Elkin’s Board of Commissioners is seeking to end the town’s reign on being the second highest local municipality to kick in taxpayer funds for its library.
According to commissioners, the aid the town is providing for the Elkin branch is disproportionate compared to other facilities throughout the 13-branch Northwest Regional Library network who receive a bulk of support from county funds.
The NWRL serves public libraries in Alleghany, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties.
According to a 13-branch analysis report relating to aid, 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 (city/town), 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.
At a budget workshop held last week in Town Hall, the Elkin Board of Commissioners considered a special appropriation request by the Northwest Regional Library of about $85,000 from its 2014-2015 budget. Commissioners opted to offset the burden on local taxpayers by tapping into Lillard monies, a reserve fund passed to the town to administer from the will of James Lillard. The funds are earmarked for library purposes. The fund has $60,000. Commissioners would transfer $30,000 from the fund in 2014-2015. A second transfer of the remaining money will be in fiscal year 2015-2016.
“We are far exceeding what our counterparts are doing,” said Commissioner Bob Norton. “We have to do something about it.”
“True, but you have to understand that usage in Elkin is far greater,” said Commissioner Cicely McColloch during discussion on how much aid would be allotted to the library.
“I understand, but I don’t see us asking taxpayers to continue funding a net of 2,600 people who are not taxpayers of Elkin. They’re taxpayers of the county,” said Norton.
Commissioner Skip Whitman suggested that library officials will not change course pertaining to local aid unless commissioners one day stop the aid. “I think we need to challenge the library for a different answer on funding… We should see what funding alternatives are there. Maybe they can charge a fee for out of area usage. I don’t know… We’ll do our part, but we can’t do it all,” he said.
The Elkin Library Board of Trustees are deciphering its next steps.
“We are doing some fact checking of data to see who the Elkin Library serves. We are also doing research on facts that have caused the town to arrive at its decision,” said Martha Smith, branch librarian at Elkin Public Library. “When we have the facts, we will make a public statement in that regard… The trustees are the voice of our library.”
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.