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Library director seeks funding from school board

Grady County Board of Education members will gather to fine tune its 2011-2012 operating budget next Tuesday evening and an appropriation for Roddenbery Memorial Library may be included in the spending plan.
Roddenbery Memorial Library Director Pamela Grigg, fresh on the job for barely a month, made her first visit to a school board meeting and she was with her hat in hand.
She told board members when the funding for the public library was cut by the school system the library was forced to make dramatic cuts and dip deeply into its cash reserves.
“We are working on the knubs now,” Mrs. Grigg said Tuesday night.
The new library director said that library operating hours and positions have been cut and underpaid library personnel have been forced to take 27 furlough days in the last fiscal year.
“We’re hoping you can help us even a little bit,” Mrs. Grigg said. She added, “the state is making us nervous because they say they are here to supplement the local effort and that the state is not the sole providers of library funding.”
Grigg fears that the state could cut its funding to Roddenbery Memorial Library proportionately to cuts made by the Grady County Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners.
The city of Cairo is maintaining its funding of the library, but the county has dropped its appropriation for the library to $100,000 in recent years and the school system currently funds nothing for the public library.
No school official commented on Grigg’s request Tuesday night, but following the meeting Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis said he expected the board would discuss the possibility of including an appropriation for the library in the 2011-2012 operating budget.
Pharis has maintained that it would be difficult for the system to contribute to the funding of the local library when funds have been cut for the school system’s instructional program as well as the school media centers.
Grigg suggested Tuesday night that the library and school system are partners and she said she had experience working in the school media center setting. She encouraged future discussions of ways the public library and school system could partner for services.
“As with schools, the public library cannot remain static,” she said and added, “together we can improve the quality of life for all residents of Grady County.”
Finance Officer Dan Broome presented board members with a tentative budget Tuesday night, but the proposed budget as presented does not include any funding for Roddenbery Memorial.
The total budget, including federal programs and School Nutrition program, totals $35,249,219 in expenditures, but school officials only anticipate having $33,821,334 in revenue to finance school operations in the next fiscal year, which began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2012.
To cover the deficit the school board previously signed off on a plan to pull cash from reserves to fill the budget gap. Under Broome’s proposed budget, the school board would need to pull $1,427,885 from reserves just to balance the budget.
Based on the current county tax digest, which dropped from $576,026,715 to $524,061,645, the school board could up the current millage rate of 12.90 mills to 14.477 and technically not increase taxes.
The school system finance officer Tuesday night recommended a millage rate of 14.20 mills to fund the budget, which would generate an estimated $7,255,633 in local school taxes, $10,657 more than last year. If the school board were to maintain the current tax rate of 12.9 mills the system would collect $653,591 less in ad valorem taxes than it did in 2010.
“The digest is at the lowest level since 2005. Our only choices are to take more out of reserves or raise millage,” Broome told board members Tuesday.
Contributing to the school system’s budget woes is decreased state funding, elimination of federal stimulus money, and a 51 percent increase in the employer health insurance costs for non-certified school system employees.
Certified staff will once again only be paid for a 185 day school year, local supplements continue to be reduced by $1,000, 11 and 12 month employees are cut an additional day and two days respectively, non-certified staff are cut five days, School Nutrition personnel are cut one day and bus driver supplements remain cut by $150.
Dr. Pharis reminded board members that they had budgeted for excess revenue last year to bank in the reserve account to cover anticipated state cuts. “We can cover this deficit this year out of reserves, but we will not be able to afford to next year,” Dr. Pharis said.
The board backed away from setting a tentative millage rate Tuesday night with Board member Teresa Gee Harris commenting, “let’s wait until we can go over the budget in a workshop.”
The board will convene its budget workshop next Tuesday night at 6:15 p.m.

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