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School board could cut out library funding

As state revenues continue to plummet and sales tax revenues for local governments sputter the future of the local funding for the Roddenbery Memorial Library could be greatly impacted, according to Grady County officials.
Stepping out on the issue is Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis, who told school board members that it may be time for the board of education to rethink its funding of the public library.
Under a 1946 agreement, the local funding of the library has been split by the City of Cairo, which pays fifty percent, and the remaining half being split equally by the board of education and the Grady County commission.
In the current fiscal year operating budget the school board cut the library’s funding from $136,000 to $100,000. Pharis may be looking to reduce that or even eliminate the library appropriation entirely.
“I am looking to cut about $400,000 in line items from our budget for FY2010-2011 and some of that could come out of the library funding,” Dr. Pharis said this week.
Roddenbery Memorial Library Director Alan Kaye said he expected additional cuts from the school board.
“They have had huge, huge cuts from the state that they are dealing with,” Kaye said this week.
The library director is hopeful the school board would not completely eliminate its share of the local funding, but instead reduce its appropriation by some amount.
Dr. Pharis plans to have some specific recommendations for the board to consider at its April meeting.
As national, state and local budgets have been pressured by the downturn in the economy the topic of funding for Roddenbery Memorial has arisen, but this is not the first time.
Local leaders have powwowed together on a number of occasions to discuss the funding of the library, but no new approach or agreement to this issue has been reached.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton and County Administrator Rusty Moye warned Kaye and the library board of trustees this week not to look to the city and county to make up for any cuts made by the board of education.
Addleton, who is the process of developing a proposed budget for the new fiscal year which begins July 1 said it would be his recommendation to maintain the current level of funding at $235,000, which is down from $272,000 a year prior.
County Administrator Moye, who says the county’s budget year is a calendar year, would maintain the current level of funding of $110,000 for the remainder of the year, but at best the commission would maintain, not increase funding for the county’s 2011 fiscal year.
Commission Chairman Al Ball said the county should maintain the current library funding, but was not sure how the majority of the commission would respond if the school board greatly cut its funding or completely eliminated it.
Kaye says the library trustees, which includes Chairman Ann Flowers, Lois Duncan and Thomas L. Lehman, would meet Monday to discuss the budget and funding situation.
“I don’t think we will have a plan on Monday, but more likely a ‘to-do list,’” Kaye said.
Last year when the city and school board approved the FY2009-2010 budgets with cuts to library funding library patrons stepped  forward to contribute money so that furloughs and reduced work schedules could be avoided.
Kaye says the Friends of the Roddenbery Memorial Library could be mobilized to raise additional funds this year if needed.
However, Kaye would prefer a new approach to library funding be developed. He noted that in some counties a certain portion of the Local Option Sales Tax is allocated to funding the public library.
The Roddenbery Memorial director would prefer to see funding come from a single countywide source like the school board or county commission.
City Manager Addleton agrees and said that a good time to discuss a new approach to funding the library could take place as Cairo, Whigham and Grady County officials gather in 2011 or 2012 to negotiate a new service delivery strategy as required by Georgia law.
Although reduced revenue is a given, Kaye remains committed to shielding his staff from furloughs and pay cuts.
“I would like to fund the library, but when we are having to cut out programs like our after-school program and furloughing teachers and our staff I cannot justify funding the library,” Dr. Pharis said.

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