WASHINGTON — The library card issue for Washington Township residents will be decided later today when the Washington Township Advisory Board adopts its 2012 budget.
A library tax that was collected in 2011 but never paid to the Washington Carnegie Public Library has raised the ire of several township residents and county officials over the summer. When Washington Township Trustee Pete Showalter appeared before the Daviess County Council earlier this month for “non-binding” budget review, County Auditor Gail Doades, who said she was speaking as a patron and not an officeholder, questioned Showalter as to why there was a line in his budget for $10,000 for a tax levy when he hadn’t spent last year’s collection.
The township board, consisting of John Horton, Nancy Singleton and Glenn Newton, with Showalter as trustee, decided not to renew its contract with the Washington Carnegie Public Library for 2011 after the library raised its contract for a total of $10,500 for the year.
Teresa Heidenreich had sent a letter to Showalter on June 9 asking him to contact her or library board members by July 13 so she could plan the library’s budget for 2012 accordingly. That didn’t happen.
Then, following admonishment from county officials earlier this month who recommended Showalter reach out to the library board in negotiation, he drafted a letter to Heidenreich and the library board asking that the 2012 contract remain at $10,000.
Showalter’s letter, dated Aug. 18, 2011, said: “During such economic hard times, the township did not ask for any budget raises for the 2012 budget. We are struggling as many branches of local government and schools, libraries to work within our budget.”
However, according to the township’s annual report, which was published in January, the township had $435,123 in cash balances on hand as of Dec. 31, 2010. Of that, $6,462.74 was slated as library funds and hadn’t been spent. Plus, an additional $10,000 in library funds was levied for 2011 and is being collected.
The state government finance officials have told Showalter that the monies in the library fund will need to be moved to the rainy day fund before they can be used for other purposes. Showalter indicated at the budget review with the county council earlier this month that the township relief assistance fund could use the money because requests for help are up due to the stressed economy. Township relief assistance is given to the needy for help with utilities and rent.
In the annual report for 2010, more than $157,000 was listed as cash on hand at the end of the year for poor relief. In 2010, a total of $51,548.71 was paid for poor relief and $15,805.87 was paid for medical relief, including burial expenses for those unable to pay.
Budget adoption today
Showalter has indicated that the township board intends to remove the $10,000 line item for library services when it meets today to adopt its budget and that the board will request to go under the maximum tax levy allowed by $7,106 to reimburse taxpayers the 2011 library tax collected. That move will likely please state finance officials, but several library patrons will remain upset.
Auditor Gail Doades indicated to council members on Thursday that once the library line item is removed from the township budget it will be difficult to get it back, but county council members or county officeholders have no jurisdiction over the township advisory board or the township trustee. Council members only two years ago were mandated by the state to review the various township, city and town budgets, and asked to list recommendations for the local government finance board, which finalizes tax levies.
According to Heidenreich, as of Dec. 31, 2010, the library had 1,169 cardholders from Washington Township. Now, since the contract for 2011 was not renewed, as of Aug. 17, there are only 72 paid cardholders from Washington Township. City residents get free cards, as do 17 township residents who own property in the city and didn’t have to pay the $42 library card fee because they pay taxes that support the library. Six school faculty members have cards because of a library/school agreement, and 51 students have free library cards.
Heidenreich is quick to agree that money is tight. The library is doing without the tax money from the township, and overall has cut its budget by $90,000 from personnel and books.
“During economic hardships, library patrons recognize the true value of library resources,” Heidenreich wrote in the June letter to Showalter. “As those residents in Washington Township and all areas struggle to stretch every dollar, they are returning to libraries to fill the gap in educational and recreational resources. It is discouraging that not all families can afford the state-mandated, nonresident library card fee of $42. Many families are disheartened to learn that they are no longer eligible for a free card through the contractual agreements of the past.”