City says grand jury's report inaccurate

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Twelve Bridges Library partners operating payments: 2009/10 Western Placer Unified School District owed $111,016.45 and paid $111,016.45 Sierra College owed $184,415 and paid $184,415 City of Lincoln owed $406,774 and paid $406,774 2010/11 Western Placer Unified School District owed $84,682 and paid $84,682 Sierra College owed $159,365 and paid $60,000 (reduction agreed upon) City of Lincoln owed $335,286 and paid $335,286 2011/12 Western Placer Unified School District owed $62,009 and paid $62,009 Sierra College owed $118,276 and paid $60,000 (reduction agreed upon) City of Lincoln owed $286,474 and paid $286,474 2012/13 Budgeted Western Placer Unified School District budgeted $60,132 and to pay $60,132 Sierra College budgeted $117,359 and to pay $117,359 City of Lincoln budgeted $281,661 and to pay $281,661 Figures from the city of Lincoln?s finance department City says grand jury's library report inaccurate The grand jury report released June 26 is a reminder that first impressions are not always as they first seem. After reading the 2011-2012 Placer County grand jury report, I thought Twelve Bridges Library would soon be able to bring back $747,823 worth of services with new revenue flowing to the institution. The grand jury findings stated that ?Sierra College has failed to pay its full portion of operating expenses for the year 2010-2011? and Sierra College is obligated to repay a loan of $747,823 to the city of Lincoln by June 30, 2013.? The Twelve Bridges Library, which opened in 2007, is a partnership between the city of Lincoln, Sierra College and the Western Placer Unified School District. A contract (memorandum of understanding or MOU) details how the three entities share costs and decides how the library operates. Many library users will agree with the grand jury report conclusion that ?The needs of the community are not being met by the library due to reduced staffing and shortened hours.? Report recommendations include, ?That Sierra College immediately pay the city of Lincoln its respective share of operating expenses for the library? and ?That the library develop a plan to increase hours to better match the community needs.? I thought the answer to the library financial woes was in the report?s statement: ?Sierra College should immediately hand over the $747,823 plus the unnamed amount of operating funds not paid for during fiscal year 2010-2011.? To me, the college did not seem very civic-minded. As I read the grand jury report, I recalled an Auburn Journal story on Jan. 22 that said 19 Sierra College administrators make $100,000 or more a year, totaling more than $2.5 million annually. Reducing high salaries, I thought, could have enabled the college to meet its library obligations. On Friday, I asked Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep when the city will recoup its money from Sierra College so the library can regain services cut by a diminished budget. ?I would hate for people to get the wrong idea that if Sierra College would just pay us, we?d get more library hours and more services,? Estep said. ?Sierra College is not the bad guy. They are paying 100 percent for the MOU; they?re paying their share. You have to separate the $747,823 out from operations because it goes into the PFE fund to pay for construction. ? PFE stands for public facility element fund, used to build facilities and infrastructure. The $747,823, Estep said, came out of the PFE fund prior to 2007 to build the library and can not be repaid into the General Fund for operating costs. Under the three agencies? memorandum of understanding, Estep pointed out, Sierra College has until next June 30 to pay the loan back. As for operating expenses for the year 2010-2011, Sierra College ?does not owe anything. We agreed to pay less,? Estep said. The information box above shows the three entities agreed that Sierra College could reduce its share in 2010-11 by $99,365 and in 2011-12 by $58,276. Estep was diplomatic about the recent report. ?It?s not that the grand jury got it wrong, they misinterpreted,? Estep said. ?They just looked at the MOU and said, ?this is what everyone should do. But if you don?t have money, you can?t pay. We all paid less.? The three agencies create the library budget every year. ?The contract (MOU) was put together when things were better,? Estep said. ?The contract back then, everyone was able to pay their share. We?ve all agreed to modify what we can afford to pay.? In Sierra College?s defense, Superintendent/President Willy Duncan said last week that the MOU ?entitle us to get together and talk each year about what they can afford to pay toward operations.? Duncan wants the college to continue paying its fair share. The grand jury report also said that the interim library director?s contract is over June 30. That?s not true. ?The library director is hired as a retired annuitant. He can work up to 960 hours a year; that?s the PERS limit,? Estep said. ?There is no contract. He could stay there indefinitely, if we chose. We have him budgeted for next year.? City officials will respond to the report. ?Our response will clear up everything to the grand jury,? Estep said. ?We have 60 days but we will do it within 30 days.? But I still wonder why Sierra College couldn?t have paid all its obligation in fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12. Instead of paying 19 top administrators high salaries, the college should have made our library?s payments a top priority.