library

may fall

short







By Florence Rankin

flo.rankin@gaflnews.com



TIFTON - The Tifton-Tift County Public Library may not be able to get as much Special Local Option Sales Tax money for building renovations as board members had hoped.

The Tift County SPLOST referendum passed in March called for the library to receive $1.5 million out of a maximum of $40 million to be raised by the 1-cent tax, which kicks in beginning in January 2002.

The library board planned to get a bank loan and proceed with the work. But Sun Trust banker Tommy Bargeron told members Monday that based on prior SPLOST collections, he did not foresee the library bringing in enough money each month to meet payments on $1.5 million.

"On the SPLOST that's coming up, the library is supposed to get 3.75 percent of the collections every month," Bargeron said. "Based on the monthly revenues from the 1996 SPLOST, that would be an average of about $18,000 per month."

The payments on a $1.5 million loan would run about $25,000 a month, Bargeron said. "On the '96 SPLOST that's ending this year, they originally projected revenues of $29.7 million, and now it appears that they're going to collect just under $28 million," he said.

"I hope I'm proven to be the worst pessimist in the world, but based on this I don't think you'll get the $1.5 million."

Bergeron said he did not know of any other time when a local entity such as the library had gotten a loan secured on SPLOST funds alone, although the Tift County government has obtained loans to start work on a project before.

To reach the $40 million cap over five years, the revenues generated by Tift County SPLOST taxes would have to increase by more than $12 million. The money coming in every month is divided among projects, with each getting a percentage.

"What we have to ask ourselves is if you wind up with a big budget shortfall, where will the money come from," said board member Dick Chalfant. "You have to have enough money to pay for it when the bills come in."

Board members decided to work with the amount of money they can borrow, which Bargeron estimated at $909,700. They planned to meet with the library architects within the next few weeks, but determined Monday that they will first renovate the children's section and other areas in the "new" part of the building and then do structural work in the "old" part if feasible.

Repairs to the library roof are already funded through grants, donations and library funds and will not be affected by the change in plans.

"I'm very thankful that we're going to get the SPLOST funds, but I'm disappointed for the library patrons who use this library that we can't do everything we'd planned," board member Dr. Jo Griffith said.



To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.



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