Augusta commissioners began the first of a series of meetings to work on the 2008 budget last week by hearing a plea from the president of the Richmond County Library Board for more money next year.
Jane Howington asked commissioners for an additional $375,595 to the proposed $2.15 million budgeted for the county's main Greene Street library and five branch libraries next year.
"Now I know the first thing that's going to come to your mind is she's going to talk about the new library," she said. "No. We were so thankful for that. We're thankful for the SPLOST funds. We feel good about the new library, but that's 2 years away."
Mrs. Howington said the main library is 47 years old and cannot be allowed to decay.
"We've had to close off the children's reading section because of a sewage backup," she said. "Downtown, around the old library is pretty much of an eyesore. We've had to hire a guard to be inside the library. That takes money."
Mrs. Howington said she was there on behalf of the 77,000 members of the library.
The additional money would be used to cover raises granted by the commission that went into effect in September, to cover increased utility, health care and security guard costs, books, DVDs and staff training, she said.
In response to Commissioner Don Grantham's question concerning the priority of needs for the library, Director Gary Swint said he did not know how they could do without more money to pay for the increased costs.
"Second, if we get additional money, we would like to spend it on more books, DVDs and videos," Mr. Swint said.
Last week's sewage backup was caused by people trying to flush things such as tennis shoes and baseball caps down the toilet, according to Mr. Swint.
Plumbing costs and replacing the carpet ruined by the sewage and other repairs will cost between $18,000 and $19,000, he said.
The other main topic of the day was the cost of law enforcement and housing inmates in Augusta's three jails.
Mr. Russell said 76 cents of every property-tax dollar and 76 cents of every sales-tax dollar go to fund law enforcement.
The average number of inmates at the Fourth Street jail is 550 at a cost of $45 each per day. The average number at Richmond County Correctional Institute is 255 at a cost of $44 each per day. The average number at Webster Detention Center is 650 at $45 each per day.
Jail costs were up almost $1 million this year, Mr. Russell said.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PER CAPITA FUNDING FOR LIBRARIES:
Source: Richmond County library officials