September 21, 2014

After debate, library board proposes keeping Edgerton branch open

Danedri Thompson

dthompson@gardnernews.com

A preliminary proposal for cuts to library services won’t include closing the Edgerton branch of the Johnson County Library.

County library board members discussed several budget cut scenarios suggested by library administrators – all of which included the closure of the Edgerton Bank of Knowledge – during a meeting Feb. 9.

During last month’s meeting, the group debated closing three branches of the Johnson County Library, including Edgerton, and the Cedar Roe and Oak Park branches,  if faced with deep budget cuts in 2013 and 2014, but library administrators offered a new proposal that maintained the Cedar Roe and Oak Park branches.

Despite the low cost of maintaining the Edgerton library, approximately $19,000 per year compared to $605,000 per year at Oak Park and $316,000 at Cedar Roe, the Edgerton Bank of Knowledge remained on the chopping block under a newly-introduced proposal on Feb. 9.

Edgerton residents and extended community members, including former USD 231 superintendent Gary George, made impassioned pleas on behalf of the Edgerton library.

George told members of the library board that the Edgerton Bank of Knowledge was built using volunteers and funded largely through private donations.

“I was one of those who volunteered to shovel out the debris,” George said.

Edgerton is the only county library that was constructed without funds from the county’s library taxes.

“To balance the budget on the back of literacy is not the way to go,” George told board members.

Former Gardner Mayor, Carol Lehman, remembered the day then Edgerton-Mayor Frances Cross, who attended the library board meeting but did not speak, announced that Edgerton was going to find a way to build a library.

“Oh dear,” Lehman said she thought at the time. “They will never be able to pull that off.”

But they did.

“They built their town a library. Edgerton – a town with very few resources – they had a dream and they made it a reality,” Lehman said.

Edgerton’s city administrator, Beth Linn, told the board that in total the 1,671 citizens of Edgerton raised $189,161 to make the dream of a library come true.

Tricia Suellentrop, library administrator, told the board the Edgerton branch is on the chopping block for several reasons. First, she said, the Edgerton library building falls outside of the library board’s standards. It also serves a population smaller than where the board would typically choose to build a new library.

“We look at location – is there a library close?” Suellentrop asked. “Gardner is close to Edgerton.”

Library board members repeatedly said they did not want to close any libraries. However, Kristin Hansen, board member, said the county requested proposals of what the library would cut if faced with deep budgetary constraints in the next two years.

David Lindstrom, county commissioner who serves as a liaison to the library board, said county officials anticipate a drop in the value of Johnson County properties next year. If the mill levy, or tax rate, stays the same, that will translate into less funds in county coffers.

However, he noted that the proposed cuts county administrators are suggesting are much deeper than anticipated.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Lindstrom said.

In the meantime, library board members will send a proposal to the county that contains $19,000 more than the cuts they were asked to provide, because board members requested that funds to maintain Edgerton’s library be included.

“We don’t quite make the numbers, but we’re darn close,” Charley Vogt, library board member, said.

All Johnson County property owners, except those in Olathe, pay a tax rate of 3.145 mills that is dedicated to the county library system. Edgerton property owners pay $72,335 annually towards the county library system.

Comments

  1. Edgerton has always been treated like a step child. Thank you people who spoke and care about our communities. Basically, what I get is the library board collects $72,000 from Edgerton and spends only $19,000. Where’s the rest of the money go?

  2. I am familiar with the library, and in fact participated in fundraising for it. Edgerton’s library was, from the beginning, an unfunded mandate to the library system from the board of county commissioners. As stated in the article, the location of the library never met long-established population guidelines that regulate where new libraries are built and operated in the county, and there is a larger, regional library just a few miles away in Gardner. Furthermore, since the majority of working adults in Edgerton travel outside of Edgerton to their jobs, they are most likely somewhere close to another system library during their work day. Divide the annual amount Edgerton residents pay into the county library system by its population (about 1,850); it’s under $40 per person ($160 for a household of four). That includes free Internet services and all of the books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs and public programs residents choose to use annually. The $19,000 budgeted for operating the building itself in Edgerton without a doubt does not include all of the staff time necessary to review, order and process materials for the shelves, plus the costs of making the entire library collection available to Edgerton via courier. It would be tragic for ANY of the county libraries to close. What’s really at the core of the issue here is the continuing erosion of county services that all in Johnson County pay for and take for granted.

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    But the County Commissioners are always ready to take care of the big boys with sweet deals that results in a huge loss of tax revenues and then you have the case of 38 companies in New Century not paying any taxes or very little of what they should, the investors, banks, developers, builders, etc. getting their farm appraisals on land that should be appraised as commerical vacant property which again results in a huge loss of tax revenue to the people, all of the exemptions to sales taxes that the special interests get and on and on it goes and it is a wonder we aren’t shuttering all of the libraries in Johnson County. People go along with sports education here in USD 231 rather than spending their dollars on EDUCATION so once again the people have no one but themselves to blame for all of the loss of services, high taxes, etc., etc. because they aren’t doing their jobs and going along, enable and supporting the lousy government entities they have including people in their city government who thumb their noses at the laws of the land.

  4. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    I have to wonder how members of the Library Board can make knowledgeable decisions on budgets when they are apparently provided contradictory information by Library staff.

    The Gardner News reports here that, “Despite the low cost of maintaining the Edgerton library, approximately $19,000 per year compared to $605,000 per year at Oak Park and $316,000 at Cedar Roe, the Edgerton Bank of Knowledge remained on the chopping block under a newly-introduced proposal on Feb. 9.” Specifically, the Feb. 9 report projects annual savings of $19,228 by combining Edgerton library services with those provided by the Gardner Library.

    However, other data tables in that same report presented to the Johnson County Library Board of Directors shows that actual operation expenses for the Edgerton Library for the year 2011 were: Personnel Costs $40,820 and Utility Costs $17,945, which totals $58,765. Add to that an agreement that I understand requires the Library Board to make $500 monthly rent payments to the City of Edgerton to lease the “Bank of Knowledge” building and the annual total operating costs then become $64,765.

    Library staff also reported to the Board conflicting figures regarding Edgerton Library patronage, varying between 6,240, 7,202 and 15,732 user visits in 2011.

    When all is said and done, I hope Edgerton’s Bank of Knowledge remains open and prospers.

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