Giovanni Tairov

Library Director Giovanni Tairov discusses the library funding, how it's used, and what could happen if it's redirected.

According to it's director, the Livingston Parish Library system has been built on a foundation of passion for knowledge, and helping people gain literacy.

But, he said, there's a definite concern after another government entity has set their eyes on the library's funding.

Livingston Parish Library director Giovanni Tairov sits down with the News to discuss the overall picture of the library, some of the services they offer, their funding, and the recent proposal from councilman Shane Mack to try and draw some of the entity's millage away.

"It's an issue of math," Tairov said, "and the reality of budget. No cuts come without consequences."

The quote came from Tairov's recent interview with the Livingston Parish News, wherein he discussed the library's funding, how it's used, and what could happen if revenue streams were reduced downward.

That revenue reduction proposal isn't new, as Parish Councilman Shane Mack brought up the idea in 2019. Mack, who represents District 9 and much of the northeastern area of the parish including Albany, lives in an unfunded gravity drainage district.

Recently, that district and another unfunded district were combined to form a 'mega district' that encompasses all unfunded gravity drainage in the parish, called Gravity Drainage District 8. Mack, as well as councilmen Randy Delatte (District 8) and Gerald McMorris (District 6) are looking for funding - quickly.

Portions of Jeff Ard's district (District 1) are within Gravity 8, as well.

The trio are not unaware of the failed funding proposals that were shot down by voters in 2017, unable to ride the wave of drainage concerns created by the 2016 floods. Areas of Gravity 8 were affected by both the spring and fall storms.

Why did those proposals fail? Lack of a plan and information were the two largest issues brought to bare by the citizens who voted 'no.'

With the newly formed mega-district, and two other parish councilmen on his side, Mack is again bringing up the library's funding source - a 10-mill, parishwide tax that generates just shy of $6 million. 

"The whole conversation is a simple discussion to, in some 'way, shape, or form' evaluate (the library's) current budget to see if they are overcompensated," Mack explained, "and to see if their budget could be cut and still offer an outstanding service for the people of Livingston Parish."

Mack was denied an audience during a parish council meeting in 2019, when he proposed an open-forum discussion of the library's millage during a regular meeting of the board. Two members immediately voted to close the business and move on, and the issue was not discussed again that year.

The new gravity drainage district still lacks a plan moving forward, which Mack confirmed with the News, but he and his group are still exploring the idea of funding. If money was to be taken away from the library, in the potential form of 5 mills, Tairov said the effect could be devastating.

"We'll have to adjust, and I cannot say adjustments are impossible, but depending on the severity of the cuts will determine what we can offer the public, how many staff we can keep, or new libraries we can construct," Tairov explained.

According to the library's budget, current income is listed as follows:

Income

  
    

4000 · Property Tax Revenue

 

5,919,521.00

    

4040 · State Revenue Sharing

 

174,180.00

    

4080 · Other Grants

 

6,775.00

    

4100 · Miscellaneous Income

 

36,000.00

    

4120 · Interest Income

 

15,700.00

    

4140 · Interest Income-Property Tax

 

23,025.00

    

4156 · Idea Lab

 

1,100.00

    

4160 · Fines/Lost Books

 

4,800.00

    

4165 · Copies and Printing

 

40,000.00

    

4170 · Faxing

 

10,000.00

    

4175 · Meeting Room Reservation

 

500.00

    

4180 · Summer Reading Revenue

 

500.00

    

4200 · Donations

 

12,879.00

   

Total Income

 

6,244,980.00

  

Gross Profit

 

6,244,980.00

Expenses are listed as: 

Expense

  
    

6000 · SALARIES AND WAGES

 

2,759,000.00

    

6120 · EMPLOYEES BENEFITS & COSTS

 

748,047.00

    

6220 · ADVERTISING AND MARKETING

 

60,000.00

    

6255 · CONRACTS AND SUBSCRIPTIONS

 

25,050.00

    

6320 · DUPLICATING AND BINDING

 

150.00

    

