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Preparations Being Made for Discussion of the Library Trust

Several members of the public criticized cuts to Edith Wheeler Memorial Library's budget request.

The Edith Wheeler Memorial Trust has available funding for the library in town, but there is a disagreement between the Library Board and the Board of Finance over how the funds should be used.

Library Board Chairman Bill Ehlers says it is meant to be used for things over and above the operating budget, which is still the responsibility of the town. However, Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed points to a line in the trust document saying it is for general purposes.

"That is where the discussion is going to be next time," Reed said at the Board of Finance meeting last week. "We need to clear that up."

There was no in-depth discussion over the trust on Wednesday night, because Library Board Chairman Bill Ehlers and John Chiota, the attorney for the trust, could not make the meeting.

Margaret Borchers, director of Edith Wheeler Library, attended the meeting and Board of Finance members asked her to relay their request for specific information from the Library Board of Directors for a future discussion on the trust.

Among the information the board asked for was a copy of the trust document with all personal information redacted, so members of the public who want a copy may have one; and the library's financial information over the last five years showing how income from the trust has been spent.

"I hope five years isn't too onerous," Reed said to Borchers.

Reed said Board of Finance members support the library, but added they are "numbers guys" and have to be "watchdogs" and "make sure things are spent the way they should be."

Criticism Over Cuts

During a budget workshop, the Board of Finance had cut the library's request for everything that was not contractual, which did not sit well with some voters who attended last week's meeting.

Steve Schapiro said, "In my opinion, in the last five years, the library has gone before the Board of Finance and the Town Council and gotten squat. They haven't gotten a lick of anything. I think Margaret Borchers is owed an apology for how she was treated when she came to speak at a budget workshop."

Schapiro also told the Board of Finance he thought it was wrong to decide to freeze the library's budget until it had more information on the trust. He said he thought the board should have put the requested funding aside, then after finding how the trust should be used, either give it to the library or return it to the general fund if it is found that the trust can be used for the expenses.

"I think some people voted no because of that," Schapiro said. "There have been rumblings through town that it didn't sit well."

He also expressed disappointment with First Selectman Steve Vavrek for not restoring the funds — including $15,000 in raises for part-timers — after the budget went down in the first referendum.

"Year after year they ask for a quarter, a nickle, a dime for these people, who work hard," Schapiro said of the part-time staff. "It's a slap in the face."

Town Council Chairwoman Enid Lipeles, who frequently uses the library, also attended the meeting. She said staff members are "the most pleasant people" and praised them for their patience in helping library patrons. Schapiro suggested taking $15,000 out of the roads account and using it for raises for part-time staff members.

Lipeles said she sees families checking out music and movies on dvd, saving money in a bad economy, and people who do not have access to the Internet at home coming to the library to use its computers.

Town Councilwoman Debra Dutches said the council had approved "some fairly substantial increases" for the library budget which it thought was necessary, before the finance board took it out.

For the library to have no increase, Dutches said, "I think it's a bad thing for the people of Monroe. Usage has gone up. It's a beautiful building."

Reed said the Town Council actually decreased the library's budget request, then Dutches countered that the council still approved a net increase in spending from the current fiscal year.

John Holmes April 22, 2013 at 02:46 PM
I don't understand why one member of the library board goes about town telling everyone to vote no on every budget. Then the same library board complains about having no money for supplies. Seems counterproductive.
Steve Kirsch April 22, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Bill, is your second paragraph written correctly. I thought Mr. Ehlers's position was that the trust WAS for things "over and above" normal items and that the trust was not to be used for normal operating items which are, or should be, the responsibility of the town. Can you please verify. Thanks
jim laguardia April 22, 2013 at 02:57 PM
For anyone not following the chronological flow of the two seperate stories, the MCAC peppered elected officials over words, sentences used out of context from an FOI requested copy of the Honeywell contract. This left at least one official visibly irritated. Then within 15 minutes the BoF director was basing his entire argument on ONE sentence on page 6 section A of the trust run by volunteers, overseeing a private donation to OUR town... IRONIC
Bill Bittar (Editor) April 22, 2013 at 05:54 PM
It wasn't correct. I didn't mean for the word "not" to be in there.
Bill Bittar (Editor) April 22, 2013 at 05:55 PM
A couple of corrections were added, the second paragraph shouldn't have had the word "not" in there. Ehlers says the trust is for things over and above the operating budget. Also, Steve Schapiro suggested taking $15k from roads for the P/T raises, not Lipeles. That was also corrected.
S.D. Bob Plissken April 22, 2013 at 06:29 PM
If the library needs funds and their workers are trying to get raises then why is a member of the library commission advocating a no vote?
kay inderdohnen April 22, 2013 at 09:29 PM
The Library Board member might have voted no with the idea that the First Selectman would restore the funds that were cut from the Library's budget request.
S.D. Bob Plissken April 22, 2013 at 09:57 PM
That library board member is a member of the CAC and is against every budget every year.
iris gomberg April 23, 2013 at 03:27 AM
The library is very important to the Monroe community! We must keep it updated with the latest books & electronics.Our youth depend upon the library as part of their education as well as the rest of the adults!There should be no cutting of the budget in any form or manner! As a senior citizen ,I depend upon the resources of our library. iris.gomberg@gmail.com
Rt25 April 23, 2013 at 12:05 PM
The Board of Finance should scrutinize every department as much as it does the Library. It appears that the BOF just plain hates the library and does not want to support it.
I Live Here Too April 23, 2013 at 05:57 PM
I've never once seen the CAC support a budget. Ever. They feel that there should never be a price increase on what the town pays for goods and services and that kids should pretty much go without or even less. Pathetic.
Schap April 23, 2013 at 06:53 PM
The CAC came to the BoF meeting looking for answers. Where were they last night when every board was at the town meeting to answer any questions re: honeywell. Honeywell,Town Council, Superintendent's office, Town F/S, Town Attorney and more were available.They had their opportunity to ask and get answers and they were no where in site. The credability of that group is zero, and I am just a citizen and sit on no town board. Either speak the truth or go away, don't pass out infornation unless you persue the truth.
S.D. Bob Plissken April 23, 2013 at 07:05 PM
The CAC is worse than pathetic. I saw two CAC members tell a group of students they were disgusting and should be ashamed of themselves. The students were just going before the BOE to ask for new band uniforms because the ones they had were falling apart.

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