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Budget bobble endangers local library

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

In a year that has brought more than its fair share of tragedy to the tiny town of Martindale, one bright, shining light has emerged.

The Martindale Community Library, started by a group of volunteers with a box of books, has grown to a fully-functioning library with the support of the City of Mart

indale.

Or so library supporters believed, until last week when word spread that the Martindale City Council was eyeing the possibility of pulling funding from the library for the current fiscal year.

The struggling municipality, battered by back-to-back historic flooding and election complications over the last year, has been forced to tighten its belt because of a budgeting error, according to Mayor Randy Bunker, and the library was quick to find its way to the chopping block.

“If we become an accredited library, then we will have the opportunity for grants, maybe to make this building ADA accessible, and we will be eligible for a reduction in internet fees,” said Jane Latham, one of the library’s most steadfast volunteers. “And if it’s about money, why are you not annexing [the neighborhoods] that have asked you to annex. I estimate that would generate another $85,000 in taxes, and the question we’re talking about here is $15,000.”

Though Bunker said the City Council never intended to pull support from the library, nor to evict them from the current space in the council meeting room in downtown Martindale, he maintained balancing the budget was a battle, and the additional funds earmarked for the library had to be a casualty.

“We aren’t talking about shutting you down,” he said. “We all support the library and we’re going to keep paying the rent and the utilities, just like in the original agreement.”

According to information presented during the meeting, a budgeting error regarding possible FEMA reimbursements led to the budget crunch. Evidently, when the budget was written, an estimate of $200,000 in FEMA reimbursements was worked in, when that total should have been closer to $18,000.

Either amount is oppressive in a municipal budget that weighs in at just over $1 million per year.

“We don’t have that many amenities,” said local resident Carlton Carl. “We have the park, and we have the library. And it’s our responsibility to support the library.” While pulling the funding from the library would not cause the doors to close, supporters said it would be a disaster for the library’s ability to seek an accredited status. That status, if achieved, would allow the library to seek a variety of grant opportunities, and to enter information sharing programs with every library in the State of Texas’ library system, including university and state libraries.

“We’ve had a really rough year,” said longtime resident Loraine Harrison. “As a community, and personally, some of us have had a really rough year. And you just can’t budget for that. But the one bright spot that this community has, in this rough year, is this library. This is something too good to let go.”

Bunker challenged the library committee to meet with the city’s financial director and members of council to attempt to determine where cuts should be made, if the library’s funding was to be maintained.

The council will revisit the issue during their next regular meeting.

 

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