Not on the same page; Chico City Council, library seek solution to funding issue

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, November 10, 2018
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The Chico City Council Thursday agreed to look for places to amend the budget to provide the city’s library with more funding, but it made no promises of increased funding.

Last month Library Director Michelle Slonaker spoke to the council about a 50 percent cut in library funding from the city – from $15,000 to $7,500. She said she was not notified of the city’s intention to cut the funding until after the new fiscal year began.

At that meeting, Slonaker explained the funding cut could cost the library its accreditation, which would in turn disqualify it to receive federal grants. The council explained budget cuts were made in several departments.

The council had requested members of the library board attend the November meeting to talk more about the grant process that is used to provide many of the library’s programs.

Slonaker spoke for about 30 minutes Thursday describing the history of the library, its funding sources and what they have been able to do with that funding over the years.

“I can get grants. I can not replace the operating funding so easily,” she said, explaining that the foundations that award the grants want to know that local funding is in place first before grants for expanded programs are awarded.

“They want to know their money is not being used to replace something you should already be providing,” she said.

The library also does fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for library operations, she added.

The problem, council member Rick Boling said, was a lack of available funding from the city.

“The bottom line of this, Michelle, is the budget – the city’s budget and the money that we have. And with the hopes that maybe when next year’s budget rolls around it will revert back to where it was. But at this point, there’s no way. This budget is done,” he said.

As they did last month, members of the council and Mayor Colleen Self talked about the library board’s refusal to honor the council’s request to turn off the library’s WiFi internet access during the overnight hours to keep people away from the building during those hours before the conversation returned to the funding issue.

Council member Cindy Barksdale said she’d like to see if a compromise could be reached.

“I’m willing to back you, but I also want to know we can be met on the middle on things, too. And I’m not saying shut [WiFi] down, because I get it. A truck driver comes in at 3 at night and wants to wind down before they go home, I get that,” she said, suggesting that the library board consider shutting off the WiFi during the overnight hours for a few weeks to see how it goes.

Self said the council could look at amending the budget.

“The first thing you need to decide is how much you are going to amend before you decide where you are going to amend it from,” she said.

The council took no action on the item but is expected to revisit it for possible action at a future meeting.

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