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Tuesday

July 2014

29

Lisbon may delay Haass Library decision

Sussex begins plans for library take over

Village of Sussex - Lisbon Town Chairman Matt Gehrke says he may postpone until after the April 2 municipal elections asking the Town Board whether it wants to stop funding the Pauline Haass Library after 2014.

Gehrke said in an interview last week that he is reluctant to seek the decision with only three members serving on the five-member board. Two vacancies on the board will be filled in the municipal election.

Gehrke warned in September that he would ask the Town Board to consider terminating the agreement if the two communities could not agree on a new funding formula for the library.

After nearly two years of on again and off again negotiations, the municipalities have been unable to reach an agreement on how they will share library operating costs after 2014. The communities also share in the cost of a construction loan scheduled to be paid off in 2014.

Sussex Village President Greg Goetz has vowed "the library doors are not going to be closed" if the funding agreement is not renewed.

Village trustees last week appointed a committee loaded with key local officials to advise the Village Board on how to take control of the library, if necessary.

Goetz acknowledged prior to Village Board meeting on Jan. 22 that the influential makeup of committee is an indication of its importance to the community.

"I think the committee is important because it is going to ensure a quality library in the future for all residents of the village," he told the Sussex Sun.

In addition to Goetz, the committee will include Village Trustee Tim Dietrich and Library Board member Charlotte Coe.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith and Library Director Kathy Klager will serve as committee staff.

The committee will also include village residents Sandy Schultz and Roger Johnson, who has served several terms on the Village Board and Plan Commission.

The committee is expected to begin meeting in late January or early February, according to Smith, who has been developing contingency plans for a village takeover of the library.

Smith said one of the roles of the committee is how to identify about $100,000 in either new revenues or cost savings that would probably be necessary if the village took over the library. The Library Board and the village have existing revenues sources of about $900,000 for the library's approximately $1 million budget.

If the village took over the library, the Village Board would levy funds for its operations but an appointed library board would have independent powers granted by the state to oversee the day to day operations of the library.

The village presently contributes about $480,000 a year to library operations. Another $107,000 will be available for operations, according to Smith, when the village's share of a construction loan is paid off in 2014.

Another estimated $250,000 will be available to the Library Board from a Waukesha County tax that would be levied on Lisbon residents.

The 24 to 26 cent per $1,000 assessed valuation library tax is levied in communities that do not have libraries and rely on their neighboring communities for library services.

Lisbon, with a population of more than 10,000 and a tax base in excess of a billion dollars, would become one of the largest communities in the county where the tax is levied.

The tax would cost the owner of a Lisbon home with an assessed valuation of about $250,000 an estimated $60 to $65 a year.

That same homeowner pays about $100 in real estate taxes to help support the approximately $455,000 the town presently contributes to library operations, according to Town Administrator Jeff Musche.

Town Chairman Gehrke has insisted that any new funding formula require the Village of Sussex to pay a larger share of library costs since village residents use the library's services more than town residents.

Gehrke convinced the Town Board last year to reject a compromise proposal recommended by a negotiating committee of representatives of the Library Board, town and village.

The committee's proposal would require the town to pay about $430,000 in annual costs, which is about $25,000 less than what the town now pays, and the village would pay about $500,000, about $20,000 more than it presently pays for operation costs.

Gehrke said one of the factors in his decision to reject the compromise proposal was Lisbon voters' overwhelming rejection of an advisory referendum proposal that the town and village consolidate into a new municipality.

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