Boonville Town Commissioners were met with some angry citizens at their June 4 town hall meeting. Ellen Reece and Joe Reece spoke out against the commissioners’ proposal to cut the Boonville Library’s funding by half.
The Reece’s plea to the commissioners was ultimately overruled as the board voted 4-0 to adopt the budget with the 50 percent cut to the library. Mayor Rusty Hunter was not present at the June 4 meeting.
Ellen Reece commented that that Boonville town commissioners have historically given the library system $5,100 since the library’s creation.
“It’s used to buy books, to increase the number of employees’ hours and the library availability to the citizens of this town,” Reece said. “I think this small request in support of the library is not an unusual amount to give. The library benefits every child in this town and many adults. It is a great service and a great benefit to our community.”
Reece said that in her research into the town’s reasons behind the cuts to the library she was told the insurance costs for the Boonville Library were too high. Reece said after her personal investigation the insurance costs are including items that are not necessary for the library.
“The library insurance cost for the first three years were only around $400,” Reece said. “Then it tripled the fourth year. That insurance cost includes liability, property insurance, auto insurance, a special insurance for heavy equipment operation and workers comp insurance. A portion of that has gone to the library and that makes the library’s insurance cost look inflated.”
Reece suggested that the town look into the insurance costs for the library and reassess their coverage.
Reece also said that the Friends of the Library provided the building for the library at no cost to the town in 2002. Reece stated that the building with its furnishings was worth approximately $325,000 and that this was gifted to the town.
Reece said that in return for the donation from the Friends the 2002 board of town commissioners agreed to maintain and insure the building.
“There’s been a falsehood circulating, I don’t know the source of it, but it’s been said that there’s not going to be one dime of town money in the library,” Reece said. “How can that be true if they voted to maintain and insure? This whole idea that the town was never going to spend a dime on the library is a total falsehood, and I don’t know the root of it.”
Reece pointed out that the county commissioners have continued to increase their support for the library system over the past few years. She said that the town’s withdrawal of its historical funding would result in the Boonville Library moving backward.
Reece’s husband, Joe, also spoke to the board. Joe served a term as a board commissioner and worked with Friends of the Library to help get the building funded and handed over to the town.
“I want you to know that I will personally consider it a slap in my face if you cut this funding,” Joe said. “Feel free, if you need to raise taxes, raise my taxes. I guarantee that I will pay more taxes than any of you if you do that.”
After the public comments the commissioners responded to the speaker’s concerns.
Commissioner Janet Matthews told attendees that she and two other commissioners had met with members of Friends of the Library to determine whose responsibility it would be to take care of the library contents and the building.
“I thought we had a very good meeting,” Matthews said. “Everyone left satisfied I thought.”
Reece spoke out to Matthews that because Friends of the Library is a 501C3 organization and requires a vote from the board of directors before it can make any decisions. She claims that this meant that any agreements the Friends members and town commissioners came to would not be valid until the Friends directors met and voted.
Matthews acknowledged this comment saying that the commissioners were not in charge of setting up the meeting and arranging who would attend but noted that the board would table a vote to adopt a memorandum of understanding between the Friends of the Library and the town commissioners in regard to the care and upkeep of the library and its contents.
Matthews said that the she feels that the situation had been blown out of proportion and that while the town did agree to take on responsibility for maintaining the building it did not agree to an obligated financial donation.
“I think what you’re failing see is that we didn’t just take that money away and give it to somebody else,” Matthews said. “We moved that portion to the maintenance of the building. We didn’t take it away; we just put it in a different location. If you really get down to brass tax, that’s all we’re really obligated to do is to keep up the building.”
Reece argued back that if that is the case then the town should present cuts to other organizations. She added that it does not have financial obligations to such as the recreation club, which was budgeted $1,000 this year with no cuts.
All of the commissioners voted in favor of adopting the budget with the maintained cuts to the Boonville Library.