By Billy Davis
The public library system that serves Panola County will see its funding levels remain steady despite the current recession and tight budgets.
Conversely, local library branches will retain their hours of operation when the fiscal year begins October 1, said First Regional Library director Catherine Nathan.
First Regional, headquartered in Hernando, serves a five-county area in northwest Mississippi that includes branches in Batesville, Sardis, Como and Crenshaw.
A review of city governments, completed last week as budgets were being finalized, showed city officials have committed at least the same amount of funding to First Regional.
Nathan had announced a decrease in hours last year, when the current fiscal year began, at Sardis, Como and Crenshaw due to a lack of funding.
“We anticipate no change in hours,” she said last week. “We’re in very good shape.”
To fund its well-used local library, the City of Batesville has budgeted $200,000 for the coming fiscal year, said city clerk Laura Herron.
First Regional had requested a slight increase of $2,000, which is reflected in the new outlay, she said.
Batesville’s mayor and Board of Aldermen are meeting today to adopt the 2009-2010 budget, the same day as the state-mandated deadline.
The fiscal year begins October 1 for Mississippi’s municipalities and county governments.
Panola County government also funds First Regional and is its largest contributor in the county.
The new county budget allocates 1.62 mills, unchanged from the current year, for the county’s public libraries. Nathan did not request a millage increase when she visited county supervisors in July.
The 1.62 mills will generate approximately $307,442 for the library system, said County Administrator Kelley Magee.
Supervisors finalized their budget on August 10.
In cash-strapped Crenshaw, its town government has budgeted $3,000, the same amount requested by First Regional this year.
“We all have to do our part to keep the doors open,” Crenshaw Mayor Oscar Barlow said of funding the Sam Lapidus Memorial Public Library.
In the other remaining municipalities, the City of Sardis has budgeted $23,000 and Como has committed $5,000 for the Emily Jones Pointer Public Library.
All totaled, First Regional is expected to receive $538,442 from Panola County and its four municipalities this year.
First Regional’s practice is to disburse 80 percent of its collected funds among its branches, Nathan told supervisors at the July meeting.
The remaining 20 percent of funding is used to operate the regional headquarters, she said.
Nathan also told supervisors that millage from Batesville and other municipalities is spent only for that branch, a practice that dates back to her predecessor, Jim Anderson.
In her meetings with public officials, Nathan has said she was aware of “really hard times” and announced that First Regional employees will forego a pay raise in the coming fiscal year.
“We’re keeping our finances as tight as a tick,” she said at one public meeting.