Library cuts back on service and hours again, after county cuts funding, again

Published 11:51 pm Saturday, October 15, 2011

County library director Linda Tufaro said on Friday that the library system will cut back even more on hours because of recent cuts to the system’s budget by supervisors in their 2011-2012 budget which took effect Oct. 1.

County officials said they had no choice but to cut.

Said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin, Jr., “Everybody took a hit this year, all departments and agencies.”

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In a press release by Tufaro announcing the new hours, which will take effect on Oct. 31 at both Poplarville and Picayune libraries, she said that over the past two years the reduction in funding from the county has amounted to $72,600.

She said over the past two years the library system has cut five full-time positions, plus cutting back on hours.

The libraries are completely shuttered all day on Wednesdays in both Picayune and Poplarville because of the cuts.

She said the book acquisition fund has been sliced in half.

Lumpkin said the appropriation from the county amounted to $202,000 this year, down from $274,600 two years ago.

The City of Picayune levies two mills that go to the system, and Tufaro said when the revenues generated by the two-mill levy dropped slightly, Picayune gave a little extra so revenues from the city would not decrease.

The City of Poplarville donation remains steady at $24,000 annually. The state’s appropriation was expected to be $103,000 but the library system got only $93,000 when the state cut back on proposed funding.

Tufaro said if local funding continues to be cut, it will affect state funding eventually. State funding is based on local support.

Tufaro and library officials have urged supervisors to set a dedicated millage for the library system, as Picayune does, but supervisors so far have resisted.

Says Lumpkin, “The board has discussed that possibility, but their feelings are that if you do it for one, you will have to do it for everyone else. All the other entities will want dedicated millage, and there’s no way the board can sustain that.”

Tufaro said state law allows supervisors to dedicate millage to the library and other counties do it.

Picayune’s two mills will generate $160,140 for the 2012 library budget, which has total expected revenues of $550,114.54 for 2012.

This year supervisors raised ad valorem taxes by two mills, which county officials say will generate an estimated $600,000 more in tax revenues. Sources close to the board said the board raised taxes to avoid large cuts and layoffs of more personnel.

The vote was 4-1.

Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith was the only supervisor to vote against the tax hike, and he said recently he voted “no” because “people are hurting out there.”

Said Smith, “During my campaign, I talked to a lot of people, and everyone is hurting, some real bad. So why can’t government hurt too. I just could not vote for a tax increase after what I had seen and heard in my campaigning.”

Tufaro said the feeling among library supporters is that the board of supervisors thinks the library system can do its chores with the use of volunteers, but she says it takes trained personnel to accomplish the functions of running the county’s library system.

“You can use volunteers in some areas, but not all,” she said.

Currently, the system operates with seven full-time and seven part-time employees. “That’s way below what would normally be the case,” she said. Library supporters say they sympathize with people not wanting budget cuts elsewhere to save employees’ jobs, but they point out that personnel in the county’s library system has been almost halved in the last two years because of budget cuts.

Tufaro, because of budget cuts, was forced to lay off long-time employee Jean MacInnis, but MacInnis volunteered her services anyway after she was cut. “That’s the kind of dedication we have by library supporters,” she said. One patron pays a part-time worker’s wage, she said. However, the system, in order to function properly and efficiently, has to have trained, full-time personnel.

She said Poplarville personnel are helping out in the Picayune library because of the cuts. “We just can’t accomplish what we have to with the cut in personnel. We are really beginning to feel the crunch,” she said.

Says Tufaro, “Besides moving staff around in the system and cutting some, it will also be necessary to cut back some hours open to the public. We have made a careful survey of the number and variation of people who use the libraries after 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and also on Saturdays and Fridays.”

The new hours that will take effect on Oct. 31 are:

At Picayune: On Monday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (close an hour early); Tuesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (close an hour early); Wednesday, closed all day; Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (close one hour early); Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

At Poplarville: Same as Picayune, except closed on Saturday and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Both libraries are closed on Sundays.

Tufaro said she understands what supervisors face in putting together a budget and that no agency wants its budget cut.

“However, we have reached the point where cuts are really jeopardizing our basic services to the public,” she said. “The supervisors and the general public will have to decide in the coming future whether or not we will continue to have a viable library system in our county. We are at that decision point,” said Tufaro.