Library meeting draws large crowd

Beth Rumsey
Staff Writer

The Osgood Public Library Board held a special meeting for the first reading of the 2011 budget on Tuesday, August 24. A large crowd gathered, with many standing and several standing outside the doors, to ask questions regarding the proposed increased tax rate for residents of Osgood and Milan or to show support for the library.

Board president Gene Pitts explained to those attending that the board cannot answer questions regarding the tax rate at this meeting as the information will not be received until after the submission to the state for review.

Outgoing director Emily Kruse reported that the 2011 budget was around $364,000 less than the 2010 budget of $378,000. Kruse explained cuts were made in several areas and some expenses stayed the same such as salaries and insurance benefits.

According to Kruse, there are areas that cannot be cut in order to remain in compliance with the state requirements, such as hours of operation, and still receive funding. “We tried to be as conservative as we could without taking away from what people are contributing to,” she said.

As this was the first hearing, the budget was not adopted at this meeting but will be adopted at the September meeting. The budget will then go on to the state for approval.

According to Pitts, the Department of Local Government and Finance, DLGF, bases the tax rate on assessed property values as well as the debt of an organization such as the library.

Pitts also noted that the board has discussed using a balance of about $100,000 from the construction of the Milan branch to help reduce the tax rate for those living in the library district.

Patrons were given an opportunity to speak. Because there were several who wished to ask questions or express their opinions, each patron was limited to three minutes. Questions regarding tax rates were not answered by the board until further information from the state was received.

Many opposed to the tax increase were farmers who feel that they are paying more taxes than those who live in town with less property. Others expressed their frustration with not getting the information in a timely manner to discuss the issues with the board.

“It feels like we don’t have a voice,” said Melissa Crum, whose children attend Jac-Cen-Del schools. According to Crum, the summer attendance is made up of those children who live in town. “We don’t use the library in the summer because my kids are working on the farm,” she said.

John Peetz explained that although he is not anti-library, he did not feel that there was a need for a new library. He asserted that the location of the new Milan branch makes it difficult for the children to visit. Peetz also noted that in his opinion the library did not need as many employees such as two janitors and a treasurer.

He said that the proposed tax rate is higher than the county tax rate for the general fund supporting all the county offices.

Daniel Day, Milan, does not own a farm but has seen a 46% increase in his property taxes in the last four years. According to Day, it is more important to have kids educated than to have a “nice, shiny new building.”

Day stated that the board’s statement that the tax rate is not determined by them is a “cop out”. He requested information on how he could reach those who did determine the tax rate so that he could express his concerns.

Others requested that information such as an agenda, meeting minutes, and claims be available for the public to review. According to Pitts, the minutes from a previous meeting cannot be published on the website without board approval.

Several patrons were in support of the library. Steve Pitts explained that he is active at the state level to reduce property tax rates through his job with Farm Bureau. “We shouldn’t get mad at the library,” he said. “We need to support our libraries and our schools.”

Sandra Bowling, taxpayer and educator, uses the library every week to help improve her students’ test scores. She suggested that those in the library districts donate time, resources, or money to the library. “The library really gets used,” she said.

There were young people on hand to support the library. Hannah Thompson, a student at the Milan schools, explained that she lives on a farm and works on a farm but visits the library every week to get books to read. According to Thompson, several of her fellow students visit the library to get books, movies and to do research for homework assignments.

“The kids are the future regardless how you feel about whether or not we should keep the library,” Thompson said. “The library is a part of our community and it should stay that way.”

Evan Smith said, “My library is very important to me.” According to Smith, he read 20 books this summer from the Milan library.

“Without the library, I would have run out of books to read,” he said. Smith uses the library for research projects when he cannot find the information he needs at his school library. He presented the board with a signed petition showing the importance of the library.

Cheryl Corning, who is a farmer, is in full support of the library. “If we want to be a vibrant community, we need a library,” she said. She pointed out that her taxes went up, too, but believes it is important for the children to have a library.

Corning noted that not all children can do their homework at home or at school and the library provides resources for these students to complete their assignments. “I know those who use the library benefit from it,” she said. “I don’t think we can afford to lose this.”

The regular meeting was held after the special meeting for the budget. Business included:

• The board unanimously approved Patty Asche as Interim Director at an increase of $2 more than her regular rate.

• Compensation for Emily Kruse, for additional assistance for the meeting, at the regular rate was approved.

• Circulation at the Osgood library was up 22% in July from last year and up 41% at the Milan branch in July.

• The motion to use the remainder of the construction fund and the balance of the Mable Lamb donation toward reducing debt was approved 4-3 with Gene Pitts, Connie Coyle, and Sandra Gloyd voting against.
The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 28 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Osgood Library meeting room.

"It feels like we don't have a voice."
Melissa Crum
There was not an empty seat in the house Tuesday night as a full house packed the Osgood Public Library basement to hear the budget hearing. People were standing around the room and even outside on the steps where they said they couldn't hear what was being said in the meeting.