Input given on library utility bills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

Hosted by the mayor, a cross-section of Selma city councilmembers, Friends of the Library, library staff, ministers, Dallas County commissioners and the public gathered in the Vaughan Room of the library last night to continue discussing how to pay for the library’s utilities.

The dynamic remained in support of the institution, a 25,000-square-foot public library owned by the city of Selma, that services city and county residents.

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The library provides Internet access, books, crafts and puppet shows for school children, quiet spaces for reading and study, newspapers and public records for public use.

“The express purpose of this meeting,” Mayor James Perkins Jr. said, “is to get the two governing bodies to come to a consensus. Commissioner (Curtis) Williams asked that we keep the issue just to the library’s utility bills. We’d like to ask a more equitable funding level from the county.”

Perkins expressed that the dialogue continue the process of looking at details and options to fund the library’s utility bills.

A meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11 at 5 p.m., in the Vaughan Room of the library, for more dialogue.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Williams said. “Most of the schools that use the library are in my jurisdiction. I know Ms. Nichols can take care of all of these groups and we want her to continue to.”

Probate Judge Johnnie Jones, chairman of the Dallas County Commission, said the county gives the library $115,000 a year and increased its funding by $5,000 recently.

“We’ve been upfront with the library about our funding,” Jones said earlier in the day. “That’s the biggest funding for any agency that we provide for. Other agencies this year took a 10 percent cut, but we didn’t cut the library’s funding at all.”

The city’s current funding for the library is listed in the annual budget, at $245,000. At Wednesday night’s meeting, the mayor gave the figure of. “$247,444.”

The library was purchased by the city in the 1970s. The expansion to 25,000 square feet was undertaken by the city 11 years ago.

Nichols said she estimated her budget doubling to accommodate the space, which it did. The city provided adequate funding, in conjunction with the county, until April 2005.

In the first quarter of the year, the city council voted to discontinue paying for the city building’s utilities. Since that time, the library has cut into the operating budget it has been functioning with for the past 11 years to meet the $6,000 monthly utility bills.

“The council and I decided to balance the budget,” Perkins said.

“We’re about two weeks from receiving the 2004-2005 audit. I think we’ll see that we did an admirable job.”