Wilton resident questions library budget 

  • Wilton select board members listen to a proposal to reformat the library's budget during a regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 29. Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 6:10PM

A Wilton resident said the format library trustees are using for its budget is not working and proposed it adopt a new one-page document to enhance transparency.  

“I have a Masters of Science degree in general administration I am supposed to be able to read and analyze financial reports,” Joe Torre said about the library’s budget during a select board meeting on Monday night. “I cannot make heads or tails of this report from the library,”

Torre said over the last two years there’s been about $107,000 in unexpended funds that aren’t accounted for in the library’s budget. It was pointed out during the meeting that the library doesn’t give the unexpended money back to the town every year like most other departments.

“Every single year there have been tens of thousands of dollars in unexpended funds that the budget committee assumed went back to the town,” said Harry Dailey, a member of the town’s Budget Committee.

Ron Brown, library trustee chair, said he didn’t want to get into numbers during a public comment period at the select board meeting, stressing he would rather sit down with all parties involved to hammer out the issue. Brown said he would like the library treasurer to be at that meeting, although that person is currently overseas.

Brown did say that he thinks much of the unexpended funds in question have already been budgeted for projects going forward. As an example, he said, the library has restricted grant income for projects that it has been unable to move forward on because of winter weather that has frozen the ground.

William Condra, select board chair, said he’s been on the board for about a decade. He said this isn’t the first time library budget issues have come up. Condra said it seems like it happens almost every other year.

“No one has ever convinced me that there’s anything improper about library financing, but what I am convinced of is that there’s a tremendous lack of transparency,” Condra said.

Torre proposed a one-page format for the library to follow moving forward.

“If you can read and write, add and subtract, you can understand this new document,” Torre said of his proposed budget format.

He asked select board members to mandate that library trustees follow the one-page format for the 2017 town report.

Kermit Williams, a select board member, said that the board doesn’t have the authority to require the library to follow the form. Williams said the library is a public agency, not a town department. The town provides money to the library, although it’s an independent public entity.

“We can’t say to the library if they didn’t do the report you’ve violated state law,” William said. “Because we don’t have that authority.”

Torre said he disagreed with Williams’ assessment. He said the select board could decide not to accept the library’s budget as a way to force them to adopt a new format.

Williams suggested that Torre bring the proposal directly to the library trustees.

Torre said he’s tried in the past, but to no avail.

“I have submitted maybe a dozen emails to the library trustees in the last two weeks, I have asked at least six questions of the library trustees in the last week,” Torre said. “ … How can I work with someone who won’t answer my questions?”

Brown said he set up a date for the two parties to meet in February. Not long after he did that he saw that the topic was going to be discussed at Monday’s select board meeting.

“I feel like we’ve acted in good faith and I was expecting to be able to hammer this out,” Brown said. “I wasn’t expecting to get called into a Board of Selectmen’s meeting tonight.”

Dailey said the February 14 date would be too late for the budget committee’s time frame. Torre said the date would push off any changes that could be made to the library’s budget format by another year. Despite concern over the February date, the parties agreed to meet in the middle of the month. 

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.