By Heather Mullinix
The budget committee of the Cumberland County Commission approved a budget amendment that would bring revenues generated by the Art Circle Library into the county's general fund. Those funds were also reallocated to the library's budget to be used for various purposes.
Nathan Brock, county finance director, told the committee, "For many years, the Art Circle Library, the money that was generated internally from late fees, rentals and other sources of revenue, the board had retained and managed those funds and reported quarterly to the county."
Brock explained the state comptroller's office had advised the county those funds needed to be under the control of the county's general fund. The proposed amendment would allow for a transition to recognize the revenue and appropriate the funds back to the library.
As of the end of November, the library has generated $9,406.75 in the fiscal year, which began July 1. The amendment includes an increase in revenue by that amount and includes an increase in expenditures for the library under "other charges," which will allow the library's board discretion in spending.
The resolution states funds generated by the library will be turned over to the county on a monthly basis and accounted for as revenue and the intent is to periodically return those funds to the library's expenditure budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner, was concerned the resolution could set a precedent that all fees collected by county departments that generate revenue would have those funds returned to them in their entirety in the future.
"It's no different than telling the other office that generates money for the general fund that all the money they generate will be returned to them," Harvel said. "You could have a case that every department will tell you the same thing. We are the funding agent for the library so any funds generated should help us to fund it, not just say they can spend it any way they want to."
The library generates about $30,000 to $40,000 a year through charges for late fees, rentals, making copies and other services to the public. Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner, said those funds had been offsetting what was required for the library operations from the county.
Harvel said that while the library could have requested those funds from the county, it did not mean the county would have funded the library at an increased amount, but that was something the budget committee would have to consider during its budget work sessions.
"The taxpayers have been paying for this building and anything it generates should come back to the taxpayers," Harvel said. "I don't care if we raise it, but to say that 'anything you bring in, you keep it,' is, to me, not the way to do business."
Foster moved to approve the resolution to account for funds this budget year, supported by Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner. The motion was unanimously approved.
The committee also passed a motion stating individual departments are responsible for the material costs of maintenance, while the county's maintenance department will be responsible for labor and manpower, when possible, to complete maintenance items.
The issue came to light several months ago when there was confusion on which department would pay for maintenance and replacement of equipment at the justice center.
The county approved an increase in the maintenance department's budget in 2011 to hire one new employee to help with maintenance of the expanded and renovated Cumberland County Jail and Justice Center. Additional funding of about $20,000 was also approved due to the additional square footage. However, since additional funds had been appropriated to the department, there was a question if the maintenance department was responsible for the cost of equipment in need of repair or replacement, such as a steamer in the jail kitchen or cameras.
Harvel, who is employed as assistant director of the county's solid waste department, said his department budgeted for the cost of equipment and materials and the maintenance department provided manpower and labor to complete needed repairs, unless specialized certification was necessary.
"If we bust a window, we pay for the window and they put it in," Harvel said. "I thought all departments worked that way."
Harvel added the sheriff's department and others should be budgeting for the cost of equipment replacement each year.
Jeff Brown, 8th District commissioner, said the committee should ask County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. to draft a policy regarding responsibilities of the maintenance department and defining what equipment the department would pay for.
Hyder moved that each department would be responsible for the materials for maintenance and repair, while the maintenance department would provide labor and personnel when possible. The motion was supported by David Hassler, 3rd District commissioner. The motion was approved with Brown voting no.
Brown added, "The budget committee should not make policy."
In other business, the committee recommended approval of a budget amendment recognizing additional income from the sale of a surplus 1974 fire truck, which sold for $1,965.63, with the revenue going to the 8th District Fire Department, which originally purchased the truck. Harvel moved to approve, supported by Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, and unanimously approved.