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Milner council reverses course on library funding

By Kay S. Pedrotti A tie-breaking vote by Mayor Joe Bostwick last week insured that the Milner Library will continue to receive $13,896 annually from city sales tax funds through the end of fiscal year 2019. The special called meeting Jan. 28 was packed with citizens, many of whom had comments on both sides of the question whether to continue library funding in the ‘operations’ phase after construction is completed. At its regular meeting Jan. 28, the council had voted 3-2 to ‘de-fund’ the library by withdrawing the same sales tax revenue amount that was considered ‘construction funding.’ A resolution noted that the mayor and council ‘firmly believe that a library in Milner would be in the best interests of its residents ‘¦ surrounding areas and the public at large.’ In reference to a letter from Julie Walker, state librarian and vice chancellor for libraries, the resolution also stated that the city wished to ‘comply with the terms and conditions contained in the letter.’ The letter was dated Dec. 20, 2018. Walker’s letter made clear that ‘local support for the current year shall be equal to or more than the preceding year’ and that ‘local support’ is defined as funding ‘provided to library system boards of trustees by local government agencies with taxing authority.’ Walker also stated that non-compliance with that requirement or any others set out by the library system ‘would make the (Milner) library system ineligible to receive state aid,’ such as funds for state-reimbursed library jobs, system services grants or any materials funding ‘that becomes available from state allocations.’ Bostwick’s vote broke a 2-2 tie between Roger Samples and Tracy Alford voting yes to continue funding, and Betty Wilson and Fred Stephens voting no, with councilman George Weldon abstaining because he also serves on the library board. The mayor was obviously emotional about the decision, but all council members assured him they would support him whichever way he voted. Uppermost in the comments made by those opposed to further funding was the fear that Milner property taxes would have to be raised, now or in the future, just for the library. Supporters pointed out to the council that they had a commitment to the library as a ‘community centerpiece’ because of having included the project in its comprehensive plans for several years. One resident said that if the city wants to continue as a city, it should provide ‘more than water and sewerage ‘“ cultural improvements as well.’ Opponents argued for increased fire and police protection over library funding. Wilson and Stephens continually stressed that complete information on income sources and expenses for the library had been lacking for many years, resulting in an amendment to Samples’ motion to approve the resolution with a condition that monthly reports on financials and operations be presented to the council.

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