Tense Library Board of Control meeting over questionable past spending

Tense Library Board of Control meeting over questionable past spending
A meeting Thursday night boiled over as board members questioned past spending on furniture.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Parish Library's Board of Control had a meeting Thursday night that got pretty heated over their controversial past spending, right as they were approving next year's allocated budget.

Questionable library spending causes board meeting to erupt

"Going to make us look like we're trying to do something that's out of the public eye, that's a mistake!" said Donald Luther, a library board member.

"Well the challenge is, if all these things have been happening in the public eye and the news media wouldn't be here, there wouldn't be any interest if they knew of these things in the first place," said Chance Wilson, another library board member.

New library board of control member Chance Wilson asked why the library was prepared to spend tens of thousand of tax dollars for items that ended up costing much less.

Other board members say those decisions were made years ago for upgrades that set the library system apart, and it's time to move on.

Here's the issue, the parish library's 2018 operating budget that was approved back in 2017 includes things like:

- $35,000 allocated for office furniture, when they only spent around $12,000.

- $94,000 allocated for a high tech globe, that hasn't been purchased yet.

- $240,000 request to replace a 3 year old AV system, they only spent about $200,000.

The money not spent went back into the library's general fund.

"I think it goes back to when trying to prepare a budget you do projections, they do the best they can thinking this is how much they think a particular item will cost. Often times its never that amount of money," said Jason Jacob, Library Board of Control President.

"These concerns that I brought up today were proven to be legitimate, the library system is not properly allocating money," said Wilson.

Everything is currently self funded by a tax voters approved in 2015 that generates millions of dollars for the whole system.

"I have to rely on the library staff to do their due diligence, which they've done. I can't say I've ever doubted their intentions, I trust the figures they've presented," said Jacob.

"I'm glad that this came out in today's meeting," said Wilson.

A lot of board members said all these upgrades and expenditures are what makes the library system one of the best in the country

Also it’s worth noting, that the operating budget every year has to go to the Metro Council for approval, including their 2020 budget they approved Thursday.

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