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Statham to lobby Barrow for library funding

POSTED: July 2, 2014 1:00 p.m.

Now that the new fiscal year has begun for the City of Statham, the city is moving forward with plans to lobby the county for more funding for the Statham library.

The city council voted on and approved last week the adoption of the city’s $1.22 million FY15 budget, which includes returning $13,875 of the $21,500 they had initially proposed cutting from the library funds.

The general fund budget, which is increased by $11,000 from last year’s, also includes cuts in the amounts of $49,000 from the police department, $47,000 from the street department, $6,000 from City Hall salaries, $5,000 from the community centers and $5,000 from recreation.

Some budgets received increases from last year, including the court by $15,000, special events by $13,000 and the building department by $28,500.

Additionally, the council approved the adoption of a $1.08 million utility fund budget and a $168,000 garbage fund budget.

The county’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1, whereas the city’s began July 1, so the nearly $14,000 allotted back to the library from the city was to cover the three-month interim until the library would receive funding from the county, Bridges said.

With the funds the library received back, the total decrease from last year’s library budget from the city is about $2,000.

Bridges has already met with Chairman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners Pat Graham concerning the library budget, he said, and there are additional meetings with county officials "coming up," so he hopes to push for more library funding by the time the county’s fiscal year begins in October.

Statham Councilman Perry Barton said many county residents frequent the Statham library, which is why the city needs more county funding.

"We’re not asking the county to help us out as far as our citizens using the library and recreational services," Barton said. "We’re asking them to pay for their citizens."

Statham Public Library Manager Mary Spencer declined to comment until the library receives formal notice from the city concerning the budget.

The police department, however, having its budget decreased by nearly $49,000 from last year, received the biggest cut.

"We thought that would make it more in line with what most people spend (on police departments) for towns our size," Bridges said.

Statham City Clerk Harriet Kilpatrick said that the city had been funding a crossing guard position for Bear Creek Middle School, and they "cut that completely." Bridges added that the county is still supporting the middle school, and that the elementary school will continue to have a guard.

Statham Chief of Police Steve Martin said he understands the reasoning behind the decrease in funding for his department, but that less funding is "significant" for them because it means loss of officer coverage.

"I don’t disagree with the cuts because I understand financially they have to be done, but functionally, as somebody who is charged with the safety of the city, it puts me in quite a predicament," Martin said. "What the city needs and what it can afford are two different things right now."

Barton said the funding cut from the police department is "regrettable."

"We have all the same crimes that every other city has, and I think our officers are doing a really good job of keeping that under control," Barton said. "We need a good police department, and it needs to be funded."

Barton added that Statham will still have police coverage at all times, and that the city is maintaining six full-time police officers, as well as making provisions for part-time services so the officers can take leave or go to schools.

"I was pleased that we managed to balance the budget," Barton said. "It required a lot of cutting. It’s a challenge because, although the economy is improving nationally, it hasn’t gotten to all of Barrow County yet."



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