Updated Tuesday, June 22, 8:00 a.m.
Elected officials in both Davidson and Cornelius on Monday gave their approvals to an agreement with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library that is expected to avoid closure for library branches in the two towns. Those votes, along with similar actions Monday night in Huntersville, Mint Hill and Matthews, mean the library now has financial commitments and/or in-kind contributions from five of the county’s six towns so it can keep open all community branches in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
In an 8:30 a.m. meeting at Cornelius Town Hall, Cornelius commissioners voted 4-0 to provide $175,000 in support to the library. The approval is not final, and came with a half-dozen conditions. But Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Director Charles Brown said later in the day that the vote gives the library board what it needs to proceed.
In 45-minute meeting at 4 p.m., Davidson’s board voted 4-0 (with commissioner Tim Dreffer absent) to endorse the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the library, the towns, and Mecklenburg County. Davidson’s piece of the puzzle included a commitment to raise $175,000 through a community fund drive and a pledge to forgive the library system’s final $35,140 lease payment on the branch on the Davidson Village Green.
On Monday night, town Boards in Matthews, Mint Hill and Huntersville approved similar pledges of support.
Huntersville agreed to provide in-kind contributions such as programs, cross-promotion, representative liaison for the Huntersville Destinations Round Table, and police/security presence in and around the North County Regional Library. Matthews will restructure its lease with the library to defer the coming year’s lease payment of $205,000 until 2018. Mint Hill is making a $175,000 contribution.
Library officials had asked the towns for formal commitments by the end of the day Monday. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Board of Trustees holds its next regular meeting on Thursday, June 24, to adoption at 2010-2011 budget and proposed fiscal 2011 operational schedule. The library board needed commitments from the towns to adopt a budget and operating plan that keeps the community branches open.
The five towns’ participation had been a condition of the city of Charlotte’s pledge of $1.4 million in support in the coming year. The city money, along with additional funding from Mecklenburg County, means all 20 of the library’s community branches would be open four days a week beginning July 6.
The library trustees meet Thursday at noon in the Main Library auditorium in downtown Charlotte. Details: http://www.plcmc.org/about_us/trusteesMeetings.asp.
The budget trustees will vote on Thursday is about $23.3 million, up from the originally proposed budget of $17.67 million, but still down from the $32 million in county funding the library received in fiscal 2010.
The reduced funding has brought some pain already. Four branches closed last week, and hours at the remaining branches will be cut back by 26 percent.
Monday’s meetings came as the library began preparing for scaled-back operations in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The library said in an announcement late Mondya that is also will layoff 66 employees or 18 percent of remaining staff. That’s on top of the 120 who lost their jobs in April because of previous budget cuts.
The library had previously warned 214 people that might lose their jobs in the new fiscal year.
Mr. Brown said Ellen Giduz, the director of both the Davidson and Cornelius branches, will be staying on.
The Cornelius board approval came with a series of conditions. Chief among those is a need to work out an “asset transfer agreement” with the county equivalent to $175,000. The agreement could include a lien, an asset swap, or a promissory note, the board said.
Other conditions, according to draft minutes of Monday’s meeting, included:
- Commitment of the Library Board of Trustees to the Contingency Plan adopted by the Mecklenburg County Commission;
- That funds be released on the staggered schedule outlined in the Contingency Plan adopted by Mecklenburg County and only upon satisfactory completion of the conditions set forth in that document;
- Emergency support participation, either financial or in-kind, by the City of Charlotte and three other towns (in addition to Cornelius);
- The town attorney will review and amend the interlocal agreement as necessary;
- That a town representative be appointed to the Steering Committee.
Cornelius will likely vote again on details of the asset transfer at its next meeting later this month.
DAVIDSON FORMS COMMITTEE
Also Monday, Davidson’s Town Board voted 4-0 to authorize Mayor John Woods to formalize an ad hoc committee that has been meeting to discuss the library crisis. The committee will help plan a community fund-raiser and organize volunteers to help staff the library branch.
Even with the agreements by the various towns, it’s likely that branch libraries will be open only 4 days a week in the coming year.
Davidson board members said they hope the fund-raising and volunteer organizing can provide sufficient support to allow the local branches to stay open five days a week.
Mr. Brown, the library director, applauded the formation of the committee. He said Davidson’s organizing efforts could become a model for other communities to follow.
MORE INFO, PREVIOUS COVERAGE
Download a copy of the draft 10-page interlocal agreement between towns, Mecklenburg County and the library (PDF), as of June 24, CLICK HERE>
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library website, cmlibrary.org/
See previous coverage of the library issue on DavidsonNews.net under the “Charlotte Mecklenburg Library” tag, http://www.davidsonnews.net/tag/charlotte-mecklenburg-library