During the Jackson County Public Library Board of Trustees Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 21, Jackson County Clerk Cheryl Bright, swore in five new Library Board of Trustee members to fill the unexpired terms of the previous board members who recently resigned.
New Library Board Trustees include Denise Toler, Suzie McGinley, Katrena Ramsey, Grace Arthur, and Savanna Whited. Once sworn in, the board voted to elect officers, naming McGinley as board president, Toler as vice-president, Whited as secretary, and Arthur as treasurer.
“These people, this new board, have volunteered their time to conduct the business of the Jackson County Libraries,” Commissioner Mike Randolph said. “I am so thankful that they were able to come in and take care of this project, because you’ve got to have a board of directors if you’re going to have public libraries, that’s my understanding. I do appreciate you folks so much.”
Prior to beginning the business of the meeting, library director John Faria introduced himself and provided the new trustees with some information regarding his background in public libraries.
“My responsibility to you as a board is to make sure that all the funds that come in are handled properly, and accounted for properly,” Faria said. “I look forward to working with all of you.”
Heather Campbell-Shock, Director of Library & Development Services with the West Virginia Library Commission, greeted the new trustees and addressed the issue of training courses provided by the WVLC. “The training will educate you on your responsibilities to the community, to the library, and the partnership you will have with Faria,” Campbell-Shock said. “The goal is to make sure the libraries run effectively and efficiently.”
The WVLC recognizes the new trustees are taking on a lot of responsibility and does not want them to feel overwhelmed, according to Campbell-Shock.
The minutes of the previous meeting were voted to be tabled until the new board members had time to review them. They will be voted on for approval at the next monthly board meeting.
Faria presented the board with a copy of the approved library budget for fiscal year 2020 and a copy of his original proposed budget for comparison. He noted his original proposal was not accepted by the previous board members, who asked him to make some revisions.
Faria explained each line item and detailed the reason for any increased or decreased lines based on the previous year’s budget.
Toler questioned Faria’s reasoning for the large change in the accounting line item. He explained that he feels the use of an outside accountant is unnecessary based on information received from other public libraries in the state.
“The common practice in the state of West Virginia is to have internal library bookkeepers,” Faria said. “The reason why is because two-thirds of the salaries of the internal staff is paid through a state grant.”
Due to this reasoning, Faria said he feels the need to have a $20,000 plus budget for an account is not necessary. He believes the money would be better utilized in areas for things like books and program expenses.
In discussion, Faria noted that he attempted to explain his reasoning to the previous board; however, he felt his suggestions were not considered.
Jackson County Commission attorney Eric Holmes then added that the reason an outside accounting firm was originally brought in was because a previous bookkeeper had miscalculated overtime and payroll issues.
Angela Howard, branch manager at the Ravenswood Library, corrected Holmes noting that is was a former director, not the bookkeeper, who had mishandled funds.
Holmes continued that whomever it was, when the County Commission did an investigation they decided it would be better to have an outside agency step in to correct any issues.
“If an internal investigation was had and wrongdoing was found, that is water under the bridge, that does not effect things right now,” Campbell-Shock said.
At that point, a gentleman in the public audience questioned Holmes as to why he was at the meeting.
“Because the County Commission is the governing body of the library system,” Holmes said.
Campbell-Shock stood up to clarify the hierarchy of the library.
“You’re the appointing authority, you’re not the governing. You appoint the board, and the board is the governing body for the library,” Campbell-Shock said. “You appoint them and provide financial assistance, but the County Commission does not tell this board what to do.”
Holmes agreed and said he was just attempting to explain why he was there and to clarify why an outside entity was brought in to do the accounting.
Faria continued to review the budget with the board and noted that the position for a new Library Bookkeeper/Library Assistant had been posted and five applications had been received. He said they are preparing to close the application process and he hopes to have the new, internal bookkeeper begin their duties by mid to late December.
Another topic of discussion was the line item budget for legal fees. Faria said it was not typical practice for public libraries to have an attorney on retainer, which is why he made the suggestion to lower the amount the previous board had budgeted for legal fees.
After further discussion of the budget, Faria noted that the new trustees were welcome to review the budget that has been approved and if they choose to make any amendments, it is something that could be voted on at a later time or meeting.
Faria then moved on to the topic of funding sources, including; levy funds, WVLC GIA (Grant in Aid) , donations, endowments, Oil & Gas, and the fund balance.
Holmes explained to the board how the levy system works, and the meaning of levy power.
“As you know, a large portion of your budget comes from levy money,” Holmes said. “There are various groups within the county who need levy money to operate and remain functional. Each County Commission has what’s called levy power, something that’s based upon a formula proposed by the state auditor’s office. We’re capped at a certain amount of money that we have levy power to levy.”
Holmes said in the past, levy funds had not been much of an issue; however, this year he said there were additional organizations that have requested to be added for levy funds consideration. Holmes encouraged Faria and the board to create a presentation for the County Commission that includes how much levy money they would like to request and what the money will be used for.
“I would recommend that perhaps John and one of the board members make an arrangement with the administrative assistant to the County Commission, Julia Gump, to get placed on the agenda,” Holmes said.
“It’s important that we know how much money is going to be requested by each agency because we are capped at a certain amount that we can levy.”
According to Holmes, the County Commission wants to be sure there is enough money for everyone to fall under the cap and still leave enough funds available in case an emergency should occur.
Additional business discussed included:
• Other funding sources, such as the WVLC GIA is used to cover two-thirds of personnel benefits, wages, and salaries, according to Faria.
• Types of donations normally fall into two main categories, gift donations and the occasional memorial donation. Faria said that some people like to give a memorial donation in memory or honor of a loved one who enjoyed the library.
• Faria said additional funding sources for the libraries include two grants and 11 endowments.
• Faria told the board he had been working with James Bates, a CPA, on audit compilations and taxes. He said Bates had helped him with the endowments as far as explaining them to him and what they are to be used for.
• Faria explained the West Central Library Cooperative. It is a partnership between the Jackson County Public Libraries and other public libraries around the state in order to share information, assist with training, and receive discounts on books and other library necessities.
•According to Faria, public libraries are participating in a Macmillan boycott due to unfair practices and holds being placed on books published by Macmillan. Faria highlighted some of the ways Macmillan is making it hard on public libraries and their patrons to receive newer materials by highly requested authors.
• Faria filled the new trustees in on the recent events and activities hosted by the Jackson County Public Libraries, such as their semi-annual book sale, adult and children’s programing, and the recent Art Auction. He also noted that a historic marker was recently placed on property at the Ripley Library in regards to a battle that was once fought on the site.
• The meeting concluded with review of the financial report.
The next meeting of the Jackson County Public Library Board of Trustees will be Thursday, Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ripley Library located at 208 North Church Street in Ripley.