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Local Historian Asks Ohio County BOE to Explain Library Funding Cuts

WHEELING — The Ohio County Board of Education’s move to cut its allocations to the county library by a third isn’t sitting well with local historian Margaret Brennan of Wheeling.

Brennan addressed the board this week, thanking the board and the school system for efforts displayed during the pandemic. She then asked why the board chose to reduce the money it gives the library.

The board voted 3-2 on April 26 to reduce the amount of its library contribution from three cents per $100 of assessed county property value, to two cents. The reduction is projected to lower the next fiscal year’s funding to the library from approximately $884,547 to $589,698.

Board president David Croft and members Molly Aderholt and Christine Carder all voted this month in favor, with Pete Chacalos and Grace Norton voting against the library funding cut.

Beginning in 1882, state law required school districts to fund their county’s library. That law was repealed in the last decade, but past boards in Ohio County previously had opted to continue the practice.

“I come here with great concern about the decision you took about reducing the allocations to the Ohio County Public Library,” Brennan told the board. “I do a lot of work there. I know a lot of people there. And I’ve learned a whole lot this week about the legalities involved.

“I know there is no legal basis to give the allocation that has been given for 139 years. Nobody has touched that 3 mill allocation.”

She said her question to the board was a personal one.

“What brought you to the point for the first time in our history to be forced to take about $300,000 from the operating budget of the library?” she asked them. “That is no small thing. My greater concern is starting down this slippery slope. The next you say we need more money, and you take two-thirds of the budget. Then the next year, you say we need more money and you take 100 percent of the budget.

“This is very possible, and that’s what concerns me a great deal. I don’t know if the chairman or the president or whomever would like to speak as to the underlying reason why you needed to have this $300,000. I would really like to know this, because it disturbs me a great deal.”

Board President David Croft thanked Brennan for her words, but didn’t respond to her question.

Croft previously said the move to reduce library funding was necessary as Ohio County Schools completes a projected $76 million in district-wide property improvements. Costs for the work are rising over time, and he said the money could be needed to make certain the projects are completed properly.

The idea of restoring the funding could be revisited next year, according to Croft.

Brennan said she understood her question was posed during a delegations part of the board meeting, and she really didn’t expect the board to answer her or respond to her comments. She also sent each member a letter.

“I realized it may not be appropriate to ask a question, but I wanted them to know I wasn’t fooling around,” she said. “I really wanted to know why they made their decision. I am deeply troubled. It needs to be addressed.”

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