budget on Sept. 14, cut the library system $100,000. Last year’s county appropriation was about $274,000, and county library system director Linda Tufaro had requested an additional $30,000 from supervisors, for a total of approximately $304,000 in the new 2009-’10 county budget.

When supervisors made the $100,000 cut on Sept. 14, that also triggered a state policy that says if local funds are cut more than two percent that the state personnel grants could also be cut.

The county library system receives about $152,000 in state personnel grants. If both cuts had taken effect in full, the library system stood to see their last year’s budget cut by 40 percent, which Tufaro said would have “devastated” the library system.

The supervisors’ $100,000 cut on Sept. 14 produced a storm of protests from library officials, employees and citizens who support the system. On Monday, C. Randy Holland presented the supervisors with a stack of protest letters about eight inches high, objecting to the cut.

Said Holland, “The use of the library has essentially changed over the years. Everything, just about it, including applying for a job, is done over the internet now, and the library affords this opportunity. . .The library is much, much more than just books now. . .It is truly an economic engine for the good of the county. It helps people improve their incomes and knowledge, and that improves the tax base. . .What you are doing with the library in my view is not an expenditure; it is an investment.”

Hales said that whatever adjustments are made to the new budget would have “to be done with the anticipated revenues that will come in.”

He added, “If the flow of revenue comes in, then we will make appropriate adjustments. We have said from the beginning that the budget was not set in stone, that it is a working document. Unexpected things come up; revenue might not come in like you anticipate. If some revenues don’t come in that we expected, then we will have to adjust, just like you do with your own family budget.”

Tufaro presented the board with a State Library Commission letter that said the approximately $152,000 in state personnel grants could be “jeopardized” by cuts in local funding. She said, “The recent cuts in the library system’s county budget placed at risk of being lost this $152,000. If we lose these grants from the state, plus the $100,000 from the county, that’s a total of approximately $252,000 we will lose, virtually half of the library system’s budget. That kind of loss will devastate the library system and the services it renders to this county.”

The county library board on Sept. 22, in anticipation of the county cut, adopted what they termed a bare-bones 2010 budget of $579,064, an 11 percent cut in its previous year’s budget of $647,798.

That new budget incorporated a portion of the $100,000 county reduction.

She said the library system had already begun cutting library hours in anticipation of loss of funds. “We plead with you to restore the cuts to our budget.”

She said that at the end of August, customer service contacts totaled approximately 170,000 contacts, that’s one-on-one service to individuals. She said that translates to about three contacts per each of the 60,000 persons living in Pearl River County.

“It tells us that people here want, need and use their library,” she said.

Under questioning by Holliday, Tufaro said the new library budget eliminated all book purchases for this year. “The only books we will receive is what the people will give us,” she said.

Holliday tried to zero in on exactly how much the library needed to operate. Tufaro said that the least amount the library system needs from the county is about $265,000, which would represent a 2 percent cut in its last year’s county appropriation. That would keep it from losing its state grants.

Other supervisors also questioned Tufaro. Smith, who said he had received negative comments, asked her why they run some kids away from the library entrance, who gang up there after school.

Tufaro said the library first invites them into the library but cannot let them loiter around the entrance because they recently had a violent incident that occurred at the library’s entrance.

Smith also asked her how many people the system employs. She said the library system has nine full-time employees and nine part-time.

Supervisor Patrick Lee also told Tufaro that he was offended by a sign she had posted on the library front door at Picayune that said the library was closed “due to a reduction in funding by the Pearl River County supervisors.”

Tufaro, before the vote, told supervisors that she would appeal any cut in state funding no matter what supervisors do, and County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin said that any state cuts would probably not come until the Spring, which would give the county and the library system time to work out any problems with funding.