Commentary – Commissioner bullying library head?

A few weeks ago the Lyon County Commissioners spent two days of discussion, debate and compromising with department heads and other staff formulating a tentative budget.  It was unanimously approved – all five commissioners said “OK”!!

Prior to these budget meetings, all departments were requested to make cuts to each of their budgets.  From what I have observed, all departments made a solid and serious commitment to meet the commissioners’ requests to cut, cut & cut – and do the best they could to help the county eliminate an estimated $1 million revenue shortfall.  Details of the cuts in staffing and other expenses have been covered in previous articles.

 A 6.43-cent property tax increase was an approved part of that budget….a UNANIMOUSLY approved budget!

But hold on………it now appears that one commissioner thinks some major changes need to be made prior to the required June 1 submittal of the Final Budget. Commissioner Vida Keller placed a proposal on the April 18, 2013 commission agenda to cut the Library budget by another $360,000 and eliminate the 6.43-cent property tax.

I am sure Ms. Keller fully understands the County library system and its director answer to a statutory board as established per NRS and the only authority the Commission has is approval of their budget.  Ms. Keller is using that as her leverage – “do it my way or no money”.

This gets a little convoluted if you try to follow Commissioner Keller’s arguments for her proposals, but in regards to the Library Budget, it appears she is using the threat of additional library cuts to show her dissatisfaction with the Library Director – dissatisfaction based on rumors and misinformation.

  • Keller stated during the April 18 commission hearing that she could not, in good faith, approve the full (the remaining budget after major cuts) $560,000 for the Library – unless all five county library branches were treated equally….. she said she had received many phone calls telling her that certain branches were going to be closed;
  • HOWEVER, she did not find the time or have the courtesy to call or visit the Library Director in regards to these concerns.  Nope – she posted her issue on the agenda and publicly chastised the Library Director with unfounded accusations;
  • Using up 1-1/2 hours of commission time to debate the merits of a budget she voted for just two weeks prior;
  • Trying to control how that budget should be allocated – which she has NO BUSINESS doing!
  • And this charade is scheduled to continue at the May 2 Commission meeting.

The Library Budget of $560,000 was UNANIMOUSLY approved on April 4.  The Library Board has made NO decisions in regards to how this meager amount will be allocated.   There have been some informal discussions amongst staff, residents, the Director, et al in regards to various options.  All anyone would have to do is check the Library Board April 9 meeting agenda to see that no decisions were going to be or have been made.

Let’s put this in perspective.

Not one other department is being told HOW to spend their severely depleted budgets or threatened with reprisal if they do not follow a particular commissioner’s orders….and do you think they are being questioned as to whether all those services are being distributed equally throughout the county?

With a budget of $526,000 for a library system with five facilities, to not expect some severe service cuts is not realistic in the first place.  Add the reality of the geographical distance between each facility and the total of seven paid employees within this system, and you have quite a dilemma facing a Library Board and Director.

The issue of simply making each branch an all-volunteer facility is an idea to be discussed prior to the 2014-15 budget discussions, allowing time to meet with the Library Board, Director and community members and take all related issues into consideration. To make this an issue of contention at this point in the budget process is unfair, asinine, very short-sighted, ignorant….and, bullying by micromanagement!

What exactly do the commissioners expect in regards to service levels?  As with all Lyon County departments, you cannot have both severe budget cuts and no cuts in services.  It may, in reality, turn out a library branch or two will be slighted when all is said and done – and there will be some unhappy residents; however, it is the job of the Library Board to make such decisions….not that of any singular or group of commissioners.

  • And, in regards to Commissioner Keller’s proposal to remove the property tax increase included within the UNANIMOUSLY approved budget, whose projected $350,000 revenue is an integral part of closing that $1 Million shortfall….
  • And, in regards to Commissioner Keller’s proposal to add $300,000 to the Contingency Fund by further cutting another budget – the Sheriff’s budget being Keller’s primary target….

Why in the world did she not bring any of these issues up during the budget workshops April 3 & 4?  What in the world is she thinking?

You, the voters and taxpayers, should think about that.

Nancy Dallas, Editor/Publisher

NewsDesk (Est. January 2003)


3 comments on “Commentary – Commissioner bullying library head?
  1. Sandy Marshall says:

    The Commission, as a whole, needs a backbone and shut Keller down. Hastings spin on his website, was that the “BOCC is now looking to options that would allow for all locations to remain open including those agendized for the April 18, 2013 BOCC meeting.” It seems as more people have started to comment on the issue, the more Keller and Hastings are doing spin control.

    • Nancy Dallas says:

      The simple fact is – the BOC has no authority to determine library hours or how the library budget is to be used. That is the duty of the Library Board – period. Perhaps a commissioner or two should read the NRS in regards to library boards.

      • Deborah Aquino says:

        Nancy, you are absolutely correct. Perhaps a review of NRS 379 should be mandatory for the Lyon County Commissioners.

        It is unfortunate that this commisioner has chosen to pursue this path. Maintaining a well operating library system is a challenge in the best of times; operating day-to-day without adequate funds and without a safe level of staffing is impossible. Risk management should review the pitfalls of operating a nearly 100% volunteer staff. Having limited accountability for volunteers could place County owned resources at increased risk. Although they would be in the hands of those who are performing the duties out of their sense of community it would be difficult to hold individuales accountable for keeping resources maintained and the public safe while using the libraries.

        Perhaps Ms. Keller’s recent choices are influenced by the potential impact of a property tax hike upon those in her vocation. It would be unfortunate for anyone in a position of power to use that position for personal gain, especially at the risk to availability and stewardship of community resources.

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