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Library board budget presentation questioned
Perhaps the problem stemmed from a lack of information
new deh library budget story pic web
The Great Bend Public Library budget will be a topic at the Great Bend City Council meeting Monday night.

 The Great Bend Public Library budget, or rather library Director Harry Willems interpretation of it, will be discussed when the Great Bend City Council meets Monday night.

The matter will be brought up by City Administrator Howard Partington in response to Great Bend Tribune coverage of the GBPL Board’s Monday, Dec. 12, meeting. During the meeting, Willems said his facility was facing a $40,000 cut in city funding, a statement with which Partington took issue.

But, in a follow-up interview with Willems Friday, he said he was working with incomplete data and regretted any confusion.

The council will met at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1209 Williams. 

Budget questions

“We gave him everything he requested,” Partington said in an interview with the Tribune Thursday, presenting the budget request form signed by Willems in May. “They weren’t cut at all.”

In fact, he said, the budget for 2017 is slightly higher than it was for 2016.

But, “the budget was cut from the city $49,000,” Willems told board members. He said the way it was calculated quarterly, this amounted to an actual decrease of $40,000.

However, according to approved city budget, the library budget was $655,000 in 2016 and $655,626 for 2017. “We actually increased a little bit,” Partington said.

Actually, the GBPL only receives $555,626 since $100,000 goes to pay off the facility’s new $700,000-plus heating and air conditioning system. The library has made the same payment for the past two years as well.

So, Partington said, there were no surprises in this year’s allocation. If one looks at the actual city budget, it will list the library at $671,626, however Partington said the difference goes to the Neighborhood Revitalization program.

Partington said city officials added the $626 to keep the library eligible for a State Library Grant. To maintain eligibility for the state funding, an entity must show neither its local tax support or mill levy have decreased.

There is a worksheet from the Kansas Office of Administration in the city’s budget packet covering this. According to it, the library met both criteria, in fact, the mill levy rose a tick from 5.998 to 6.

However, when calculating the budget, Partington said the city typically rounds down to the nearest $1,000. If this had been done, the state grant could have been in jeopardy.

So, he said, the full amount was included. 

Partington said Willems had emailed him concerned about losing the grant. But, it was the city clerk who caught the potential problem.

Here is what Willems said at the meeting: “The problem is that if we don’t satisfy what’s called the state statute of maintenance of effort, which means having the same amount of dollars, or the same mill levy with reduction in the valuation of the city, if we don’t satisfy one of those, then we lose state aid and we can lose some system money. This would cause a lost of around $55,000 for next year, meaning one less library staff member and a smaller pay raise.

He went on to say during the meeting that he didn’t understand the city’s “budget crisis” and said it was strange the library funding had to be cut. He also said he had informed the city about the potential loss in state aide.”

This also struck Partington as odd because according to Willems’ budget request form, state aid only amounts to $5,300. The facility also receives a Central Kansas Library System Grant of $16,699 and $75,397 from its special fund, which is made up of money generated from copy fees and rent payments from the CKLS.

“We’re going to protect the library because that is in the best interest of the community,” Partington said. “We’re doing this in spite of him.”

In fact, Partington said the city would be willing to tap reserves and provide the library more money. But, no one has asked.

Partington had no explanation why Willems said what he did at the meeting. “Why didn’t they come and ask for a copy of the budget,” he said of Library Board members.

At the meeting, the board referred to a financial statement prepared by Willems.

A lack of information

“If this is the case, then we are golden,” Willems said in an interview Friday after the Tribune showed him the paperwork from Partington. When he made his presentation to his board Monday, he based it on what he thought was incomplete information.

First, he had looked for the completed above mentioned state grant worksheet on the Kansas Department of Administration website just before the meeting and said it wasn’t there (he said it still wasn’t there as of Friday afternoon). He also referenced a published version of the city budget citing $619,626 as the total, which is less than last year.

But, this number was the amount of the property tax not the budget number. It appeared in the column next to $671,626 which was the actual budget authority.

“Given my relationship with the city, I am a little reticent to make contact,” he said, referring to past conflicts over the HVAC and the installation of a new digital sign. “I should have contacted them.”

Actually, he said the new information is good news. “There is major work that needs to be done around the building.”

“In getting the correct information, I recognize my error,” he said. Now, he said he owes the city an apology.