The Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 on April 16 to approve the next fiscal year’s budget, after rejecting a motion by Supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs district) to give the library enough funding to increase weekly hours from 44 to 48.
Babyok, Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry district) and Willie Gentry (Cuckoo district) voted in favor of adding the four hours per week. After that motion failed, also by a 4-3 margin, Babyok joined the supervisors who had opposed his motion to pass the $104 million county operating budget. The board voted 6-1 for a $4 million capital improvement budget, with Barnes opposed.
The four-hour increase would have put Louisa’s library schedule on par with those at the other rural branches in the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system, including those in Greene and Nelson counties.
Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral district) voted against an increase in hours, citing the library’s unwillingness to compromise. He said library officials were insistent in recent emails to the supervisors on getting the entire amount they requested, a rise of $41,000 over last year’s $354,000 county allocation.
Adams and other supervisors voted during a budget work session earlier this year to give the library a $13,000 increase, enough to meet rising health insurance costs but not add hours. But he said last month he was not opposed to adding hours.
“I would have liked to have seen a compromise worked out,” Adams said. “I would like to see us look next year to get that funding back, but at this point in the game and the responses I’ve gotten from the library, I’m going to leave my vote [as is].”
Before the vote, David Plunkett, library director, told the board he could compromise, and repeated options he said he had communicated to the supervisors previously. An increase of four hours or two hours was acceptable, he said, translating to an increase of $19,000 or $8,000, respectively, beyond the $13,000 hike the supervisors had already agreed to.
“We had sent some compromises recently that I think could help you all out in your discussions,” he said at Monday’s meeting.
Board chairman Troy Wade (Louisa district) said on Tuesday that he voted against more hours for the library because he wanted to balance the budget.
“We were only a couple hundred dollars in the black,” he said, referring to the difference between county revenue and expenditures in the budget.
The budget includes a $24,974 surplus, which was funneled into the county’s $11.8 million fund balance. That money is kept in reserve to be used as the supervisors see fit during the course of the year.
The county has a policy not to allow the amount of money in the fund balance to exceed 20 percent of the general fund’s local revenues, according to County Administrator Christian Goodwin. The $11.8 million figure puts the county at 17 percent.
Even if the board agreed they wanted to spend more, Wade said he would not have targeted the library ahead of other priorities.
“There are a lot of priorities and worthwhile causes in Louisa that need to get funded,” Wade said. “I would have funded the public schools and the sheriff’s office first.”
Babyok dismissed Wade’s argument that the county couldn’t afford to pay for some additional needs.
“We can always find the money to balance the budget,” he said.
This is a partial article. You can read the full article in the April 19, 2018 issue of The Central Virginian on newsstands now, or subscribe at http://www.thecentralvirginian.com/subscribe/
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