A year ago the budget conference committee of the Georgia House and Senate stripped the funding for the Bogart Library renovation and expansion from the final state budget, even though the project had been highly ranked by the state Board of Regents and approved by both the House and the Senate.
This year the conference committee inserted $1.8 million for the Bogart Library in the budget even though neither the House nor the Senate had included the monies in the budgets they had passed.
Oconee County's Sen. Bill Cowsert, Senate majority leader, was a member of the budget conference committee both years and acquiesced to the cut last year and became the project’s advocate this time around.
The final budget, House Bill 751, was approved overwhelmingly by both bodies on Tuesday and sent to Governor Deal for his signature.
The funding for the Bogart Library appears in the budget under the General Obligation Debt Sinking Fund category.
The state will sell 20-year bonds to raise the $1.8 million for the Bogart Library, one of only three public libraries included in the state budget.
The state will issue 20-year bonds to raise $2 million for renovations of the South Georgia Regional Library in Valdosta in Lowndes County and to raise $2 million for renovations of the West Georgia Regional Library in Carrollton in Carroll County.
The Georgia Board of Regents, which includes library projects in its budget, had ranked the West Georgia Regional Library project as its top priority and the South Georgia Regional Library as its second priority.
Bogart Number 5
The Bogart library was the fifth library project on the Board of Regents list.
Gov. Deal did not include any of the library projects in his recommended budget.
The House, which initiates the budget bill, also did not include any of the three libraries in its version, but the Senate added the South Georgia Regional and West Georgia Regional libraries in its budget.
The Bogart Library was added only in the conference committee.
Last year the county agreed to contribute $955,750 to the Bogart library renovation and expansion, and this year it is being asked to contribute $1 million.
The money is supposed to come from either the county’s 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or from the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
The county has just less than $3.6 million in unspent funds from 2004 SPLOST, and the money for the Bogart Library match last year was supposed to come from that amount.
Voters approved $2 million for library work in 2015 SPLOST, which the county only began collecting in October of last year.
Reversal Of Last Year
The House-Senate conference committee removed all funding for the renovation and expansion of the Bogart Library from the Fiscal Year 2016 budget in the final two days of the General Assembly last year.
The conference committee action was taken at the direction of Terry England, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, according to Sen. Bill Cowsert. Cowsert represents all of Oconee County in the Senate.
The Bogart Library was the only one of seven libraries designated for funding in the budgets approved by the House and Senate to be zeroed out by the conference committee.
Rep. Regina Quick, who represents Bogart and two other Oconee County precincts in the Georgia House, last year was a frequent and outspoken critic of House leadership in the runup to the vote to increase motor fuel and hotel taxes to fund state transportation projects.