Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Council wants to know why Westchester Library has reserve funds

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The Porter County Council has been inquiring about Westchester Public Library’s reserve funds and operations since it approved an additional appropriation request, WPL Director Lisa Stamm reported at the Library Board’s meeting Thursday.

The County Council approved Stamm’s request for an approximately $37,000 additional appropriation from WPL’s Library Improvement Reserve Fund (LIRF) at its August meeting, at which time the Council was surprised to learn that WPL has $8 million in reserves.

Stamm reported the Council asked her to provide a list naming all of WPL’s full-time employees that showed how many receive health benefits shortly after the meeting. She was not given a detailed answer when she asked why the Council wanted the list.

In addition, Stamm said a Council member stopped by the Thomas Branch unscheduled and asked to speak with her the week following the meeting. The Council member wanted to know who is on the WPL Board of Trustees, and who appoints them, and said the Council as a whole was perplexed about why WPL is allowed to accumulate reserves.

After the Board’s meeting, Stamm said the impromptu visit was “challenging” and the tone was that of “constant questioning.” She declined to say which Council member dropped in on her. She also declined to comment when asked directly if the Council member kept their conversation light and respectful.

Per Indiana Code, libraries are allowed to accumulate money in their respective LIRFs in anticipation of future capital costs such as land or building purchases, construction, equipment, and repairs. The funds in LIRF are WPL’s own money, and the growth of those funds is a result of careful budgeting and smart investments over the Library’s 47-year history, according to Stamm. However, LIRF funds cannot be spent without an additional appropriation.

The Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) directed Stamm to get approval for the use of WPL’s LIRF money from the County Council because related Indiana Code, specifically in new legislation HEA 1343, does not explicitly say Townships can approve such appropriations.

HEA 1343 also allows local fiscal bodies to take oversight over their corresponding libraries’ budgets, but only for libraries that carry more than 150 percent of their operating budgets in cash-on-hand and expected revenue.

Though Porter County is not one of WPL’s founding entities, DLGF has indicated that they would “likely rely on the same code and language” in deciding what fiscal body can take budget oversight over WPL, according to Stamm. Per the Code, if the County Council took oversight over WPL, it could reduce WPL’s annual budget by up to 10 percent upon review.

At the August Council meeting when Stamm’s additional appropriation request was approved, the Council briefly discussed HEA 1343, noting that they are unsure as of yet if the Porter County Library meets the 150 percent requirement for extra oversight.

It’s too late for the Council to take oversight for WPL’s 2020 budget. To take oversight over the 2021 budget, the Council would have to give 30-days of notice to all affected taxing units, hold a public hearing, and pass a resolution before July 1, 2020.



Posted 9/16/2019





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