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No deal yet on funding library with sales taxes

Grady County commissioners have signed off on a proposal to fund the Roddenbery Memorial Library with a set percentage of Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) proceeds, but the Cairo city council has concerns with the plan.
Earlier this month the board of commissioners unanimously approved a proposal to fund the public library with 11.2 percent of LOST proceeds.
According to County Administrator Rusty Moye, the average of the last five year’s LOST receipts totaled $2,691,697.
Moye proposed to the county commission to fund the library at the $100,000 level or 33.3 percent of the total local funding of $300,000 with the city picking up $200,000 or 66.7 percent.
Cairo Mayor Pro Tem Kermit Gilliard questioned the county’s figures Monday night.
“The $300,000 proposed is less than we are funding now. Why not start where we are now?” Gilliard asked.
City Attorney and Chairman of the Library Trustees Thomas L. Lehman said, “this is what concerns me. To maintain our state funding we receive we can’t cut the local effort. The county wants to cut local effort.”
Lehman says a survey of library patrons utilizing the public library indicates that a greater number of residents of the unincorporated areas of the county use the library than do city residents.
The recent study conducted by Roddenbery Memorial Library staff using data from library cards used by library patrons when checking out materials shows that 52 percent of library patrons are not residents of Cairo while 48 percent are.
Lehman pointed out the results to illustrate his point the county should be funding more of the library’s local budget.
Although Lehman believes the county should fund a greater share of the library budget, he does favor funding the library through LOST proceeds.
He noted that currently the city taxpayers are paying for the library through their city taxes as well as their county taxes and that would not be the case with the proposed LOST funding plan.
However, Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas noted that the city residents would remain at a disadvantage because the city would be giving up a percentage of its share of the LOST proceeds in order to fund the library.
“My concern is we had an agreement that was in effect for 50 years and now it is no longer effective. If we sign an agreement on the LOST, how effective will it be four years down the road if the county decides to do something else?” Douglas asked.
Mayor Richard VanLandingham pointed out the city is including $237,500 in the proposed 2011-2012 operating budget regardless of the outcome of the LOST negotiations.
“It will be up to the library folks to reach out to the county to raise their funding to the same level or to a point that is half of that,” the mayor said.
The public library is continuing to struggle with finances after the Grady County Board of Education completely eliminated funding for the library after funding 25 percent of the local budget for nearly half a century.
Acting Library Director and longtime associate director Janet Boudet wrote to city officials outlining the budget situation.
The library has reduced operating hours, cut four positions, the remaining 12 staff members took a 10 percent pay cut, two furlough days which amounts to 28 days of lost pay per employee this year.
Trustee Chairman Lehman said the library has not given up on the board of education restoring funding, however, Mayor VanLandingham said after talking with school officials that was very unlikely given the budget crisis faced by the public school system.
City Manager Chris Addleton noted that the LOST distribution negotiations must be completed prior to the end of the year, but said there was still time to negotiate with the county commission.
Councilman Douglas said that library representatives should be included in the LOST negotiations and the other councilmen agreed.
Addleton said the next step may be to call for a joint meeting to discuss library funding with library representatives and county officials.
In related news, newly appointed library director Pamela Grigg was in attendance Monday night and Lehman introduced her to the city council and mayor. A reception for Ms. Grigg will be held at the library Thursday, May 26 from 4 until 6 p.m.

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