Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kewaunee County’s Library Dilemma

I have researched on our library situation in the county and following are my thoughts and possible approaches to dealing with this issue. 

Kewaunee County does not have a consolidated library system.  Therefore according to WI Statute 43.12, we are subject to receiving invoices from libraries in those counties who are adjacent to Kewaunee County who provide library services to our residents. 

The Algoma Library System does provide a service to the residents of Luxemburg.  However, the city of Luxemburg does not have a library.  Many of residents of Luxemburg and those people residing in the western part of our county, as a convenience, go to the Brown County system to get their reading and entertainment material.  Those circulations represent the vast majority of the total circulation provided by the Brown County System for our residents.  Also, circulation at the Denmark High School for Kewaunee County residents who attend that school are counted in the circulation. 
In as much as WI Statute 43.12 has been around since 1995, Brown County could have billed Kewaunee County for services they provided to Kewaunee County residents much earlier.  It wasn’t until 2013, that Kewaunee County received their first bill from Brown County Library system.  So, as could be imagined, when we received our first bill in 2013, it came as a big unwelcome surprise.

We pay both Manitowoc and Brown County for services.  Manitowoc is a couple of thousand a year, however Brown County is another story.  We have many Kewaunee County residents who are using the Brown County System and therefore we receive a sizable bill from Brown County each year.  We receive a billing that has a lag time of two years, and for the past 3 years, we have paid the Brown County Library System the following payments;
$68,404 fee for circulation in 2011 paid in 2013
$61,783 fee for circulation in 2012 paid in 2014
$53,244 fee for circulation in 2013 paid in 2015
$54,970 estimated fee for circulation in 2014, payable in 2016 (Budgeted number, actual TBD)

So, in four years we will have paid $238,401 for circulation to Kewaunee County residents.  So the question begs itself, what are the options for Kewaunee County projecting out over the next 10 years we will have paid well over $600,000 for those services.  Well, the options are:
A.)   Have the State change the law
B.)    Form a Consolidated Library System in Kewaunee County
C.)    Continue paying Brown and Manitowoc Counties as called for in WI Statute 43.12  

Option A - Looking into changing the law.  43.12 is comprised of 7 paragraphs that deal with how counties are billed and how payment occurs.  It seemed reasonable to add a paragraph that would read
as follows;   paragraph 8 --- If a county does not maintain a consolidated public library and wishes not to incur payments to an adjacent county's consolidated public library for their residents loaning books from that consolidate public library, will, by means of a county board referendum, be required to notify those adjacent county's consolidated library systems to invoice any resident from their county directly for any service(s) provided to that resident.

This would not be legally acceptable as there is an 1871 law on the books that provides that each and every resident of Wisconsin is entitled to receiving “free” access to library services.  So option A is not viable.

Option B - Could Kewaunee County form their own consolidated library system?  The answer is yes, however unless another branch were to open in Luxemburg the problem would still exist.  Currently, the Algoma Library spends about $290K per year to provide library services, while Kewaunee spends about $240K per year.  Based on those numbers, one could assume that to open a branch in Luxemburg, it would cost a minimum of $200K to $225K a year.  So a total consolidated library could run the county a total of $750K a year for the three libraries.  Assume Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg cumulatively contribute a combined $440K.  That would leave the county paying $300K per year for an integrated consolidated service.  This option would cost the county much more than we are currently paying Brown County for their services and therefore is not likely a feasible option.

Option C – Continue as we are with libraries in Algoma and Kewaunee with continued payment to the Brown County Library System.  Yes we are paying about $57K per year, but that is more palatable than paying a potential $300K per year.

Another consideration that could be visited would be; is the village of Luxemburg willing to invest in a Library that would take a large percentage of the circulation away from Brown County?  That is a village decision.  Costs to the village and county would be higher overall.  But would the cost be well worth the service for the residents?  

For the moment the only conclusion I can draw is that we are better off staying with the billing from Brown County.  In other words, no change.  But I, and I am sure, the Board is open to any and all recommendations. 

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