A lot has changed since 1986.
Johnny Carson has been replaced three times over on the Tonight Show.
The portable cassette player has been pushed aside by the iPhone and other smart devices.
And the city of Jackson has been outpaced by neighboring cities in terms of economic growth.
Now, some city and county leaders say something else from 1986 needs to be changed – the funding agreement for the Jackson-Hinds Library System (JHLS).
Under the agreement, Jackson is the only city in Hinds County that pays an annual allocation to the system. And Jackson residents are the only residents in the county who are taxed twice for library services.
Meanwhile, other cities in the county have seen significant economic growth in recent years, while Jackson’s economy has fallen flat.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba had not looked into the agreement but believes it probably should be updated.
“For an agreement written in 1986 to apply appropriately today, it would have to have been written with the insight of the Forefathers,” he said.
Hinds County District One Supervisor Robert Graham agreed, saying it was unfair for Jackson residents to be double-taxed.
He said the board would look into the agreement but didn’t say when or if it would be amended.
Terms state both the city council and board of supervisors must agree to any amendments. The system can be abolished by either the council or the board of supervisors September 30 of any year, as long as 60 days’ notice is given.
JHLS was formed in 1986, after Jackson and Hinds County pulled out of the Jackson Metropolitan Library System.
The now-defunct organization also included Warren, Rankin, Scott, Simpson and Smith counties.
At the time, local leaders said they were not receiving their fair share of library services, despite contributing the “lion’s share” of the system’s funding, according to an August 25, 1986 article from the Clarion-Ledger.
The Jackson-Hinds agreement was supposed to address that problem.
Under the deal, libraries in Jackson and the county would be put under one umbrella and would be funded jointly by both entities.
No other cities in the county would have to contribute, and the library system was forbidden from asking cities for contributions. The county and the city would split costs evenly.
Since its inception, though, Jackson has paid more than $45 million to the system, while the county has allocated $43.2 million.
Even so, at the time the agreement was signed, it seemed like a good deal for the capital city.
Jackson had 30,000 more residents than it does today and a booming economy.
Fast forward to 2020. Jackson can barely pay its bills. As evidence of that fact, the city has approved raising property taxes twice in the last five years to stave off dwindling revenue.
The county has faced similar problems. Census figures show that between 1990 and 2019, it had lost nearly 23,000 residents.
And, like Jackson it has had to raise property taxes. In 2017 the county raised ad valorem assessments, in part, to address federal mandates to repair its jail and youth detention facility and to make up for state cuts in road money.
While Jackson and the county’s finances have worsened, other cities have thrived.
Clinton’s population, for instance, has grown by more than 6,000 people since Jackson-Hinds was created, and the assessed value of real properties in the town has grown by 271 percent.
Clinton is the county’s second-largest municipality, with 24,000 residents.
The city of Byram, which did not exist when the JHLS agreement was inked, has approximately 11,000 residents and has seen its property values grow by 13 percent since it was re-incorporated in 2009.
By comparison, Jackson has seen its assessed real property values grow just 33 percent between 1986 and 2018. And since 2010, its assessed real values have grown by less than a percentage point.
Byram Mayor Richard White said he would have no problem with his city making an annual allocation to the system. However, he has concerns with the library system of his own.
Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher said his city already contributes to JHLS, citing the fact that Clinton is still retiring the bonds used to construct the Quisenberry Library.
Clinton issued $8 million in bonds to build the Quisenberry branch more than a decade ago. The 20,000-square foot facility opened in 2009.
Since then, the city has been working to retire that debt, and pays about $670,000 a year on the bond note, Fisher said.
Jackson, too, is responsible for library buildings within its city limits, and has spent millions over the years to build or renovate them. In 1998, the city issued $1.5 million in bonds to renovate branches. And in 2001, the city allocated $1.7 million toward the construction of the Willie Morris Branch, after the library system received a $300,000 grant to build it from the state.
Other cities are also responsible for their branches. The town of Terry, which has about 1,250 residents, financed the construction of the new Ella Bess Austin branch, which opened its doors in 2010.
Under JHLS terms, all cities that wish to add a library must pay for the construction from city coffers. Buildings also must be owned or leased by their respective municipalities.
Seven branches are located in the Jackson city limits. In recent years, maintaining those facilities has been aa challenge for the cash-strapped capital city.
At press time, three Jackson branches had been temporarily shut down, one due to plumbing issues and another because of a lack of air conditioning. The Fannie Lou Hamer branch, located at the Golden Key Community Center, is closed while the community center is under renovation.
Another branch, the Charles Tisdale Library, has been closed permanently because of black mold and flood damage. Last fall, the library system turned the Tisdale building back over to the city, and abandoned interest in it. Meanwhile, the Eudora Welty Library, the system flagship, had been reduced to one floor of operations on order of the state fire marshal.
Lumumba said the branches are insured, but insurance has yet to pay out. The city was in mediation with the insurance company recently.
For his part, Fisher said it might be time for the capital city to close some of its locations.
“If your income isn’t what it was in 1986, you can’t afford everything you were buying in 1986,” he said.
Interestingly, while Jackson is struggling to maintain its facilities, a portion of the city’s annual allocation to the library system goes to help maintain the Quisenberry branch.
In 2018, Clinton entered into a lease agreement with the Jackson-Hinds system, which states that indoor maintenance issues are to be addressed by the system, while issues outside the branch are to be addressed by Clinton.
In other words, if toilets back up inside that library, the city of Jackson pays to unstop them.