Mayor rejects library reportMayor Dean Knudson rejected the findings of a recent evaluation of the Hudson Area Joint Library in a strongly worded message to the City Council Monday night.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Mayor Dean Knudson rejected the findings of a recent evaluation of the Hudson Area Joint Library in a strongly worded message to the City Council Monday night.
The mayor accused John Thompson, director of the Indianhead Federated Library System, of using misleading numbers in comparing Hudson’s public library to other libraries in St. Croix County and around the state.
Knudson urged the Library Board to also reject Thompson’s report.
The “Hudson Area Joint Library Assessment Report” issued by Thompson in mid-July included a “key” recommendation that the library board request a budget increase of more than $10 per capita for 2010.
Knudson called for no increase in library spending in his remarks Monday night.
“I have asked all our city departments to submit a budget with no increase in spending and no new positions,” the mayor said in a written message also given to City Council and Library Board members. “…I hope the Library Board rejects the Thompson report, but either way I hope the board doesn’t try to use the report as justification for increased funding from the city. The board should instead be seeking innovative ways to more efficiently provide library service to the community.”
The mayor – in a PowerPoint presentation, a memorandum to council members and his comments – argued that the Thompson report is misleading because it compares the Hudson library to libraries serving larger cities.
“The typical Wisconsin library serves a population extending well beyond city limits,” he wrote. “The Thompson report treats the entire population of the greater Hudson area as our population, but in contrast considers only people within city limits for the other libraries. This creates a severe distortion of the truth.”
Knudson said that when the Hudson library is compared to cities of similar population and service population, its annual budget is at or above the average.
The Hudson Area Joint Library is jointly operated by the city of Hudson, towns of Hudson and St. Joseph and the village of North Hudson.
Thompson used the combined estimated population of those municipalities at the beginning of 2008 to compare the Hudson library to municipal libraries in Franklin (pop. 33,380), Oak Creek (32,410), West Bend (30,220), Superior (27,160) and five other cities.
Knudson said a fair comparison would be to look at libraries in cities with roughly Hudson’s population and a similar service area population.
He listed Hudson’s population as 11,770 and the library service area’s population as 30,341.
Using those figures, he compared the Hudson library to libraries in Chippewa Falls (13,515), Menomonie (15,940), River Falls (14,015), Burlington (10,470) and five other Wisconsin cities.
The total populations served by the libraries range from a low of 18,122 at Reedsburg to a high of 42,029 at Chippewa Falls, according to Knudson.
“(The) manipulation of statistics by comparing Hudson to much larger communities causes a distorted and misleading picture of our community’s support for the Hudson Area Joint Library,” one of the frames of his PowerPoint presentation stated.
The mayor also took issue with Thompson’s figure of 8,149 square feet as the floor area of the current Hudson library.
Knudson said the first floor of the library comprises about 10,000 square feet. The library also uses the 2,000-square-foot Community Room on the second floor for children’s programs and four lower-level rooms with a total of about 1,000 square feet of floor space, he said.
He said that when furnace rooms, janitor’s closets, vestibules and other rooms typically included in a building’s square footage are included, the size of the Hudson library is in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 square feet.
“The Library Board will not move closer to their dream of occupying an even larger space by twisting or distorting the facts about the space currently in use or available,” Knudson said in his written communication to City Council and Library Board members.
Regarding Thompson’s recommendation that the Hudson Area Joint Library bring its per capita level of funding up to that of the Baldwin library, Knudson said it’s already happening if you look at strictly property tax support and the total service areas of the libraries.
According to Knudson’s numbers, Hudson spends $18.71 per capita in local tax dollars on the library, compared to Baldwin’s $14.90 per capita.
Total per capita spending on the Hudson library for the entire service area is $31.26, according to the mayor’s figures, compared to $22.91 for the Baldwin library.
The figures Thompson used for the Baldwin library didn’t count that it serves people living outside of Baldwin, Knudson said.
“But they are, which makes it a bunch of misleading malarkey.”
He added that Hudson gets only $6.97 per capita in state aid compared to Baldwin’s $76.27, and an average of $157.45 for cities operating what he considers Hudson’s peer libraries.
Knudson said Hudson area municipalities in forming the joint library in 2003 (St. Joseph joined in 2005) had found “innovative ways to meet the challenge of providing good library service in an extremely efficient manner.”
“Our goal should always be to provide excellent service at a low cost, so we should try to imitate the most efficient libraries. Only in government would a consultant recommend that we strive to copy the highest cost providers,” he said in his written message.
“Maybe the board actually prefers to emulate the highest cost libraries in our county, the highest cost libraries in the IFLS (Indianhead Federated Library System), and the highest cost libraries in Wisconsin,” he continued, addressing the Library Board. “If so, and your board consciously chooses to spend more just because others are spending more, your board will have departed from the will of your governing bodies and your taxpayers. I urge you to formally reject this philosophy.”
Near the end of his remarks, Knudson said he isn’t “anti-library” or opposed to any expansion of the library.
He said the Library Board should decide whether to expand within the Hudson Municipal Building or pursue some other option.
A discussion of Thompson’s report is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Library Board, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, in the Community Room of the Hudson Municipal Building, 911 Fourth St.
At the conclusion of Knudson’s remarks, Alderperson Alan Burchill, the City Council’s representative on the Library Board, said the board is working on a zero-increase budget for 2010, in line with the mayor’s wishes.
Aldersperson Scot O’Malley, the council’s representative on the Library Board until Knudson replaced him with Burchill last spring, indicated that he disagreed with Knudson’s analysis of the Thompson report.
He said Knudson has presented distortions of his own.
North Hudson resident Curt Weese addressed the City Council regarding Thompson’s report during the period set aside for citizen comments at the start of the meeting.
“I thought that we settled that issue a few months ago,” he said regarding the call for increased library funding. He noted that voters in all four partner municipalities had rejected providing additional funding to operate the library if it moved into the Nuclear Management Company building.
Voters in the city of Hudson and village of North Hudson supported purchasing the NMC building in the 2008 referendum.