Letter: Risking Library Endowment Is Thoughtless And Irresponsible


Jones Library. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Jones Library Board of Trustees’ vote this week to move forward with the renovation of the library means that five out of six of them are willing to wipe out the entire $8.6 million endowment to help pay for a demolition/expansion project designed for a “service population” of around 50,000. Amherst’s population is about 39,000. Our 25,000 or so students use their academic libraries. They do not use the Jones Library.

In addition, after more than six years of planning, this project still does not have a final plan. Keep in mind that this project might be serviceable for as few as 20 or 30 years. Yet, for nearly a century, this endowment “goose” has laid golden eggs worth some $400,000 per year for the Library’s operating expense.

If the Town’s budget cannot rescue the Trustees’ budget, year in and year out in perpetuity, the Trustees might have to cut hours, new book purchases, and more. For the Town Council to accept the Trustees’ thoughtless decision would be irremediably irresponsible.

Sarah McKee

Sarah McKee has lived in Amherst for more than 20 years. She is a former President of the Jones Library Trustees, and is a member of the D.C. Bar.

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2 thoughts on “Letter: Risking Library Endowment Is Thoughtless And Irresponsible

  1. My family has lived in Amherst since the early 1950’s when the town was smaller but more fiscally responsible.

    Today, Amherst spends money like there are no limits. Kick the ‘debt obligations’ down the road for future residents to deal with.

    We live in a town with 3 Higher education facilities that also have libraries (that should be accessible to the residents) without the need to spend a large $ obligation, that will find its way onto the backs of the homeowners.

    We need to step back and decide what is more important: improvements to our road, sidewalks, reasonable parking spaces, ‘maintenance’ of our existing roads, bridges, guard rails, an ambulance that needs and water treatment plant.

    How many towns own 3 Golf Courses, lots of protected acreage and limited parking options.

    Amherst needs to look beyond what the University and Colleges require for services and do more to determine what the Full time Residents could use. Our Real estate taxes take go up year over year, but there is a limit to what the people paying those higher obligations can reasonably afford.

    In most towns there is a Commercial Tax rate and a Residential Tax rate. Amherst chooses to use only one tax rate. More of the Tax burden should be put back on the Businesses and taken off of the Residents.

    The University and Colleges use many more of our available services, but I am not so sure, that they contribute enough. They can raise their tuitions. The Residents have fewer options ; pay the tax or move away.

    We are not Boston, and we should run the Town like the Amherst of the past.

    Help to improve the lives of the Full time Residents without forcing them to leave.

    I could go in and on, but my message is simply support the entire populace, and live within your means. Everyone needs to pay their ‘fair share’ but it needs to be fair.

  2. I have a question that I have not yet seen addressed: Is it even legal for the Board of Trustees of the Jones to pledge their entire endowment to this one project? The distinction that appears important here is that of donor-restricted funds vs. board-restricted funds, and I don’t know where the Jones endowment falls. This may be a useful document for people to examine: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ago-endowment-guidance/download. It offers guidance for nonprofits experiencing financial difficulties because of the pandemic. I am wondering, given the obvious fiscal irresponsibility inherent in the trustees’ vote, if they even have the authority to take such an action under Massachusetts laws.

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