The Locust Grove Board of Trustees didn’t cut much from the library budget at the special meeting Saturday, but it was enough to cast doubt on future state funding.
Trustees cut nearly $2,000 from the library budget. The 2012-2013 budget had a Maintenance of Effort of $61,495. That amount must be met by the town for state funding to continue. The budget for the library was $63,548.46 for the fiscal year ending this month, meeting the Maintenance of Effort. Trustees budgeted $60,000 for the library for the 2013-14 fiscal year. That is $3,548.46 less than last year and $1,495 beneath the Maintenance of Effort needed to maintain state funding. State funding amounted to around $3,000 this fiscal year.
Library Director Anissa Fleming said she first caught wind of possible budget cuts several weeks before June’s board meeting.“Initially, I heard they were considering cutting my budget by $15,000 as well as possibly cutting one person from my staff,” Fleming said. “There are only two of us to begin with and $15,000 represents about 25 percent of my budget, which would be devastating.”
Though she could not get confirmation the rumor, Fleming rallied library supporters, many of whom attended the board meeting to voice support and concerns.
Patron John Byrd told trustees that since moving to Mayes County six or seven years ago, he’d read hundreds of books from the library.
Byrd, who is a woodcarver and a recent finalist in a national competition, attributed his inspiration for his carvings to literature he’d read.
“We read for inspiration. We read for entertainment,” he said. “Our library is invaluable. It is a jewel.”
Floyd Saffell talked about his fascination for local history, gleaned from his many trips to the library.
Cydni Tillery, pastor of the Locust Grove Methodist Church, addressed the board in support of the library.
Pat Williams, a consultant with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, explained to trustees the domino effect that such a cut would have on other funding sources.
She said reducing the library’s budget beneath the required amount not only eliminates state funding, but it affects eligibility when applying for other grants.
Fleming said grant providers look at things like how much support the library receives from its own community.
“If they think that it appears the library isn’t supported by our own town, then they are hesitant to award grants, especially ones that require matching funds,” Fleming said.
After the meeting, Fleming put pen to paper and tightened her budget in an effort to help trustees find areas to cut.
She submitted a budget request of $61,997.76. That amount reflected a budget cut of $1,550.70, but stayed above the Maintenance of Effort amount by $500.
The library was built entirely by donations and fundraisers. The land was donated by library champion L.C. Neel, who donated the land for the facility, gave $5,000 to the cause and helped to establish a library trust to house the funds raised for the project. The building was valued at $160,000.
According to the history of the library, 80-year-old bricks from the old middle school were donated by the Holman Company to cover the exterior of the building.
“Townspeople gathered for a ‘brick cleaning party’ to salvage the building blocks left over when the school was torn down during the summer of 1989. Individual bricks were sold as mementos as a fundraiser,” according to library history.
More than half the cost of building was given in labor and sweat by various local craftsmen who donated their skills.
When the keys to the completed facility were handed over to the town on Aug. 15, 1993, the building was a debt-free gift.
If the upcoming fiscal year does not reflect an amendment at some point to raise the budgeted amount by at least the $1,495 shortfall, the library will lose state funding for the next year.
While Fleming is hopeful town leadership will find $1,500 to increase her budget amount, she nevertheless has to prepare for the possibility that future state funding and grant possibilities will go away.
On June 1, library records show patrons entered the library more than 6,700 times since July 1, 2012.
“Every time someone comes into the library, we count them,” Fleming said of the number. The library has seen 129 new patrons since last fiscal year.
As for the board of trustees, Fleming is overwhelmingly supportive.
“It is a thankless job, no doubt. There is just no way five people can handle everything in this community,” she said. “I would love to see the board meetings full of citizens who want to know how their government is working and learn ways they can help. This is an awesome community. I want to see it become even better.”