Budget cuts hit library’s utility bill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

Decreased funding in the city’s budget has forced cutbacks at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.

Mayor James C. Perkins Jr., a member of Friends of the Library, said cutting the library’s budget was an issue of &8220;how we’d reduce costs in municipal government &045; we were looking at money paid out. This is the consequence of a two-year process.&8221;

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On April 1, 2005, Becky Nichols, Selma’s head librarian, saw Alabama Power disconnecting her power meters.

She said she knew the city had reduced the library’s budget by $42,000.

What she did not know was that the funding would be taken out in utilities.

It was not until that day that she realized what was going to happen, when the library was directed to assume its own costs for utilities.

The meters had previously been joined to the meters at City Hall and the Convention Center and funded out of the city budget,

According to officials, the power and gas is now the library’s responsibility &045; to the tune of $4,500 to $4,700 a month. The utilities bills accommodate the consumption of two gas boilers that heat 25,000 square feet of space, 200 light fixtures, 10 toilets and washbasins, two air conditioning units and power to computers.

The library is funded by both city and county sources.

The city of Selma’s budget allows for $245,000 to fund library operations annually.

One percent of cigarette sales tax in Selma is also granted to the library for operations, a figure that has not proved to be as financially beneficial as was originally hoped by the city council, officials said.

The $245,000 represents 63 percent of the city’s contract for services allocations and 9 percent of the total city government budget.

The taxpayers of Selma fund that budget at present and both the librarian and the mayor have bandied about further solicitation of funds from the community.

For the past five years, between 90,000 and 106,000 adults and 48,000 and 66,000 children have accessed the library each year.

Books, video, audio, cds, DVDs and computers are accessible at the library. The new children’s wing, in addition to a remarkable aquarium, has a collection of books comparable to larger cities.

A meeting with a non-established date has been arranged between Perkins and Nichols to discuss possible sources for funding, including city and county sources.

Discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting included requesting further funding from the county to contribute to the library’s operating budget.

Both City Hall and the Convention Center continue to have their utilities included in the city’s budgets.