Friday, December 18, 2015

Kewaunee County "out of County" Library Costs

Perhaps you recall finding a short message in your tax bill this year that advised you of the fact that Kewaunee County has spent $190,000 over the past 3 years for library charges incurred by our county residents in out of county libraries.  There is a WI Statute 43.12 that deals with Libraries in general.  Within 43.12 are provisions allowing adjacent county libraries to invoice other counties for services they provide to adjoining counties residents providing those counties do not have a consolidated library system.

Kewaunee County does not have a consolidated library system as the libraries in Algoma and Kewaunee are operated by the cities with certain contributions from the county. So, therefore, we receive invoices annually from both Manitowoc and Brown County library systems for those services.  And, yes, we have paid nearly $190,000 over the past years for those services.  The amount of invoicing from Manitowoc is miniscule in comparison to that of Brown County and that makes sense.  We have a lot of people from Kewaunee County working and shopping in Green Bay and therefore it is convenient to use their library services.

I have been exploring the possibility of somehow avoiding to pay these fees and have not come up with any answer.  My first approach was to have individuals who are taking out books from an adjacent county library to pay for that service directly to that library.  That approach did not work as there was a law passed in 1887 that provides that every citizen in Wisconsin is entitled to "free" library services.  But we all know there is no free lunch.  We all end up paying for it one way or another.

I was able to have Brown County provide us figures on which townships are utilizing their services, and it comes as no surprise that Luxemburg Village, and Red River Township have the greatest percentage of the circulation.  Now, we could open a library in Luxemburg, but that would cost us about $280,000 per year, and unless Kewaunee County took over the management of the entire library system in our County making it a consolidated library, we'd still receive invoices from Brown County.  That idea has very little appeal for both economic and management reasons.  Both the Algoma and Kewaunee Libraries are well managed and operated by the cities.

What seems to me to be very unfair is the way we have been allocating the cost of the Brown County invoicing.  Take for instance the 2014 Brown County invoice which is represented in the table below. We were invoiced $56,000 for some 23,589 items circulated to Kewaunee County residents.  That equates to an average of $2.37 per item circulated.

What the county has been doing, per directions from the Department of Revenue (DOR) is allocating the cost of out of county library invoice by equalized value.  So, take a look at the table below.  You can see a township like Pierce with total circulation of 87 items paying $2,747.80 or $31.58 per item.  Or Ahnapee with 279 items paying $2,910.41 or $10.43 per item.  Now have a look at the village of Luxemburg.  They had 7,552 circulated items to their residents and ended up paying $0.67 per item.

Now using those three same townships with services allocated by percentage of use versus distribution by equalized value, the numbers would be significantly different.  Pierce Township with .037% of the use would be paying $206.54, Ahnapee Township with 1.18% would be paying $662.34  and Luxemburg Village with 32.01% of the use would be paying $17,928.36.

After looking into this with the DOR and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) it seems there just might be some room to change the way this is allocated.  If we cannot change this allocation within the current rules, I believe it is time to go to the legislature to see if they can change the rules allowing a more equitable distribution of these charges.