Library Funding Retained

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The Gila County Board of Supervisors warns there will be a change in library funding in 10 months, but for now Payson Public Library and town officials will see the funding they expected for fiscal year 1999-2000.


The supervisors on Monday rejected a cut in the library district tax of $.2425 and will continue funding libraries as they have in the past. This means the Payson Public Library will not lose $92,000 in county funds this fiscal year, as the supervisors had proposed.


But taxpayers will see an increase in their general fund taxes of 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation instead of the proposed 24 cents.


"We had waited until the last," Gila County Administrator Steve Besich said Monday afternoon.

Even with the 30-cent increase in county property taxes, the county will see a decrease of $230,000 in property tax revenues because of a reduction in total county property value -- primarily in the mining industry.


"We'll just live without it," Besich said. "The board wasn't going to go up any more."


While the county will continue to fund all its services, the reduction will be taken up in the contingency fund, which will be $700,000 in the coming year.


"We'll be funding services out of our savings account," Besich said. "That's always subject to change. Budgets are only spending plans -- they're not guaranteed."


Payson Public Library Director Terry Morris said Monday that she is "relieved" that she will not be faced with cutting three staff positions at the library this year.


Morris said if there are changes in future library funding, the town will have an opportunity to look at all the options it has available to it.


"The 10 months is when the county begins its budget process for 2000-2001," she said, "and that's the same time the town begins its budget process. So that gives us an opportunity to look at all the options that are out there for everyone."


The county will send letters for interagency agreements and community service agreements to cities, towns and unincorporated areas in the next few weeks, Besich said.


Along with the agreements, each town, city and outlying area will have to indicate its desire to participate in the library district. After the requests and agreements are approved by the town and city councils, they'll get the funding from the county, he said.


He also said that county staff will be preparing options for the coming year and should have something ready by Nov. 1.


"The board directed us to come back with a decision beforehand so there's not the contention that if you would have warned us, we would have been prepared," he said. "The board's going to put a positive spin on this."


He said the county would take a long hard look at one option that was proposed by Payson Town Council member Ken Murphy. "The number one option would be to do away with the library district tax, as offered by councilman Murphy."


Murphy said he did not want to dismantle a working system because of the county's inability to control its expenditures.


"It's not an option for us to pull out of the district," he said, "because we'd still get charged the same property tax. The only thing that could happen is for the county to dissolve the library district altogether.


"The County Free Library District was set up to provide libraries to all people in the county -- that's why citizens are taxed equally, whether they're in an incorporated area or outside the incorporated area. It's sad that they're screwing with it at all."


Morris said she was grateful to everyone who signed petitions, wrote letters, made phone calls and went to Globe. "It meant a lot," she said. "And the support of the mayor and council and town management was incredible.


"This allows us to do what we do -- this year it's going to be business as usual."

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