A plea from Magness Library officials netted the facility a donation of $70,000 from the city – an additional $22,000 to its annual donation of $48,000.
The push to increase the donation began during the city’s Finance Committee meeting Tuesday night.
“Magness Library is requesting $3,500 to begin offering eBooks,” said Alderman Billy Wood. “I can’t remember when was the last time the library received an increase. Can anyone?”
On the committee with Wood are Vice Mayor Everett Brock and Alderman Clair Cochran, who was absent.
“The only thing about giving the library an increase is the maintenance of effort,” said Brock. “If we give it this year, we have to continue to give it.”
Under the maintenance of effort law, local governments are required to fund school systems and libraries at the same level as the previous fiscal year. Governments that don’t provide funding at the same level face fines, among other penalties.
The law is a double-edged sword for school systems and libraries. While it keeps governments from cutting the funding level to these programs, it makes obtaining an increase very difficult.
“They are asking for $3,500,” said Wood. “Even if we have to give them an additional $3,500 a year, that’s nothing. I motion that we increase our donation to $60,000 a year.”
The motion passed.
Rachel Killebrew, a member of the library’s Board of Trustees, asked to address the committee.
“To answer your question, the library has not received an increase in funding from either the city or county in eight years,” said Killebrew. “This year will be the ninth year. Despite that, expenses have increased every year when it comes to salaries, utilities, cost of books and mailings, etc. The salaries are still lower than all other counties, especially the director.”
She stressed the importance of reversing the trend of no additional funding in order to save the library from going broke.
“I know a lot of people think the library has plenty of money saved up,” Killebrew said. “We do not. We have been dipping into savings in order to pay expenses. At the rate we are going, the library will be bankrupt in seven years.”
She presented numbers that showed Warren County is the lowest per capita — the funding divided by population to determine how much is donated per person — when it comes to funding libraries in 12 counties in the region during the 2010-11 fiscal year.
According to the numbers, Magness Library received $116,000 from county government and $48,000 from city government for a total of $164,000. With a population of 39,839, the per person funding is $4.12.
Topping the per capita list is Coffee County that received $899,725 in funding from its city and county governments. With a population of 52,796, funding averaged out to $17.04 per person.
Along with Coffee County, the counties of Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, Franklin, Marion, Moore, Rutherford, Trousdale, Wilson and Grundy also receive more funding per capita than Warren County.
Franklin County’s population is 41,052, which is the closest to Warren County. It’s library is funded $276,729 by both city and county governments. Per person funding is $6.74.
Wood was shocked by the per person funding in Grundy County — With a population of 13,703 and funding of $77,536, per person funding was $5.66.
“Have you seen these numbers,” questioned Wood. “It’s just sad. We should all be ashamed of ourselves. The library provides a necessary function to this community and our funding doesn’t show that. We even give less than Grundy County per person.”
Wood suggested the donation amount be increased to $70,000.
“Remember maintenance of effort,” said McMinnville Mayor Norman Rone.
Disregarding the warning, Wood and Brock voted to increase the donation from $60,000 to $70,000.
The measure was presented to the full board Tuesday night and was accepted into the budget.
After the meeting, Library Board of Trustees chairman Pat Bigbee expressed her gratitude.
“We really do appreciate the city board’s donation,” Bigbee said. “It was more than we expected. We just hope we can get the county to match the city’s donation, plus a smidgen more.”
According to Bigbee, the library is dipping into its savings at a rate of approximately $60,000 a year. With the city’s increase of $22,000, the library will still be short $38,000 a year and could still go bust if funding does not increase.
The additional $22,000 by the city pushed the per person funding for Magness Library to $4.67. An additional $38,000 in funding from the county would raise the per person to $5.62, still leaving Warren County as the lowest per-person-funded library in the region.