When the Louisa County Board of Supervisors adopted the FY2019 budget last week, the majority of the board refused to make the Louisa County Public Library a priority. The board killed a motion to allocate an additional $19,000 in funding, which would have enabled the library to open four more hours per week.
Supervisors Bob Babyok, Fitzgerald Barnes and Willie Gentry supported the motion while Troy Wade, Toni Williams, Duane Adams and Tommy Barlow opposed. In making this move, at least one board member offered unconvincing reasons for doing so. Another supervisor was scornful of our library throughout the budget process.
Supervisor Duane Adams claimed the library was unwilling to compromise on its funding request even as he voted against a motion that was clearly a compromise. The motion, which sought to fully fund the library’s budget request, was amended on the floor to cover only funds necessary for an increase in hours. In comments at the meeting, a library official laid out a number of ways the facility could expand services while receiving less than full funding. The library was flexible. The majority of this board was not.
During a budget work session, Supervisor Toni Williams was openly dismissive of our library, derisively suggesting that the county replace it with a Starbucks. With comments like this from the board’s vice chairman, is it any wonder that the majority of supervisors refused to fund any upgrade in services?
This board passed a $108 million budget and the county boasts an $11.8 million unrestricted fund balance. Millions of dollars are being funneled into costly water infrastructure. Yet, this board can’t find an extra $19,000 for a longstanding community institution. The only additional funding the board granted the library, early on in the budget process, amounts to a cost of living increase: an allocation to help cover employees’ rising health insurance costs.
The Louisa County Public Library has a committed staff. It’s a vibrant community hub that offers thousands of books and so much more. But, if it’s not adequately supported by our county, it will fail to meet the dynamic needs of a growing community. Already Louisa’s library is the only branch in the JMRL system that operates less than 48 hours a week, lagging behind libraries in both Nelson and Greene counties.
Our library weathered the storm of lean economic times. With a strengthening economy evidenced by more money in the county’s coffers, the library hoped to restore hours cut during the recession. But the majority of this board made clear that no matter the fiscal climate, our library is not a priority. If you care about this critical institution, I urge you to hold our elected representatives accountable and contact them directly to voice your concerns.
Editor's Note: this letter originally appeared in the April 26th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.