New law won't affect library, for now
A new state law may change the way joint libraries are funded. So far, the measure won't affect the Sussex-Lisbon joint library agreement.
On Sept. 17, Pewaukee Library Director Jennie Stoltz asked the Pewaukee Village Board to sign off on some housekeeping items and explained to the board that new state rules that apply to funding levels for joint libraries affects Pewaukee, in particular.
In general, state law allows communities with joint libraries to avoid paying the county library tax since they are already funding a municipal library. A community with a joint library must levy an amount equivalent to the amount set by the county in the previous year.
But the biennial state budget (enacted June 30) includes new directions. ). There is now a second method that municipalities with joint libraries may use when calculating the funding level necessary to gain exemption from paying the county library levy.
Rather than levying the amount equivalent to the amount set the preceding year, joint libraries may now set a new minimum by averaging their funding levels from the previous three years.
Paul Nelson, chairman of the Wisconsin Library Association's legislative committee, said the new rules were slipped into the budget bill at the last minute.
"We would have preferred that separate legislation be introduced, given a public hearing in front of the appropriate committees, and its merits debated in the Assembly and Senate," Nelson said.
Pauline Haass Library Director Kathy Klager said the measure won't affect the Sussex-Lisbon joint library "at the moment" because her community is not as property-rich as Pewaukee is. Nonetheless, Klager said she wants to see the rules amended in the future. "I don't understand why joint libraries should be treated any differently," she said.
"Effectively, it is allowing for an opportunity for one library — one joint library — to be funded below the county minimum," Klager explained.
That's the case in Pewaukee. The minimum funding levels using the old formula (based on the previous year's county library levy) would yield a minimum of $248,840 from the Village of Pewaukee and $702,106 from the City of Pewaukee.
The new method, which is the average of the past three years, would yield a minimum of only $233,667 from Village of Pewaukee and $665,430 from the City of Pewaukee.
"Because the two Pewaukees stay right at the minimum of the lowest funding rate possible, the best option (for officials) is for you to go with the new method," Stoltz explained. That's $51,849 less than they were banking on, because the minimum was set using the new formula, and Pewaukee will continue county tax exemption.
It remains to be seen whether the Pewaukee Public Library Board will present a budget that goes above the newly set minimum. Stoltz said one thing is certain, though: "We will do our best to maintain the same level of services the community wants and needs," she said.
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