Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dear citizens:

The article about library funding printed in the May 2 edition of the Mountain Home News contained some glaring errors in fact and lacked context.

It is not general practice for the city to dispute stories printed in our only newspaper, but some of the information presented in this story was misleading and has created misperceptions among the public.

We realize it's important for the city to respond in this case because our citizens grant credibility to information received from newspapers and expect its reporters have done their due diligence when it comes to researching and reporting the facts.

In this case, our citizens were not provided with enough facts or with the proper context to help them take an informed position on the topic.

Let's start with the headline: 'Library funding cut by city.' No, it was not.

In general, I have asked every city department to take a hard look at Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposals and eliminate any unnecessary spending, with the intent of promoting fiscally responsible spending by the city and its departments.

What I asked for specifically, and what I got from almost every other department, was simply no requests to increase FY19 spending, not deep cuts.

We need to ensure we have enough money set aside to continue improving our city's infrastructure and streets, and every department can play a role in helping ensure we stretch taxpayer dollars.

Since the library is at the center of this discussion, I'll use their budget as an example.

Last year, the library's budget was $542, 238: $408, 964 of that came from property taxes, $38,000 was sales tax apportionment (a budgetary supplement provided by the city despite the fact there's no actual requirement for it), $60, 239 was cash carry-over (money the library had in its FY17 budget but did not spend), and the rest was from miscellaneous revenue generated by library programs and amenities.

This year, the Board of Trustees and Library Director William Lamb asked for a whopping $593, 541.

The purpose of the meeting with the Board of Trustees was to ask them to review their budget and dial back their planned spending to keep the budget at or near FY18 levels.

We also told them the city may not be able to continue providing the additional sales tax apportionment to supplement the library budget, but we would increase the property tax revenue by three percent to help make up for that.

Questions have also come up surrounding the library bond and how that relates to this topic. The bond is a completely separate fund intended solely for the required repairs to the library's roof.

In the interest of complete transparency, I also want to tell the citizens of Mountain Home that the City Council and I offered the Board of Trustees $105,000 last year for roof repairs. They opted not to accept the money and instead put the bond on the ballot to seek additional taxpayer money to pay for those repairs.

I was encouraged to read in the Mountain Home News that the board is looking for ways to join our other departments in becoming good stewards of our taxpayer's money.

The council and I look forward to hearing their recommended solutions soon.

Our library is a key element of our town. It's an important resource for all Mountain Home citizens and will always receive the same unwavering support from this office that it has always enjoyed.

Mayor Rich Sykes

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