KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Mid Continent Public Library’s Board of Trustees won’t meet a deadline to pass a budget for next fiscal year starting July 1. The board failed to pass a $84.5 million budget Tuesday.
After the budget failed by a 6-6 vote, the board’s president assured the public all 34 Mid-Continent Public Libraries in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties will remain open.
Community members let the board know they aren’t happy as the budget battle dragged on into the 11th hour.
“You’ve already pushed out an excellent director. Don’t destroy for many of us what’s the pride and joy in this community,” Lori Green told the board.
Library staff presented the budget to trustees with nearly $60 million earmarked for personnel, operations and materials. But Finance Committee Chair Gordon Cook said he wanted to know about a $6.8 million variance.
“There were requests made to obtain information. All of them were repeatedly challenged, questioned or rebuffed,” Cook explained to the board.
Instead of normal procedural meetings to iron out budget differences, Cook came up with a budget of his own. He declined an interview with FOX4, but one of his frequent supporters during the meeting explained his reasoning.
“We’re the ones that are held accountable for that money, so that’s what Gordon was trying to do is to get those numbers so we can have a good look at them,” Dr. Yummy Pandolfi said.
And for the first time in anyone’s recollection the budget debate will now continue beyond the deadline.
“I’ve been on the board for almost 20 years. We’ve never had a protracted conflictual budget process like we’ve had this,” Brent Schondelmeyer said.
Tuesday night’s tie vote officially means the budget fails, but by board policy it is in effect at least for now, in order to keep local libraries open.
“We have sufficient resources as a library to start with July 1 and offer the wonderful services that we do. But we got to figure a way that we can work through and have the board adopt a budget. You shouldn’t have a budget by default,” Schondelmeyer said.
Schondelmeyer also questioned what message this sends to any future library director candidates.
Steven Potter was honored at the start of the meeting for his 34 years of service. His last day is June 30, meaning the evenly divided board will also be trying to recruit a new director at the same time it attempts to rectify its differences over the budget.
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