6400 · UTILITIES

 

183,277.00

    

6600 · REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE

 

538,812.00

    

6800 · INSURANCE

 

150,270.00

    

6840 · PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

 

122,501.00

    

7000 · MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES

 

66,460.00

    

7200 · INTERGOVERNMENTAL COSTS

 

241,363.00

    

7220 · PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

55,000.00

    

7300 · PROGRAMMING

 

53,060.00

    

7360 · COLLECTION

 

739,500.00

    

7580 · TECHNOLOGY AND EQUIPMENT

 

133,450.00

    

7900 · MISCELLANEOUS

 

28.00

   

Total Expense

 

5,875,968.00

That leaves a net positive cash flow of $369,012 for the 2020 fiscal year, which Tairov said goes into a future planning budget for the library.

"The 'Net Income' portion will be reserved for future capital projects and is accounted for in the Capital Projects Plan (CPP)," Tairov explained. "CPP covers all of the library’s major expenses through FY2033, such as HVAC replacements, technology upgrades, roof and carpet replacements, etc.

"The library uses a Pay As You Go approach of funding major expenditures, so we do not have to go before the voters every time a major project has to be performed," Tairov continued. "Saving 5% of the annual revenue allows us to maintain our libraries in top shape and plan for future improvements. Also note, that some of the self-generated income is most likely to be significantly lower due to a post-pandemic slump in usage, which will further reduce the Net Income amount."

Tairov described that capital expenditure approach as a way to protect the investment of the parish's taxpayers. Funding up until this point has not only gone into salaries and wages, as well as physical expansions of the library, but also to invest in the collection the library holds - which has another value, according to Tairov.

"There's a market cost with regard to our circulation," Tairov explained. The director stated that the library keeps track of their statistics, and if a user were to take an average of $9 for a new book, tracking circulation and usage, Tairov said the library actually pays out $14 million in benefit to the community.

"I respect our elected officials desire to find alternative means of funding, this is their prerogative; and I don't disagree with the premise of drainage, I know we need it," Tairov said.

"I also believe that the parish deserves the best in terms of literacy."

When discussing maintenance, Tairov described that as the base upon which the library is built. Protecting the buildings and the collections are paramount to making sure the public's investment is secure, and also making sure patrons receive the best service and experience when visiting the library.

"The library doesn't belong to me, I see it as the library as a whole providing a service to the community," Tairov explained.

The library currently has 90 total staff members working at five physical locations. Fifty percent of the total staff service the Denham Springs - Walker branch, with the rest spread between Watson, the main office in Livingston, South Branch, as well as the Albany-Springfield branch.

The library pushes passed providing books, to also provide services such as basic internet. During the pandemic, while foot traffic dropped, two-to-three thousand wireless sessions were still held in parking lots of libraries around the parish as people utilized the system to 'work-from-home' and go to school.

Mack relented that if the numbers don't make sense and would be of detriment to the library system, he would look at other options. He believes that the library has grown enough, with an increase in total property tax collections from 2000 to 2020, that some cash can be siphoned off - but is willing to wait until the numbers are presented.

"I want to find a responsible way to fund an unfunded gravity drainage district," Mack said. "Before we just throw out a tax, want to take a look at local governmental entities where there may be overcompensation."

The failed 2017 tax proposals taught Mack a lot, he said, and the parish councilman wants to exhaust all funding possibilities and options before the idea of returning to the voters with another tax proposal. Mack also said that if a tax vote were to occur he wants to prepare a reasonable budget and plan, based on the current gravity drainage districts, to present to the citizens of Gravity Drainage District 8.

There is also an issue of geographic space, as the library's millage is a parishwide assessment, and while the new gravity drainage district covers a large portion of Livingston Parish, the remaining 20% already has funded gravity drainage. Mack said there were 'options' for covering that portion of the millage, but he didn't know 'which would be the right fit.'

A millage change would require an election.

(1) comment

Camimiller

This is why people don’t want to vote for new tax measures. Use contrary to what was voted for is misuse.

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