The Bloomfield City Council unanimously approved its FY22 budget Thursday night following a heated exchange between three library supporters —Marty and Joe Hudson and Sheila Westegard — and Councilman Matt Cronin over the city’s reduction of $20,000 in library funding.
The council discussed proposed cuts to the library’s funding at its March 4 meeting. The FY21 budget allotted $155,000 to the library with the county funding $35,000 and the city funding the remaining $120,000. Two options were proposed for the FY22 library budget.
Option #1 proposed a $60,000 contribution by the county and a $95,000 contribution by the city for a total of $155,000. Option #2 proposed a $35,000 contribution by the county and a $100,000 contribution by the city for a total of $135,000.
Option #2 made its way into the budget which passed Thursday night.
The Davis County Supervisors said Monday morning, March 29, they used to contribute $21,000 to the library annually. When the library was updated and expanded five years ago, the county donated $100,000 to the project and raised their annual contribution to $35,000.
“The library was established as a city library,” Supervisor Ron Bride said, “and the county does not appoint a member to the library board.”
Bride also said the county’s FY22 budget was established before the city brought up the issue of additional county funding.
Marty Hudson led off the public hearing Thursday night by saying she and her husband moved to Bloomfield 10 years ago after looking for a town in southeast Iowa that had a good library with good services and good hours for working people.
The Hudsons said libraries are equalizers and provide internet services to those who don’t have access to fast internet. They chose to live in Bloomfield because of the library and its services.
The following dialogue ensued as Cronin grilled the Hudsons and Westegard on their comments in support of the library and the funding level at which it was supported last year.
Cronin: Did you express your funding concerns to the supervisors? Have you looked into the county rate of funding? Sixty percent of library users are from the county but the city provides three times (the county’s) rate of funding. Why is there an expectation that the city should pay $180,000 (he likely meant $120,000) if the county’s donation of $35,000 is acceptable?
M. Hudson: When you read in the paper that there’s a $20,000 cut…
Cronin: You probably ought to talk to the editor of the paper about that. We don’t supervise the paper.
M. Hudson: There was a reason why that was reported. I am a supporter of the press and I will be glad to talk.
Cronin: It was a public meeting and I would strongly suggest that any resident who wants accurate information not rely on the Bloomfield Democrat but come to the meetings.
M. Hudson: I will do both.
Cronin: Where did you get your information on cutting hours and internet?
M. Hudson: When you cut the budget by $20,000 it has to come from some place. We’ve appreciated the expanded hours.
Cronin: You need to get a little more information before making assumptions. I would strongly recommend against relying on the Bloomfield Democrat for information.
M. Hudson: I will rely on the Bloomfield Democrat, and I will rely on meeting information, and I will rely on…(interruption). My husband and I came to provide public comments. We are not on trial for what we said. We came to provide public comments in support of the library.
Cronin: You’re providing public comments and I’m providing a response as to why your information is inaccurate.
M. Hudson: And you are welcome to send me that and…
Cronin: Uh-uh. We made that decision at a public meeting and you’re welcome to come to that meeting.
M. Hudson: And that’s why we’re here tonight.
Darin Garrett, presiding as mayor pro tem: Thank you. Are there any other comments?
Sheila Westegard, whose appointment to the library board was recently approved by the city council, was next to speak during public comments.
Westegard: I came to speak during public comments and I have a public question. Is it not true the library’s budget is being cut by $20,000?
Garrett: (After a slight pause) The city’s contribution — yes.
Cronin: …is $20,000 less than requested.
Westegard: OK, but you made it sound like the whole thing was a false issue.
Cronin: No, I didn’t. Are there hours being cut, or the internet?
Westegard: I didn’t say anything about hours. The library budget is pretty spare anyway.
Cronin: Have you been to the county supervisors?
Westegard: No, but there’s a history there.
Cronin: So, why is it OK for the county?
Westegard: Maybe I’ll go there next.
Cronin: That’s what I would recommend rather than ask city residents to foot three times the bill and when they use half the services. Maybe we should ask the supervisors to pay their fair share rather than ask the residents of the city to continue to bear a disproportionate share.
Westegard: That may be so, but I object to the $20,000 cut in the budget.
Cronin: So why do you think $120,000 (probably intended $100,000) from the city is not acceptable, but $35,000 from the county is?
Westegard: That’s not the issue.
Cronin: It’s the same issue. It’s the budget funding. It’s the exact same issue.
Westegard: I see why you don’t get the public to come to these meetings.
M. Hudson: (To Cronin) Can I ask who you are?
(Cronin shoves nameplate toward her.)
M. Hudson: We can’t read it from here.
J. Hudson: Can you tell us your name please?
Cronin: It’s right here.
J. Hudson: We don’t have nametags and we told you our names.
M. Hudson: There’s no print on the nameplate.
At that point, Councilman Earl Howard moved the nameplate closer so the Hudsons could read the dark gray name on the black background.
The council meeting continued with the council adopting the FY22 budget with a total of $135,000 (city plus county funds) allotted to the library.
In other action during the special meeting, the council:
• approved a resolution authorizing interfund transfers and recording those for FY22;
• approved a resolution appointing Tomi Jo Day as Deputy Clerk;
• discussed a new urban renewal amendment and locking in interest rates on the bonds issued for next summer’s street project. Garrett said he likes the idea of locking in the rates, but would also like to look into using TIF funds before certifying.
• set a joint meeting of Bloomfield Main Street, the city council, and Main Street Iowa Director Michael Wagler for 6 p.m. April 15 to discuss sharing staff.