Trustees with the Elkin Public Library gathered in an emergency session last Thursday and learned the Elkin Board of Commissioners is seeking to use $30,000 from the trust fund of a deceased person to offset the library’s special appropriation request of $85,000, even though the town of Elkin expects a significant budget surplus.
According to records, the trust fund of the late James Lillard was willed in the 1980s to the town of Elkin to use for the library. The town fully controls fund use. The fund has $60,000 remaining in the account. Commissioners seek to withdraw $30,000 annually over the next two years and deduct the amount from the library’s special appropriation request.
If the proposed 2014-2015 budget is passed and the same is done the following year, the Lillard Fund would be depleted in two years.
The maneuver by commissioners comes at a time with Elkin expecting a budget surplus of $214,295.
According to the Elkin Board of Commissioners, the aid the town is providing the branch is disproportionate compared to other library facilities throughout the 13-branch Northwest Regional Library network who receive a bulk of support from county funds.
According to a report provided by the town, the Elkin branch ranked the lowest of any branch to receive aid from the county (48.94 percent). In contrast, a branch with a similar operating budget in Stokes County receives almost 90 percent of county aid.
Of aid from municipalities, the report also showed in 2013 the town of Elkin contributed 39.5 percent ($85,872) of the total operating budget ($217,394) for the Elkin branch. Only one municipality throughout the 13-branch network contributed higher, the city of Mount Airy, who contributed 39.69 percent of the library budget for its branch. Of the remaining 11 branches in the NWRL, eight branches received less than 10 percent funding from local municipalities.
Elkin commissioners said the library has two years to find an alternative funding source for the $30,000 they’re removing from the Lillard Fund.
“We’ll still be there to support the library, but we can’t keep doing as much,” said Commissioner Skip Whitman during a recent budget workshop.
The NWRL serves public libraries in Alleghany, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties.
“We can’t make up that amount ($30,000), even with two years,” Martha Smith, librarian for the Elkin Public Library, told trustees. “If we don’t find an alternative solution, we’re going to see future staff cuts, reduced hours, even potentially reduced days of operation for the branch.”
“The town isn’t doing anything wrong though by pressuring us to find other solutions. They’re facing reality with their responsibility, and that’s something we need to get a grip on ourselves,” said Trustee Dan Whelan to other trustees. “However, the town can’t forget the library is an economic development engine for Elkin. We have so many people who come into town often shopping in downtown businesses or other locations in Elkin.”
“We pay taxes,” said Trustee Richard Brinegar. “I understand the message they’re sending, but we’ve paid into this too as taxpayers… We need this library. We need to get ahead on this.”
“I think it’s time for us to see if we can all meet with commissioners and provide them a presentation and a Q&A session so they can have accurate information to base their support according to who uses this library, why we ask for money, and how we spend this money,” said Trustee Carol McDowell. “There are a lot of misconceptions on what we do here with the town… We need to have a stronger relationship with the town. We also need to do a better job, all of us, at being trustees.”
Mayor Lestine Hutchens said due to time constraints that it was not possible to gather commissioners for an emergency session for a trustee presentation.
“I can call for an emergency session, but I can’t guarantee a quorum with this short notice. It makes no sense for trustees to meet with me and the town manager because in reality on this matter, we both have no vote in this budget. In that case, it’s best for trustees to show up and speak at the public hearing,” said Hutchens.
When asked if library trustees could be added to the agenda prior to the public hearing on June 9 for a short presentation, Hutchens said this week that the agenda for the June 9 Town Hall meeting already was set. “Had trustees reached out last Friday (the day after their meeting), it’s possible we would’ve gotten them agenda time. However, I wasn’t contacted until Tuesday. Nobody from the town was contacted until Tuesday either.”
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.