Municipal leaders tackle library fundingThe top elected officials in the four municipalities that operate the Hudson Area Joint Library on Tuesday morning held their first meeting how satisfy a state requirement on funding the library.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The top elected officials in the four municipalities that operate the Hudson Area Joint Library on Tuesday morning held their first meeting how satisfy a state requirement on funding the library.
In attendance were Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill, Hudson Town Board Chairman Jeff Johnson, North Hudson Village President George Klein and St. Joseph Town Chairman Dan Gavin.
County Board Chairman Daryl Standafer, County Administrator Pat Thompson, Hudson City Council President Lori Bernard, Hudson Alderperson John Hoggatt, Library Board member Roy Sjoberg and library steering committee member Jim O’Connor also sat in on the meeting.
City Finance Officer Neil Soltis presented the funding option scenarios and other information to the group.
The meeting was in response to the Feb. 28 revelation that the municipal partners haven’t been funding the joint library to the level paid by the residents of other municipalities in the county.
The four municipalities were made exempt from the county library tax when they formed the joint library in 2002. But to be exempt from the tax, they had to certify that they were funding the library to at least the county level.
The certification was supposed to have taken place annually, but didn’t. In the interim, the partner municipalities’ library support has fallen behind the county library levy.
Burchill said new information had come to light since Soltis outlined the various scenarios for the City Council on March 19.
The county currently reimburses 100 percent of the cost of lending library materials to residents not served by a municipal library, but state law only requires 70 percent reimbursement, Soltis noted in his report.
Soltis also said the state no longer requires local governments to fund their libraries at no less than the average for the previous three years, meaning the Hudson area municipalities could reduce their library funding.
In addition, legislation passed the state Assembly this year to exempt municipalities from the county library tax if they maintained their own level of library funding, but the Legislature adjourned before the bill went to the Senate.
Soltis reviewed the same funding scenarios presented earlier to the City Council, but this time showing what the numbers would look like if the county lowered the reimbursement rate to 70 percent.
Standafer didn’t hold out much hope of the county board agreeing to do that.
“I’d rather consider the options that are on the table. Deal with reality,” Gavin said regarding the possibility of the county reducing its library levy.
Standafer said it was an issue of fairness. If libraries receive just 70 percent of the cost of circulating material to residents of non-library municipalities, the municipalities with libraries are subsidizing those that don’t have them.
Johnson said he didn’t think the Hudson Town Board would support a referendum to increase library funding to the level required by state law.
Klein said the state law penalizes libraries for operating efficiently.
He estimated that the municipalities have five or six months to decide on a library funding plan for 2013.