Baldwin Co. leaders seek solutions after disagreement over library funding
MILLEDGEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – In Baldwin County, city and county officials are trying to come to an agreement on funding for several public services they jointly pay. The two entities are not on the same page when it comes to funding for the Mary Vinson Memorial Library.
“The county and the city went into an agreement in 2008 with our service delivery strategy that this was a countywide service and that the county would take over funding it 100%,” Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham-Copeland told 41NBC.
County leaders say it’s not fair to residents who live outside of the city of Milledgeville.
“What might’ve been a fair deal 10 years ago is no longer a fair deal for unincorporated residents of Baldwin County,” County Manager Carlos Toblar said.
As of now, the City of Milledgeville covers 42% of the cost to run both of the library’s locations and the county accounts for the other 58%.
“At this particular time, we’re just hoping that once we go to the drawing board we can come to an agreement and that both the city and county will continue to fund it,” Mayor Copeland explained.
Toblar says he hopes for the opposite result because since that agreement, the county has had to pick up extra state-mandated costs.
“Georgia is upheld as a model for judicial reform but that has impacted counties and so we have more expenses now than we did 10 years ago,” he explained.
He says they can no longer afford to pay any of the library’s operating expenses and that residents within the city limit aren’t contributing enough.
“There’s under-taxation. The city residents are not paying their fair share of county wide services. They provide 16% of our general fund budget,” he continued.
However, Toblar says they would be open to only funding the satellite location. The total budget for Baldwin County is around $24 million and cutting the library’s operating costs would remove $308,000 in expenses from their budget. The two entities met earlier this month to discuss solutions.
“We’re trying to figure out now–how we’re going to get to make sure that it is properly funded and maintained,” Mayor Copeland expressed.
Both sides say they’ll meet again December 19th with hopes to finalize negotiations and come to some sort of agreement.
Copeland says regardless of what happens the library is not in jeopardy of closing down. She says the city will do whatever is necessary to cover the funding. However, losing county funding may put the library at risk of losing federal grants they receive.
Library funding covers operations, internet access for visitors and additional programs they offer through out the year.