INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – A June 30 deadline to pass a budget for nearly three dozen libraries around the Kansas City area is looming. And it has some people worried all 34 Mid-Continent Public Libraries in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties could shut down at the end of the month if the library system doesn’t comply with state statute.

Mid-Continent Public Library Director and CEO Steven Potter wrote in a May blog creating a budget trying to figure out what “normal” looks like has been a challenge as community rooms, drive up windows remote printing and wi-fi to go have all been added since the pandemic. They still expect to log 4 million visits this year.

Staff presented a $84.5 million overall budget to MCPL’s Board of Trustees last month including the capital fund. It said the $57.3 million operating budget was balanced and accounts for the needs of the library system. But not everyone on the board agreed.

“If you can justify the numbers behind here that’s fine, but I don’t have it and I don’t see anything that’s supporting it,” a trustee said. (Board meetings are recorded in such a way to allow viewers to see the agenda item, but not the individual trustees on a wide shot in the extreme upper right corner of the screen)

Now normal steps in the budget process to iron out differences aren’t happening.

“Typically there’s a finance committee meeting between the May and the June board meeting. There’s not one scheduled at the moment,” Susan Wray, MCPL Assistant Director and COO, said.

Some people who follow library meetings think the budget battle is about more than money.

“This seems to be the latest move in terms of some type of platform,” Mark Kovar said.

Mid Continent Public Library has never had to implement it before, but Wray said there is a policy in place she hopes the board would follow to keep the library open, if it comes to it.

“That says if the board can’t agree or pass a budget the staff presented budget goes into effect,” Wray explained.

Wray said The Board of Trustees could still then amend the budget at a later date. Library patrons say they’ll be watching what happens the next three weeks closely.

“People come up here for everything, to find a job, all kinds of stuff. I think it would be a shame if they closed it up,” Kent Cantrell said.

A budget and levy public hearing is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at the North Independence Library. The Board of Trustees isn’t required to attend. But they will take up the budget at a meeting scheduled on June 21 at 5 p.m. at MCPL Administrative Headquarters.