Commissioners say agreement will help long-term funding for library

Staff Writer

On Monday afternoon, Howard County commissioners approved the agreement between the county and Howard College to share a head librarian position, a first step which could lead to combining library resources.
Before the commissioners discussed the inter-local agreement, Howard County Library employee John Schafer spoke to the commissioners about the issue. Among many points, Schafer addressed his concern the county library would take a backseat to the interests of the college library.
“If this joint library venture was to press forward, it would take, what, three, four, five years to occur,” said Schafer. “... If the college pays the major portion of the shared director’s salary, provides insurance and benefits and the county supplements the shared director’s salary … by one third … can it be assumed that the college library would be the first priority of the new director and the county library would be secondary consideration?”
Commissioner Craig Bailey assured Schafer that the planning of the joint library venture has been discussed at length between the two entities.
“Fact of the matter is that we have been meeting at different times to discuss the feasibility of even taking the next step,” said Bailey. “And if we hadn’t seen an opportunity again, Mr. Schafer is viewing this strictly, I think, from a budgetary standpoint with regard to the library itself when in fact we are being confronted by state rules that are ultimately going to change the ways counties do business...”
Bailey is referring to a bill working through the Texas legislature. If passed, the bill would drop the tax rollback rate from 8 percent to 4 percent, narrowing the amount taxing entities can raise the tax rate over the amount they collected the previous year. If that occurs, Bailey said it would hinder the county’s overall financing. Bailey also mentioned the county continues to receive more unfunded mandates from the state adding pressure to an already tight budget.
He said the agreement between the two entities would have “long-term viability” for the library program if that were to happen.