McMinnville officials will be meeting their maintenance of effort requirement for Magness Library, says Alderman Ken Smith.
“There is a mix-up,” said Smith. “I’ve heard there is an idea out there that the city is going, or at least contemplating, reducing the amount on your maintenance of effort. That is not true. The maintenance of effort is $48,000 and that was in, it still is in, the budget. You can assure your board the city has every intention to meet its maintenance of effort.”
The statement was made during a presentation by Magness Library director Brad Walker and library board chairwoman Pat Bigbee before Finance Committee members Thursday night.
Walker does not agree, entirely. Walker says the maintenance of effort was set at $48,000 in 2011, while the last year’s maintenance of effort was set at $70,000.
“The last maintenance of effort last year was $70,000,” Walker said. “I know from the ordinance it is $48,000, but what Mayor (Norman) Rone signed said $70,000.”
At the heart of the disagreement is the inclusion of a “one-time donation” request in 2012 so the library could establish a new reading program. The board agreed to $22,000 and a one-time donation.
The ordinance passed by the board for fiscal year 2012-13 stated the $22,000 was a “one-time appropriation to the Magness Memorial Library to allow them to participate in the READS Program to promote the social improvement of the residents of the city of McMinnville.”
As for the remaining $48,000 given to the library at the same time, the amount was kept separate in the ordinance and stated, “$48,000 be appropriated to the Magness Memorial Library to promote the social improvement of the residents of McMinnville.”
The letter signed by Rone alluded to by Walker was a “2012/ 2013 Public Library Maintenance of Effort Agreement” that states the city’s MOE is set as $70,000.
According to city attorney Tim Pirtle, the agreement signed by the mayor is not binding because it differs from the ordinance.
“I’ve seen the agreement and it’s absolutely not binding,” said Pirtle. “The board speaks through its written resolutions and ordinances. The ordinance clearly states the $22,000 donation was a one-time appropriation and not included in the $48,000.”
Any agreement signed by the mayor without prior approval of the board is not binding, Pirtle said. Pirtle also says the city is not committed to maintenance of effort for the library by the state.
“In my opinion, it is not,” he said. “Maintenance of effort is a term derived from the education status of Tennessee that imposes an affirmative duty on local education agencies to assess taxes necessary to fund local education at the same level as the prior year unless student enrollment declines.”
The Tennessee Education Finance Act of 1977 requires “maintenance of local funding effort” to qualify for state education financing funds.
“Magness Library is not a local education agency as defined by the act,” said Pirtle. “It is a privately endowed library with the deed held by the trustees. In fact, the budget information submitted by Magness Library reflects no state funding.”
Funding comes from Warren County government, the city of McMinnville, investment income, memorials and contributions, and miscellaneous income.
When questioned if he could be wrong about the library not falling under the state’s maintenance of effort requirement for education, Pirtle says the city would still be meeting its requirement under the act by giving $48,000.
“Let’s assume that I am wrong,” he said. “If maintenance of effort were applied to city funding of the library, the contribution for the last fiscal year was $48,000 and not $70,000. The city would still be meeting its requirement.”
Officials are currently in the middle of reviewing the city’s budget for fiscal year 2013-14, including considering donation requests from nonprofit organizations.