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10 Speak for Library at Public Hearing for Boone’s Budget; Dissent Among Board for Nonprofit Allocations

By Jesse Wood

June 21, 2012. During Thursday’s Boone Town Council meeting, 12 people spoke at a public hearing regarding nonprofit allocations in the fiscal year 2012-13 budget. The town’s $22.2 million budget passed 4-1 with Council Member Jamie Leigh voting nay.

10 spoke on behalf of Watauga County Public Library, while one person from both Hunger & Health Coalition and the Community Care Clinic thanked the council members for their continued funding.

Though Watauga County Public Library requested $15,000, it will receive $5,000. Librarian Monica Caruso, who asked the board for the remaining $10,000, said the funding would be used for picture books and other books for juveniles, teenagers and parents. She added that 84 percent of library members were residents of the Town of Boone. 

Tamara Scanlin, a youth services assistant with the library, said the children’s collection is the most important part of library and also the part of the library that gets used the most. 

“Please reconsider the libraries request, and invest in the future of our children’s literacy,” Scanlin said.

Three people in animal costumes, as well as a few kids, spoke on behalf of the library as well. Spencer Ball, an 11-year-old, said he’s been visiting the library his whole life and has fun reading books, playing in the kid’s area and learning on the computer.

“They have amazing programs and amazing books. If you cut the funding, there won’t be great books,” Ball said. “So please don’t.”

A few of the council members, including Council Members Renee Brentz and Andy Ball, said extra funding in the future would be considered if brought to the board.

Leigh, who provided the lone dissent, said she didn’t approve of the $5,000 given to the Watauga Public Library, let alone the $15,000 requested, although she added, “I think [the library provides a] wonderful service.”

Her dissent was in how the allocations were distributed through the Outside Agency Funding Committee, which was voted upon separately from the overall budget because Council Member Lynne Mason had a conflict of interest being the Executive Director of the Hospitality House, one of the agencies requesting money.

Leigh didn’t agree with the Watauga Public Library receiving appropriations because they are a governmental agency. She also took offense at other council members insinuating that future funding (outside of the Outside Agency Funding Committee) was possible if brought to the board, adding that other groups who were as well deserved for additional funding as the library would line up at the door of the Council Chambers and speak as passionately as the Friends of the Library did if other groups knew future funding was possible.

“We formed the Outside Agency Committee in 2006-07 to take politics and politicking out of the process and organize in a much better fashion,” Leigh said. “Library funding is at $5,000, not because something is wrong with the library, but because we had twice as many applications for money. A lot of [the nonprofits are] funded at a much lesser level, and some didn’t get funding at all. It’s no strike at the library.”

She added that Watauga Parks and Recreation is not funded, so it’s not fair to fund the Watauga Public Library – because both are government agencies, not because she is opposed to the work that the groups do.

“It’s not fair. I believe [the library is] akin to a government organization,” Leigh said.