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Metro Council considering cutting EBR library funding

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BATON ROUGE - Metro council members are looking for alternative funding options for a $16 billion mental health facility after Mayor Kip Holden's tax proposal failed Wednesday night, and one place their looking could make a city agency the victim of their own success.

Without the mayor's proposed tax to fund the work, some council members are suggesting pulling from public parks, libraries and transportation to get the cash needed without a tax increase.

"Whether that's cutting the millages to give to the new mental health facility or looking at what the cost savings are we need to get those options on the table," said Council member John Delgado.

Delgado said decreasing the millage paid to EBR libraries would benefit the city without putting a dent in their funding.

"They're taking in so much money they can't even spend it all," Delgado said. "If we cut their millage, even a little, it could help us fund the entire facility without having any direct effect on taxpayers."

Library director Spencer Watts says the system shouldn't be singled out for being successful with their finances, and that the situation's more difficult than Delgado makes it seem.

"We certainly don't think that just because you have been operating in a highly responsible way that then your reward should be, 'Let's automatically cut your millage," said library director Spencer Watts. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul is always kind of difficult, in this case it would be even more complicated than that, it would be like robbing Peter and having to get Matthew, Mark, Luke and John involved and maybe a doubting Thomas or two also."

He explains it would be complicated because people would need to vote to decrease taxes already put in place to fund one place, and then vote again to put that money somewhere else.

"You can't have a direct transfer of funds from one place to another," Thomas said. "No matter how worthy a cause, no matter how great it is."

Officials at the East Baton Rouge Library, BREC and CATS all say they could not afford to lose this money because it would greatly affect plans they made for the future.

Voters will have the option to renew the millage revenue this year and the council has the power adjust the percent that voters approve every four years. The idea will be discussed at the Metro Council meeting in two weeks.



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