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Friends of Library May Need to Turn Excess Funds Over to County

by Dave Emke — June 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm 22 Comments

A new Memorandum of Understanding being proposed by the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees is being labeled by library supporters as a “money grab.”

Specifically, Fairfax Library Advocates say a call that individual library Friends’ groups can only keep a designated amount in reserve while turning the rest over to the library system for general programming is a case of the county trying to overstep its bounds.

“All of the Friends are 501(c)(3) organizations. We’re all in compliance with state and federal laws, we all publish our financial records every year,” said Dennis Hays, a board member of the Friends of the Reston Regional Library and chair of Fairfax Library Advocates. “The county has no ability to dictate how an independent group conducts its internal affairs.”

Hays said the Friends groups have always in the past had agreeable MOUs with the Board of Trustees. The proposed MOU would require all Friends groups, even the smallest, to be subject to the same licensing and auditing requirements.

“If something isn’t broke, why are you trying to fix it?” he said, adding that some Friends groups may not survive such new rules. “There has never been, to my knowledge, any issues or problems with the Friends.”

Hays said the Friends groups have not been informed by the Trustees why this change, which would only allow groups to hold in reserve three times their annual donation, is necessary. In an interview with The Annandale Blog earlier this month, Fairfax County Public Library Director Jessica Hudson said the proposed MOU is a preventive and protective measure that will also allow the system to “find good ways to spend that [surplus] money, not just have it sit there.”

Hays said that in Reston, where the Friends group has close to $1 million saved, money is being held for a rainy day that is just over the horizon.

“Part of the reason we have a big surplus at the moment is, as you know, we’re looking at a renovation of the library,” he said. “That could last, if worse come to worse, three or four years where we will have to operate off our existing funds if we want to continue to support the library.”

Funds collected by the Friends through donations and events such as their book sale go toward supporting designated projects at the library. The proposal from the Library Board of Trustees to dip into those funds, Hays said, is all about control.

“For the county to try to come in and micromanage these things doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I think they’re headed down that path, and I think it’s a destructive path. I’m hoping that they see the light and back off a little bit on all this.”

Hays has presented an alternative MOU, which he says has been “ignored.”

“What we understand is they are working on their version, which will be presumably released at some point and then we will have to deal with it,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to work with the County. This is what we do.”

In her interview with The Annandale Blog, Hudson said the work of the Friends groups is valued.

“We would not do anything to egregiously harm the Friends groups,” she told the blog. “The Friends are wonderful people who work very hard.”

There are 23 library Friends groups across Fairfax County.

  • cRAzy

    This is nothing more than County theft of privately donated funds as well as FoL revenues from book sales. The County didn’t earn it, didn’t tax it, doesn’t deserve it. It is not the FC Public Library’s money to decide how to spend as the Library director states. It’s freaking stealing!

    • Mike M

      Lesson learned: Don’t wave money in front of the hungry County. You might get your fingers bit off!

      • 40yearsinreston

        Dont vote for Hudgins and Plum is another

        • Ann Youngren

          Especially not Hudgins.

        • Richard

          You realize that Plum has nothing to do with this, right? I wouldn’t doubt that he supports the Friends of the Library, though.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Not voting for Plum is just good advice, that’s all.

          • 40yearsinreston

            That is always his excuse for doing nothing
            He is influential in the local Democratic party organization
            If he spoke up, dont tell me his pal Hudgins and the rest of the FCBOS wouldn’t listen

  • Withheld

    Somehow this story seems incomplete. How did these “friends” accumulate a million dollars and who are these generous souls? Why does this county-promoted program all of a sudden run into a self-induced funding crisis? Sure sounds like an ugly food fight to me. I think the whole program and the department should undergo an audit!!! This is big.

    • Guest

      Read about the Friends of the Reston Regional Library on the Fairfax County website or dive deeper on their blog page. Funds are collected through membership fees, book sales (donated media, hosted at the library), and donations. The county page lists their corporate donors.

      Library Friends groups are an awesome bunch of volunteers with a very good cause.

    • Tammi Petrine

      “How did these ‘friends’ accumulate a million dollars and who are these generous souls?” Answer: LOTS of hard work over years. Get involved and find out the details. Also post by your real name and stop throwing shade on decent people. This move by BOS re: a new MOU for Friends is the BOS sinking to a new low.

