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Fayetteville library's future still unclear after city, court decisions

by Dan Holtmeyer | March 7, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- It's been a busy week for the public library, and board members said Friday the impact of recent decisions on the facilities's future remains unclear.

A circuit judge's ruling Monday cleared the way for the Fayetteville Public Library to purchase and expand into the adjoining old City Hospital property after months of discussion and dispute with heirs of the land's original owners. The next day, the City Council approved a 3.75 percent pay increase for city employees, a rate the library board has said previously it would match for its employees.

Fayetteville Public Library board

• Kim Agee, president

• Brenda Boudreaux, vice president

• Maylon Rice, treasurer

• Hershey Garner, secretary

• Susan Graham

• Suzanne Clark

• Janine Parry

Library officials still might need to wait on both plans, because the decisions came in the middle of the board's search for new revenue sources. The library isn't out of money, but the area's demand for material and programs is on track to outpace income.

This year's $4 million budget trimmed $200,000 from last year's when projected cost increases and new programs should have increased it by $300,000 instead. The library's accounting manager expects this $500,000 gap to triple in the next five years without some new source of money.

"You can see where the dollar that used to be able to do a lot is being stretched further," library executive director David Johnson said.

A long-term revenue committee has been looking into options such as new or higher fees, more spending cuts and a property tax hike during the past several weeks. Janine Parry, a board member and the committee's chairwoman, said the committee should have a firm plan to offer in the next month or so.

"It (the discussion) has been on both the revenue and expenditure side, and there have been no sacred cows," she said. "We're on it."

Board members agreed Friday the public should get involved in the discussion after the committee presents its plan. Some suggested a meeting with representatives of the city's four City Council wards; others said they should hold a public forum for questions and input from whoever wants to come.

Suzanne Clark suggested both, prompting agreement from the others.

"Whatever we go forward with will need public support," Kim Agee, board president, said.

Johnson has said previously the library expansion would take a backseat to the library's strengthening its financial foundation. The money to buy the land is already set aside and will come from the library foundation. Heirs of Stephen K. and Amanda Stone, who gave the land to the city a century ago for a hospital, can appeal Judge Cristi Beaumont's ruling during the next several weeks.

Johnson said Friday the budget has enough money for a raise for his 68 employees, but the board won't decide until April whether to tap into it.

"We always follow the city's lead," he said, but "it's not clear right now."

NW News on 03/07/2015

Print Headline: Week's events keep library's future murky

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