Friday, September 17, 2010

Library Funding

As you may be aware, the City has slashed the Library's budget. We have not finalized how we will be coping with this unforeseen tragedy, but we will let you know as soon as it is determined. This process led us to look into the history of Library funding, and we found some interesting information. This may help you to understand why what the City did to our budget was so devastating.

Is the Library a part of the City government? Not really. In Mississippi, public libraries are independent government agencies that get most of their funding from local governments. We receive funds from the City of Natchez and Wilkinson County.

Why doesn't Adams County contribute to Library funding? There are several agencies that serve both City and County residents and are funded by both. However, as you may have noticed, the City and the County don't always get along. So in 1990, they decided to divide up funding responsibilities. In this agreement, the County agreed to be responsible for funding the Airport, and the City agreed to be responsible for funding the Library.

Doesn't the State provide funding? Several years ago, the State decided to require all public libraries to be run by professional librarians. However, many local governments (especially the smaller ones) complained that they couldn't afford to do that. So the State offered assistance. First, smaller counties were merged with larger ones, which is why we also manage the Wilkinson County libraries. Secondly, the State provides a grant to reimburse the cost of personnel salaries. However, in order to qualify for the grant, the local government must agree not to lower their funding level.

What is millage? Each year the City (and other local governments) determine the amount of property taxes taxpayers will pay, and they express that amount in millage. Millage is the amount per thousand that is used to calculate property tax. It's used instead of percentages, which is the amount per hundred. So, for example, a millage of 40 is the same as 4%. If your house is worth $100,000, you would pay $4,000 in taxes, unless you have a homestead exemption. Some states use percentages, but Mississippi uses millage - maybe because it confuses voters more.

What is dedicated millage? This is when a certain amount of a tax is "dedicated" to a certain purpose. For example, a local government might increase taxes by 3 mills and dedicate that amount of money solely for the purpose of funding their library. This is done because taxpayers usually object to their taxes being raised, but they may not if they know where the money is going. It also means that the beneficiary can depend on a stable source of income without having to always fight for their money.

In future articles, we'll discuss what happened to the Library's funding, and you'll find this information helpful in understanding why we are in such a crisis.

No comments:

Post a Comment