But Mayor Broyles Will Seek One-Year Waiver From State, Full Restoration In 2014-2015
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greeneville-Greene County Public Library is not in danger of closing its doors, nor is the library in danger of losing all county or state funding this year.
That two-part message concerning the library was heavily emphasized during Thursday's meeting of the County Budget & Finance Committee, which has been working for months to develop a proposed county budget for 2013-2014.
But even so, the library may well be getting less money from the county this year than it has received for the last five years.
The committee completed its budget proposal at the meeting, and decided to recommend that the County Commission reduce by 1.24 to 4 percent the county government's annual allocation to the library.
County Mayor Alan Broyles, the chairman of the committee, said that he anticipates that the cut would be for just the 2013-2014 budget year, and would be restored to the current level in the 2014-2015 budget.
The exact percentage of reduction to the library allocation this year would be based on whatever average budget reduction is made by the various departments that are part of the County General Fund.
Those proposed reductions are part of an overall effort by the committee to reduce as much as possible an anticipated major deficit in the General Fund in the coming budget year.
Most county government departments and offices -- the Sheriff's Department, the office of the County Mayor, the Register of Deeds, County Clerk, General Sessions Court, etc. -- draw their basic operating money from the General Fund.
Each year for at least the past five years, Greene County has allocated $84,500 to the library.
Because the library is a 50-50 joint venture between the county and the Town of Greeneville, the town allocates a matching amount.
This year, Greeneville completed its budgeting process in June, with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen choosing to maintain the full $84,500 allocation.
The board decided to maintain its full allocation to the library despite indications from the county that the commission might reduce the county allocation because of the anticipated deficit in the County General Fund.
Early word of the county's potential cutback to the library caused a considerable level of concern within the community, because the library has what is known as a maintenance-of-effort requirement from the state government.
The state has for many years provided major resources of various kinds to the local library, which is a member of the state's regional library system.
Cutting even a small portion from the local allocation in any year technically violates the maintenance-of-effort agreement with the state government and could permit the state to withdraw the regional library system's extensive funding and programs for this library.
Library Director Don Miller has estimated that the value of the state funding and programs totals more than $500,000.
He explained in June that he was referring to the state's nearly $90,000 in funding to the local library, as well as approximately 28,000 items in the library that were purchased with state funds, and other state-financed goods and services, for a total potential loss of $600,000 or more.
However, Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles said Thursday at the Budget & Finance Committee meeting that he has obtained from the office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett an application for a one-year waiver of the maintenance-of-effort requirement.
The office of the Secretary of State oversees Tennessee public libraries.
The waiver, if approved by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would allow Greene County to temporarily make a percentage cut in county support to the library for the 2013-2014 budget year.
As noted, the Budget & Finance Committee is recommending that the County Commission reduce the library allocation by between 1.24 percent and 4 percent.
Mayor Broyles said he anticipates receiving the waiver from the state, and said he also anticipates that the library's funding from the county would return to $84,500 next year.
"I've received calls from citizens," Commissioner Robert Bird said. "They were under the impression that we were intentionally deleting all of the funding from the library.
"I was a little bit disturbed by the information that these people have understood," he continued.
"I don't like to be misled; I don't like other people to be misled, then contact me under that misguided information."
Library Director Miller, who attended Thursday's meeting, said that he does not know the source of such misleading information, unless it arises from general confusion about what can be a complicated budgeting matter.
"I don't understand either precisely how the perception was created, but I didn't create that," he said.
SEAY OBJECTS TO STATEMENT
Commissioner Hilton Seay objected to a statement by Miller that The Greeneville Sun published on July 27, in which Miller referred to the maintenance-of-effort requirement and what he said is the danger of losing $500,000 in funding and services if the county makes even a small cut in its local allocation.
Miller had said that, "The numbers so obviously indicate the importance of that funding that I think it would be insane to talk about losing it."
"I stand by that," Miller said, later emphasizing the devastating impact which losing that much funding would have had on the library. "I don't think the word 'insane' was too strong."
"Well I stand by my position that it bothered me," Seay replied.
Miller also thanked Mayor Broyles for having been present in support of the library at the library's 105th birthday celebration on Saturday, Aug. 3.
"Don, I appreciate the job you do at the library," Broyles replied. "I thought you conducted the birthday celebration well."
OBJECTED TO WALKER'S STATEMENT
The mayor added, however, that he wanted to straighten out a "kink" that he said was created by a Letter to the Editor published in The Greeneville Sun on July 15 and written by Madge B. Walker, the retired former executive director of the library.
In the letter, Walker said that Broyles had indicated that Miller "was not the head of anything."
"In other words, the county mayor does not believe that the public library is a true government department and thus its director cannot be a department head," Walker wrote.
Broyles objected to these statements, saying that he did not understand how Walker could have come to such an understanding from his statements.
"What I had said is, 'You aren't a county department head,'" Broyles explained.
"My signature goes on the department heads' and employees' checks. A county department head you are not. The city is the fiscal agent for the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library.
"If it was perceived that I was disrespectful to you, I certainly do apologize, but that's not how it should have been taken," he added.
Miller responded that he had not then, nor at Thursday's meeting, taken any offense.
"I accept your apology," he said.
"I'm actually not apologizing for what I said," Broyles responded, adding that he would say it again since it was an accurate statement. "I'm just appalled that Ms. Madge Walker took it like that."
Miller concluded the conversation surrounding the library by saying that any cut, even a small temporary one, will be painful to the library because it is already receiving such low funding.
He added, however, that "the fact that we will survive" is of service and benefit to the county's citizens.