Clinton Village Board closes the book on budget
CLINTON They pleaded with passion and affection for their library.
They told personal stories about the library's impact on their lives and their children's lives.
They talked about it as a place to find a job, as a safe haven for adolescents, as a learning center for people of all ages, as a job center and as an equalizer between the haves and the have-nots.
In the end, however, it wasn't enough to convince the Clinton Village Board to change its budget and give the public library the additional $4,324 it wanted.
Tuesday's vote to keep the budget as proposed, without any changes, was 4-3, with Mary Jensen, Art Bushue and Connie Tracy voting "no." The remaining board members, Brian Jacobs, Lois Kroeze, Ron Torkilson and Ron Schut, voted "yes."
It was a disappointing end for a loosely formed "Save Clinton Public Library" group that started early in November. The group's Facebook page garnered 136 "likes" in a week, a surprising showing for such a small group.
Before the meeting, the group held a flash mob "read in" outside the village hall. More than 30 library supporters turned out with their books, lawn chairs and flashlights. Most of that group then traveled to the Clinton Fire Station where the budget hearing was to take place.
There, they were joined by other residents, and by the time the meeting started, the village board was facing an audience of about 50 people.
"We are delighted to have you here," said village President Mary Jensen. "This is the most people we've had at a budget meeting."
From 2001 to 2011, the village's allocation to the Clinton Public Library increased a total of 10 percent, while the cost of living increased 30 percent over that same time period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Clinton resident Roy Bossingham did the math.
"In real dollars, that's a cut in the budget of 18 percent," Bossingham said.
About 20 people spoke or read letters from supporters.
Five-year-olds Channing and Jakob Nielson kept their time at the microphone short.
They took turns saying, "I love my library" into the microphone.
Former village president Dennis Nielson, the boys' grandfather, spoke, too.
"I remember growing up here and going to the library," Nielson said. "It's important to keep it up, just like it's important to keep up the streets."
Other supporters pointed out that a decrease in municipal library funding would mean a decrease in funding from county tax dollars allocated to the library.
"When I first moved here, I don't know what we would have done if it wasn't for the public library," said Marcene Kemp.
Kemp said that the library had computers for her kids—something that she couldn't afford. It also gave them a safe haven after school.
Board members pointed out that state rules meant that they couldn't raise taxes.
For a short period, it seemed as though Jensen would entertain ideas from the audience, but that was cut short when things began to get contentious.
Jacobs suggested that with all the people in attendance, it might be possible to do more fundraising. The library already has a "friends" group that raises money every year.
After the meeting, supporters expressed surprise—and some anger—at the board's decision to disregard their input.
Mirjam Melin found it offensive that the board should suggest they do more fundraising for a city service.
"I'd love to see them do cookie sales for curb and gutter work," Melin said.