The Town of Hudson and Village of North Hudson have both voted to withdraw from the Hudson Area Joint Library after months of complex conversations about how to solve the ongoing funding crisis.
85% of those in the joint partner communities that used libraries in 2019, used the Hudson Area Joint Library. Here is the breakdown of the number of residents:
North Hudson – 22,212 residents
Town of Hudson – 53,556 residents
Town of St. Joseph – 16,365 residents
2019 numbers were the most recent “normal” year to reference. Since 2019, the library has had to shift its operations due to the pandemic and severe storm damage, interfering with how people interacted with the building and its physical materials.
In 2012, it was discovered that the library was being shorted $415,000 annually. In the last few years, the municipalities have been working on finding a way to revive the solvency of the library.
The withdrawal of the townships from the agreement puts into question the library’s funding going forward, but Library Director Shelley Tougas said she doesn’t know what will happen. There are just too many outstanding questions.
On Monday, Aug. 1, the town board gathered for a special meeting, where they voted 3-1 to exit the agreement.
The following evening, Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Village of North Hudson Board of Trustees came to the same conclusion with a vote of 5-2.
With the approval from the Hudson City Council, both municipalities are requesting to exit the agreement immediately. Otherwise, withdrawal, both of the town and the village, will officially happen on Dec. 31, 2023.
There is one thing Tougas wants the residents to know – it does not matter what community you are a part of or where your address lies, you will always be part of the Hudson Library family.
“When they come through our doors, we don’t care where they come from. We’re there to help them. We’re there to serve them,” she said.
Prior to the vote, Tougas had asked that the boards wait to make a decision until the incoming comments from the Department of Revenue arrived.
The city of Hudson and St. Croix County asked the department to provide final opinions on the proposed mechanism, adjusting the avenue in which library tax is collected.
“It’s a unique answer to a unique problem,” Hudson City Administrator Aaron Reeves said.
Since it’s not a written law, the county has been diligent in making sure it does not face significant risk, hence the inquiry with the Department of Revenue.
In short, the library tax levy would be transferred to the county to collect, as opposed to the municipal tax. This allows the library to levy additional funds.
Earlier this spring, the city of Hudson, town of Hudson and town of St. Joseph all voted unanimously to approve this option.
At the time of the votes, neither Tougas nor the municipalities had the Department of Revenue’s most recent comments. Tougas was transparent in her stance – she didn’t have the answers yet. Withdrawal could be the best option, it could be the worst or very likely, it could be somewhere in between.
“The most common talking point with this resolution is that the library will get more funding if we break up because we’ll lose municipal revenue but we’ll get even more in county revenue,” Tougas wrote in her comments to the board. “That analysis has been conducted multiple times, and the library always comes out the loser by about $30,000. If dissolution was the answer, we would have done it a very long time ago.”
Ultimately, the fate of the library is unknown.
The Hudson City Council will be expected to converse on options moving forward as well as determine the rate of withdrawal.
Until the comments from the Department of Revenue are received and released, the best option to preserve the library moving forward is also unknown.
The Town of St. Joseph board meets Thursday, Aug. 11, 6 p.m. at St. Joseph Town Hall, 1337 County Rd. V, Houlton. The agenda was not yet posted as of Thursday morning.