      • Reston Resident

        According to one of the Reston Friends, the previous Library Director would not allow Reston Friends to buy books for the library. That would have been the time when the director was busy tossing books out hand over fist. We do remember those photos, no? When the current library is torn down in a few years, the Reston Friends will be expected to purchase library furniture, carpeting and probably lighting fixtures for the new facility. And also they will be asked to replace books tossed from the collection prior to packing the books up for storage. That will take a big chunk out of the Reston Friends’ reserves as will paying rent to provide themselves with a temporary work space after Reston Regional is demolished.

        • Withheld

          Adding to previous list.

          Nuthouse.

      • Withheld

        Interesting.

        Even a communist hard liner like you should understand that the money should not be hoarded especially considering the fact that the library serves triple duty as a homeless shelter, a halfway house and as a center for learning.

        FFX Cty, richest county in the US!

        • Reston resident

          Library Friends provide money for libraries. If the Friends’ funds are
          seized, those funds will end up in the county’s General Fund where they
          will not be used for the library. This is what happens to the $500,000
          yearly grant the state gives FCPL for books. It gets sucked into the
          General Fund and is NOT spent on books.

        • Tammi Petrine

          Is the commie hardliner quip tongue in cheek? Seriously? Commies are the ones taking private funds (Friends $) to ‘support’ public enterprise… right? Also, don’t think FFX Co. is the richest anymore. If they are, what they are doing makes NO sense. For a county in crisis however, yes. What is the county’s real story?

      • The Constitutionalist

        There is zero reason to post using your actual name. In fact, I can only think of reasons not to.

    • cRAzy

      Just so you don’t have to do it (since you won’t), I took a look at the Reston Friends tax return. Here are some highlights from their 2014 return (last one available):
      –They received a little over $10K in contributions & memberships.
      –They received $147K from book sales against $19K in expenses.
      –No salaries to volunteers (ergo, “volunteers”)
      –The gave grants of nearly $52K to govt. entities, specifically $27K to RRL, $25K to FCPL.
      –Some $9K in administrative expenses (mostly IT), including a newsletter.

      So here is where you end up:
      Revenue: $157,684
      Expenses: $81,043
      Net Rev: $76,641
      EOY Assets: $632,416 (inc the $76K above)

      Check it out: https://pp-990.s3.amazonaws.com/2015_02_EO/54-2030333_990_201406.pdf?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAI7C6X5GT42DHYZIA%2F20170627%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20170627T221353Z&X-Amz-Expires=1800&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Signature=d7fbdc0a90e4bb707224fca8ab8da9f157c8740799eaadf15f318661b278e31f

  • 40yearsinreston

    Hudgins is ducking this one

    • Mike M

      She is good at that ducking thing. And getting away with it.

  • Tammi Petrine

    Threatening Friends of the Library is almost like a bad novel plot except that it’s real. Only in Fairfax would anything as disgusting be possible.

    The BOS keeps cutting/slashing/devastating our library system not only by lowering budgets year after year but also by continuing to discard tax-payer funded books. Yep, can’t make this stuff up; dumping books continues unchecked. Budgets don’t provide enough funding to replace many, have eliminated library positions that decide what good books to purchase and have weighted the system to favor e-books which are not purchased forever but leased for a limited number of check-outs. (This never-ending cost system is super expensive for popular books which require constant lease renewals.) There are many more issues but that’s enough depressing info for now.

    On the bright side are the amazing citizen groups who have fought to assist bare bones library budgets with programming for children, purchases of expensive library equipment that one would assume our tax dollars fund but we would be wrong and numerous other necessities that make our libraries function. These are the Friends of the Library groups. They are intelligent, kind, dedicated folk who work hard to improve underfunded library infrastructure and assist overworked employees. Are these the people our BOS is trying to alienate??? Are these the groups that an arrogant BOS thinks it knows better than about how private funds should be used and when?

    What is really stunning is that studies all over the country show that investments in libraries pay off at anywhere between $3 to $9 PER $1 dollar of budget. WHERE else does ANY Fairfax County expenditure pay off at that rate? Jessica Hudson seems a vast improvement over despicable Sam Clay but let’s see how she shakes out with this assault on F of L. The county can’t be THAT broke!!! IF it is, we want to know WHY.

  • Jan Bradshaw

    Stick to your Guns – Friends of Fairfax County Library! If you give them the money, you won’t get it back, and a lot of what you want to do will be denied.

  • meyerweb

    This would seem to be a clear violation of the taking clause of the Constitution. Not I chance in Hell it will stand up to a court challenge.

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