Council Plans Trip To Globe Over Library Cuts

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Payson's mayor and Town Council are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

What they don't understand is why there hasn't been an outcry or, as Mayor Vern Stiffler put it, "a groundswell" of protest from the public on the county's latest proposal to take funding from municipal libraries and put it into health services.

"We need to get this thing visible in the community," Stiffler said Thursday at a regular meeting of the council. "There's not a lot of community response. It's difficult for us to maintain our posture without feeling the groundswell."

Town officials and supporters of the Payson Library will be traveling to Globe Aug. 3 for a meeting with county officials. They are arranging rides for all those who want to join in the protest.

County officials informed the town July 15 that it planned to cut its funding for library operations in Payson by $92,000 this year and would shift those funds to county health services. The Payson Town Council had earlier rejected a county bill for $278,000 to cover health services for town residents for two years.

Based on previous years, town officials were expecting the county to contribute approximately $157,000 toward the operation of the Payson Public Library this year.

Council member Jack Monschein took issue with the way the county suggested that Payson could cover the loss of county library funds. "The county administrator made a statement to the mayor," he said. "He said to just take it out of the contingency fund."

Town Manager Rich Underkofler said after the meeting that all three county supervisors are in support of the county plan to juggle property tax rates, to reduce the taxes that go for libraries around the county, and increase taxes that go into the county's general fund.

Payson Library Director Terry Morris argued that Payson taxpayers play a significant role in funding the library.

Morris said the net assessed value of property within the town, $103.4 million, generates $188,684 for the county library district fund. It is 29 percent of the total net assessed value for Gila County.

The proposed county funding of $64,689 is just over 29 percent of the total library tax dollars generated by the town.

The remainder of the tax revenues from Payson, $123,995, will go to fund three outlying libraries: Pine at $59,100; Young at $37,800; and San Carlos at $22,500, leaving a balance of $4,595.

Stiffler said that he and Underkofler went to Globe to meet with county officials on July 13 to tell them that the town was not going to participate in health care costs. Payson and other towns and cities in the county recently received bills from the county to pay for health care costs, a move that took town officials by surprise.

At the July 13 meeting, town officials learned that if they were not going to participate in health care costs, they would take a hit on the library. "Two days later we got the news," Stiffler said.

He went on to call this latest conflict with the county " a political battle."

"If we cave in on this, next year they'll be back and they'll take the whole thing away from us," Stiffler said.

Those who are interested in attending the protest at 10 a.m. Aug. 3 in Globe who would like to arrange transportation can call Library Friends President Judy Buettner at 472-9015 or the Payson Public Library at 474-2585.

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