Library requests additional funding from county
The Dyer County Budget Committee entered its third week of budget review as the McIver's Public Grant Library, the Soil Conservation Fund and the sheriff's department all presented their budgets on Tuesday morning. This year all county departments have come in person to present their funding requests, even if they remained unchanged from the previous year, in order to give commissioners an opportunity to ask questions and seek clarifications on certain budget items. The current state of the county finances is forcing commissioners to evaluate every dollar that is being spent and what it is being spent on.
"To add any more funds is going to be tough," said Commissioner Benny Spain, who is serving his first term as chairman of the budget committee. "We are going to have to prioritize and see what is in the best interest of the county."
The McIver's Public Grant Library brought a large board contingent with them as it requested an increase in their funding from the county in order to hire an additional full-time position. The new library will require a coordinator of circulation/references, which according to Don Crews, the city of Dyersburg has already pledged to pay $35,000.
"The money that the county is currently contributing is not enough to operate the library," said Crews.
Crews asked that the county fund the remaining balance of the additional position, which amounts to $25,000. He said that it is the intention of the board to continue fundraising for the library even after the new building was completed at the end of this year. However, Crews reported that the library could not use revenue from fundraising efforts to fund salaries due to restrictions in state law.
"Our library is an investment in the quality of life in our community," said board member Katie Winchester. "We make things available to people in our community who do not otherwise have the resources."
Bob Harrington, who made the presentation on behalf of the library board, reported to the committee that the board has raised nearly $2.2 million of the expected $2.8 million it will cost to complete the new building. The new library will not only require additional staff but it will also require more circulation as the current library only has about half the books it needs for a community the size of Dyer County.
The library was not the only department looking for additional funding on Tuesday as the Soil Conservation Fund asked the county to consider funding one-third of the salary for a second full-time employee. According to Tommy Rice, chairman of the Soil Conservation Committee, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service have already agreed to each fund one-third of the new salary.
"There is quite a bit of money available for soil conservation," said Rice. "Dyer County usually ends up with more money than any other county in the state but we need another employee to help us with our workload."
The new employee would help landowners perform surveying and design work on conservation practices as well as serve as a community outreach position and educate residents about the importance of soil conservation. According to Mark Dorsett, district conservationist employed by the USDA, Dyer County is one of seven counties in West Tennessee that only funds one position for soil conservation with every other county funding at least two positions and in some cases, three positions.
"We are missing out on some money (that could be reinvested back into the county) because we do not have this position," said Dorsett.
The only department not to ask for an increase in funding on Tuesday was the sheriff's department. After the Law Enforcement Committee approved the budgets on Monday, May 14, Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box presented the budgets for the sheriff's department, litter grant, drug fund and jail to the budget committee for their review.
"We are finding new ways to provide more services with the same money," said Box. "Although there are certain things that cost us more money that we have to have, we are trying to operate more efficiently."
Commissioner Jim Horner asked Box about the possibility of working with the Dyersburg dispatch center and contracting with them for dispatches. Box responded that it is something that has been looked at in the past and it is something he is open to as long as county and deputy service does not suffer.
Box presented a department budget that remained unchanged, but presented a jail budget that was $20,000 less than the previous year.
"The jail is running as efficiently as it has ever run," said Box. "We are cutting the fat out every year."
The budget committee will review the Debt Service Fund on Wednesday followed by the county education budget on Thursday. All meetings begin at 9 a.m. and are held in the lower-level conference room of the Dyer County Courthouse.