Opinion: Jones Library Capital Campaign, Part 1. How Have The Ambitious Plans Panned Out So Far?

Photo: flckr.com

Terry S. Johnson

An updated report about the capital campaign for the proposed Jones Library demolition/expansion was presented at the January 21 Jones Library Board of Trustees meeting by Trustee Lee Edwards, Co-Chair of the Friends of the Jones Library Development Committee.

The total announced from individual donors is approximately $678,000, which includes the entire Van Steenberg bequest to the Jones Library in 2019 of $273,000 and about $405,000 from individual pledges. From this total, $122,000 has been spent, leaving $556,000 for the $6 million that the Jones Library has promised to raise toward the Town’s share of the capital project. 

The Jones has also secured a $1,000,000 grant from the Town’s Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC). It is not yet known if this amount will be considered as part of the $6 million Jones promise or part of the Town’s share. 

What are the overall costs and what are the Library’s fundraising goals?

Overall Project Costs
The Jones Library Board of Trustees has asked the Amherst Town Council to vote to approve the Jones Library building project by April 30, 2021, although the provisional grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) will not be awarded until July, 2021 at the earliest. 

The MBLC will provide $13.8 million towards the project,  the total cost of which is currently estimated by the Trustees to be $35.8 million.  The Town must provide the rest. The library is also considering adding $656,000 to the total cost to pay  for extra energy features not in the original budget.

If the Town approves the proposal and commits to take out a loan of  $22 million dollars, the Library will pledge to pay the Town $6 million during the last phase of construction. If the Library fails to raise this amount, the Trustees will take out a loan, for which they will use the Jones Endowment as collateral. 

Yearly draws from the Endowment are necessary in order to run the Library system and represent about 67% of the Library’s $550,000 share of running the three branches. The Town provides the rest at about $2,000,000. Without a robust Endowment, the Library system cannot function. 

What Are The Library’s Capital Campaign Goals?
The Library has been working on fundraising issues since 2013. However, of the $6 million goal, only $1,678,000 has been announced in the last two years as being raised (if the $1,000,000 from CPAC is included in the Library’s share). Of this amount, $122,000 has already been spent so at most, $1,556,000 remains. 

The following delineates the capital campaign goals with information gathered from the Jones Library’s 2022 Community Preservation Act (CPA) application, information announced at Trustee meetings as of 1/21/21, Jones’ budget documents, and the Jones’ MBLC grant application.

1) Individual donors $2,250,000 goal

a) $273,000 came from the Van Steenberg unrestricted bequest which the Trustees decided to designate for the capital campaign . As of January 20, only $151,268 remains. About $122,000 has been billed for architectural design work, a repair and accessibility estimate by Kuhn-Riddle, and capital campaign consultancy through the Financial Development Agency(FDA). Other expenses from this fund are expected to be drawn in the future. 

b) Just announced this week is about $405,000 in individual donor pledges.

2) Two CPA grants: $1,500,000 goal.  The CPA Committee recently granted $1,000,000 for Special Collections, contingent upon the proposed expansion going forward. The Trustees have stated that they may also request an additional $500,000. CPA funds are raised through property taxes and must be used for historic preservation, not new construction.

4) Historic Tax Credits: $1,600,000 goal. The Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) must approve historic tax credits before they can be sold to raise these funds. Before the Trustees can even apply for these tax credits, the MHC requires detailed documentation about all changes to the 1928 original building such as removal of walls, staircases, fireplaces, woodworking, etc. This information cannot be provided until the Historic Structures Report has been completed. The latter was supposed to have been finished by August, 2017. 

The  Library has hired a consultant in historic tax credits but this person’s name has not been revealed. By the way, the MHC also has to approve the changes to the historic 1928 structure, and the  Library has not provided that information to the MHC. 

5) Mass. Cultural Facilities Fund: $650,000 goal. It is not known if  grants from this fund have been applied for yet.

6) Foundations and financial institutions: $405,000 goal.  These include local banks and other entities. Trustee Lee Edwards stated that it is very difficult to ask for money when the project is not yet definite. 

7) What happened to $800,000 earmarked in the grant application?  The 2017 MBLC grant application has a line item in the cost estimate for the project that indicates $400,000 had been secured from “Funds raised privately through capital campaign or other efforts, which includes formalized pledges.” p.83

On p. 84, the application states under “Additional Funding Sources” that “the Jones Library intends to use $400,000 of its Woodbury Fund, a bequest made jointly to the Friends of the Jones and Jones Library, Inc., to help fund Library construction.”

However, these two amounts have not been mentioned since 2017 in any Jones Library public meeting or in any of its written materials. What happened to this $800,000? Was $400,000 raised before the application was sent? Are the Friends authorizing $400,000 of the Woodbury Funds towards the project? These are questions indeed. 

The Friends draw from this invested fund in order to pay for the  Library’s programming and other needs as requested from the Director. The Woodbury Fund is currently about $756,908. If $400,000 is used towards the proposed project, the Friends would be unable to fund extensive programming in the future, and the fund would never recover.

In Summary
The Library has had many years to engage in a capital campaign and has a significant amount left to raise. An extensive list of steps for a campaign were enumerated in the grant application by the Financial Development Agency responsible for the planning, saying, “FDA believes these steps should be initiated over the next eight months, leading up to the award announcement from MBLC in July 2017.” 

It’s 2021. The Jones appears to have just begun a capital campaign. What happened? Why doesn’t the public know? Read Part 2 next week.

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