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City takes budget ax to library funding

ESSAY CONTEST WINNER JARRETT WOODS was recognized by Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham Thursday. Woods, a 6th grader at Washington Middle School, was the winner of the “If I Were Mayor, I Would….” contest which is sponsored annually by the city and the Georgia Municipal Association. GMA judges selected Woods’ essay as the winning local entry. The contest winner is the son of David and Heidi Woods and he was taught this year by Mrs. Hollie Smith.

The Cairo City Council continued its revision of the proposed 2009-2010 spending plan Thursday night and, when the council adjourned, funding for a number of non-city agencies and programs, including Roddenbery Memorial Library , was cut.
Library Board of Trustees Chairman Lois Duncan and RML Director Alan Kaye attended the meeting last week to solicit the council to maintain the library’s current level of funding in light of major cuts anticipated by the Grady County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners.
In  the current budget, the library received $272,000 from city coffers, but on Thursday the council cut that appropriation to $237,500.
Library Director Kaye briefed the city council on his proposed plans for his 2009-10 operating budget, which includes a cut of  $50,000 in the budget normally spent on books and materials for the library’s collection.
Kaye is not planning on any raises for library personnel, has reduced the budget for grounds maintenance, has implemented a conservative energy conservation program and is utilizing volunteers and other free labor rather than hiring summertime help.
“I’ve got the local funding down to $475,000. I can’t get any lower than that,” Kaye said.
In Kaye’s worst case plan library employees would be furloughed up to four days in the upcoming fiscal year. “I don’t want to have to do that unless absolutely necessary,” the library director said.
City Manager Chris Addleton recommended an across-the-board 10 percent cut for all other agencies for the purpose of initiating a discussion on the city’s budget.
At a 10 percent cut, the city’s funding for the library would have dropped to $244,800.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas renewed his opposition to the city funding more than 50 percent of what the school board and county commission appropriate for the library.
“The school board has already said it was going to fund the library at $100,000 and that puts us at $200,000. If you get $400,000 how are you going to make it work?” Douglas asked Kaye.
The library director said he was not certain how binding the 1944 contract between the city, county and board of education actually is today.
Kaye says he is already dealing with an 8 percent cut in the library’s state funding for the current fiscal year. The library director urged the council to either maintain the current level of funding or not drop below the 10 percent cut.
“Why should the city make up the different for the county and school board,” Douglas asked.
Kaye responded, “to help get us through this year.”
Councilman Douglas said he did not have a problem with cutting it 10 percent and budgeting $244,800 with the condition that the council revisit the issue once the school board and county commission finalize their budgets.
“If they don’t pay the 25 percent, that’s a whole different issue. What Alan is looking for is a figure to use to complete his budget,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham said
Library Trustees Chairman Duncan reminded councilmen the library has no other funding sources to rely on. “I want you to keep in mind we’re trying our very best to keep things at a minimum. We’re going to be hurting to provide services even at a minimum level.”
The trustees chairman said she had personally gone over every line item in the proposed library budget with Director Kaye.
“The point I’d like to make is if things go further south, like I’m sure they will, with General Motors on the verge of bankruptcy we are going to see a continued slowdown at Timken. That hurts all across the economy. I don’t see getting into December and January and telling these folks that we’ve got to cut their budgets when they’ve already spent most of what we’ve told them we’d give them,” Councilman Douglas said.
According to Douglas, the city has been “pretty lucky so far” in comparison with other communities in the state. Douglas predicts the city may have to eliminate positions or possibly furlough employees.
“I totally agree with you, but at the same time, if Timken files for bankruptcy or closes, we’ve got to have a plan in place for the worst case scenario. We’ve got to be prepared for additional reductions, but there is also a chance we will be picking up some funds, too. Plan for the worst, but the budget can be adjusted at any time,” Mayor VanLandingham said.
“It’s a whole lot easier to adjust up than down,” Douglas said.
With the city now proposing $237,500 and if the school board maintains its plan to allocate $100,000, Kaye will be looking to the county commission to fund no less than $118,750, which would leave the library $18,750 short of the $475,000 worst case local budget.
“If the county doesn’t fund a quarter, I would be looking at $37,500 short,” Kaye said Friday.
During 2008-2009, the library’s total budget was $754,629 with $544,000 funded locally and $210,629 from the state. According to Kaye’s budget, state funding will go up slightly to $216,086, but he has plugged in a drop in local funding down to $475,000 for a total budget of $691,086.
“We really took a hit last night. It’s really bad news. Bad news,” Kaye said.
The library is not the only agency that is being cut in the proposals discussed Thursday by the city council.
See more coverage on the council budget workshop in Wednesday’s edition of The Cairo Messenger.

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