Dear Fayetteville Free Library Board of Trustees:
I am using this venue to request answers to questions I presented to the board both verbally and written, per FFL policy, at your Dec. 13, 2016 and Jan. 25, 2017 board meetings. I have yet to receive answers.
As a Fayetteville resident, I was shocked reading allegations about the FFL in the Eagle Bulletin last year. My perception of the FFL’s response, posted on its website, was it was expertly prepared, expansive, and frequently evasive. Additionally, posted on the FFL website in the FFL stated “received additional questions from five individuals … responding to allegations like these, seemingly made in bad faith and sometimes without regard to fact, is lengthy and costly … will work with the library’s counsel and the team at the State Library’s Division of Library Development to provide our response.” The FFL does not include the questions or allegations so the public cannot agree or disagree with the FFL.
Not knowing whom to believe, I did my own analysis using publicly available sources. The more I looked, the more I questioned. My analysis showed:
•1999: Revenue: $461,587, Expenses $358,663.
•2014: Revenue: $1,665,967, Expenses $1,687,689.
Comparing 2014 to 1999 shows growth rates of 261 percent for revenue and a 371 percent for expenses. Yet inflation grew only 42.1 percent from 1999 to 2014. Checking to see if 1999 and 2014 were atypical, I added revenue and expenses for all the years from 1999 to 2014:
•Total revenue $18,526,289.
•Total expenses $16,843,658.
•Total surplus $1,682,631.
This analysis and others prompted my questions to the FFL Board. I restate my most important questions:
•Why can’t some of the $1.7 million surplus reduce taxes in 2017?
•Why do 2017 taxes need to increase 4 percent when your revenue and expenses have already grown six and nine times inflation?
My research also revealed surprising facts. The FFL is not a governmental entity; it is a private free association library. The FFL is not much different from other worthy charities, yet unlike other charities, the FFL is empowered by New York State to levy taxes upon the population of the FM School District. Surprisingly, free association libraries are not required to adhere to the same regulations that a public library must. They are not subject to Freedom of Information laws. Their boards are not publicly elected. While governmental entities must spend the taxes they collect as budgeted, free association libraries can spend the taxes they receive without restrictions of their budget. They can spend money as budgeted or not.
While I don’t agree with all of the FFL’s actions and priorities, I am not against public funding of libraries. I just want timely, reasonable answers to reasonable questions.
Finally, it has been my experience that transparency and an honest sharing of available information are pretty simple and straightforward. It does not require consulting with attorneys and agencies beforehand. Evasive answers and smoke and mirrors do.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.