Library Board of Control discusses strategy after vote for millage renewal postponed

By Jim Wilkerson

The Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control met on Wednesday, Sept. 15, to discuss the postponement of the library millage renewal vote. Previously, the election was supposed to be held on Oct. 9, but Governor John Bel Edwards moved it back to Nov. 13 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

The general feeling in the room was positive, but all the board members understood they have their work cut out for them. “We can’t stop now,” Board Chair Augusta Clark encouraged the other members. “I actually see [the delay] as a benefit.”

In discussing the postponement of the election, the board took time to brainstorm future campaign strategies and to lay out their concerns about misinformation.

The first issue brought up was how to sufficiently inform the public of the change in date. Flyers and signs have been circulating throughout Lincoln Parish with the old date of the election still on them. To correct this, the board is considering ordering stickers with the new date to put on the old signs. 200 new signs are also being ordered with the Nov. 13 date on it, and those should be arriving shortly.

In addition, the board discussed possibly going onto a local news channel to get the word out. Vice Chair Amy Miller was concerned about the potential costs of going on television, since some news stations charge for an appearance if those channels do not consider what is being aired newsworthy.

Regardless of whether the library gets airtime, Clark and the other members feel confident that Ruston citizens are much more aware of the vote than they previously were in December. “This time, the word is out,” Clark said.

The conversation then transitioned to board members, and citizens present, voicing their concerns toward local residents they feel are uninformed – some of whom they found on the FaceBook page, Ruston Rants. Police Jury Ex-Officio Richard Durrett commented, “People jump to conclusions and don’t get the facts. We have to educate the public.”  

Clark then said, concerning the budget, “I’m hearing so much about a million-dollar budget that the library has. Let’s think about how, if at all possible, to counter this.” Parish Administrator Doug Postel, who was present at the meeting, responded that the board has to make it clear that the library operates on a $1.9M budget each year. Right now, the library has approximately $1M, which will only last until next June. If the library millage renewal fails to pass, the library will go under in 2022. “There’s no magic bag we can dip in to continue operations,” Postel ended.

Concerned citizen, Dr. Deborah Holliman, also stood up to speak to those who are against the millage renewal. “I pay $9 for [library] services per month,” Holliman said, regarding the annual property tax she pays toward the library. “People, when you say taxes, just freak out…We are an educated community, and surely we can all afford $9 or less a month,” she added.

Board Trustee Charles Penuell expressed similar frustration: “They don’t trust the government; they don’t trust the board. It’s a tough thing to get around.”

To end, Postel recommended that the board message Ruston Rants and Ruston Raves to set up a time when a board member can answer any questions people may have to ask about the library.

Over the next few months, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury will be working closely with the Sheriff Department and Tax Assessor’s office to ensure the election goes smoothly. Postel informed the library board that he has been in close communication with Louisiana officials and that the Police Jury will be meeting the Monday following the election to canvass the vote. Everything should run smoothly for the vote for the millage renewal, Postel assured the board.

“Now all we have to do is get it passed,” Durrett said. 

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