The City of Great Bend and the Great Bend Public Library have closed a troubled chapter in their relationship. As the council approved publishing its budget Monday night, past issues are resolved, library Director Gail Santy told the council.
“Through this budget process, I have learned a great deal,” Santy said. “Others have as well.”
Santy was referencing the strained ties caused by the actions of past GBPL leadership and confusion about the library’s 2019 budget. “None of us here created this mess, but it is up to us to fix it.”
She said she has recently worked closely with city officials to resolve and problems. “You are all doing an incredible job and I want to thank you.”
In her initial budget request from the city, Santy requested $755,050 from the city, including the annual $100,000 payment the city makes to pay off the library’s new heating-AC system.
But, the city budget called for funding library from $555,000 (excluding the HVAC) for 2019. At budget planning time, Santy believed this put the library’s state funding at risk.
The city funded the library at $555,626 in 2017 and $627,000 in 2018. These numbers do not reflect the annual $100,000 payment.
However, the 2018 total included a special one-time $72,000 payment from the library’s reserve fund. It is this 2017 number that is the problem, Santy has told the council.
Santy said she was concerned that if the city reduced its commitment to the library, the facility would lose its grants from the Kansas State Library and other funding. The issue, she said, was that to be eligible for these funds, the city would have to at least hold steady its financial support.
So, the bump in payment for 2018 skewed the library’s funding history, she said. When the city offered less than she requested, Santy worried the library would miss out on the aid.
The council understood the concern and agreed to increase its funding to $590,000. Council members said this increase should make up for any lost state money this year and fund the library at a level to get the state money next year.
Santy visited with city officials last Monday. They now believe that the GBPL has a case to make an appeal to the KSL. Looking at the city’s payments over the years, they have remained fairly constant and last year’s increase was just special occurrence.
If, in a letter, they explain how this happened and what is being done to see it doesn’t happen again, the state librarian “should look favorably” on the appeal, Santy said. She also appreciated working together with the city to draft the letter and find a solution.
“I am pleased with the outcome,” Santy said.
In the meantime, the city will give the library an additional $50,000 in budget authority, City Clerk Shawna Schafer said. This is not a sure thing, and the funds will only be available if they have a cash balance at the end of the year, meaning the city received more tax revenues for the library than was anticipated.
Regardless, Schafer said this $50,000 will not impact the city’s mill levy.
Although the library issue delayed getting the budget published, Schafer said there is still time to publish it within the required 10-day window prior to the budget hearing at the Aug. 20 council meeting.