On Thursday, Del Norte County Library trustees adopted a budget for the coming fiscal year. The library's bare-bones $206,000 budget covers the basics staff salaries and benefits, utilities, computer services, book purchases and little else.
Such is the state of things in the wake of Measure A's narrow failure to win two-thirds voter approval at the polls in June. The measure which fell just 42 votes shy of passing would have provided $400,000 in annual sales tax revenue for our anemically funded local library, which is one of the poorest in the state.
One significant casualty of this year's budget was the library's Wonder Bus program. This literacy outreach program on wheels served outlying parts of Del Norte County and specifically targeted disadvantaged children. The Wonder Bus carried a cargo of books, computers and educational games and helped spread the joy of reading and learning. In a community like ours, where the poverty rate is high and educational levels are well below the state average, the Wonder Bus met a genuine need.
That's why those who deal with youth and education in our community have stepped forward to try to save it. A partnership made up of First 5 Del Norte, Del Norte Reads, Del Norte County and the Del Norte County School District approached the library trustees at their meeting this week with a proposal to take over operation of the Wonder Bus. Under the porposal outlined Thursday, First 5 would take over ownership of the bus, the school district would provide a driver and handle routine maintenance of the vehicle and the county would pay for insurance.
The proposal got a generally warm reception, but one trustee was outspoken in his opposition.
We'll side with the majority here. This is a good plan to get a good program back on the road.
The community needs this educational asset up and running and the library simply can't afford to provide the service any longer. A big bonus of the proposal to get the program rolling again is that the role of the Wonder Bus would grow to offer health and even more learning programs.
We applaud the local agencies that have stepped forward to save the Wonder Bus and we urge the library trustees to help the proposal move forward. It really doesn't matter who owns the bus itself or who provides the service. What matters is that kids in our community who need the help the Wonder Bus provides start getting it again.
The Daily Triplicate