City Council backs changes to library contract
Three-year averages favored for funding formula
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The impasse over putting together a new contract for municipalities that support the Rhinelander District Library featured a new development Monday night when the Rhinelander City Council backed changes to an agreement for the library’s joint support and operation.
Instead of basing the amount of funding on the previous year – half on each municipality’s respective ratio of equalized property value to the total value of all the municipalities and half on each municipality’s ratio of population to the total population of the district – the changes backed by the council include using an average of the three most recent years for equalized property value and population.
Council member Alex Young, who is on the Finance Committee and also involved in the discussions related to putting together a new district library contract, said the three-year averages would help level off “fluctuations in those formulas.”
“It does not address putting a cap on the overall budget,” Young said. “I guess this is a negotiation with the other municipalities. The direction from (the Finance Committee) is not to pursue that, but that may be something we end up negotiating with them.”
In addition, since the most recent district library contract took effect Jan. 1, 2006, Young said state statutes have changed, such as language related to administrative costs, which have been provided by the city at no additional charge to the library district.
“The statute reads that the city’s administrative costs for the library count toward our contribution, which is contrary to the current contract,” he said. “Obviously, making that change would affect the finances of the library – how much the city is contributing, how much the towns are contributing.”
Instead of assessing the administrative costs out to other municipalities, Young said another proposed language change references the applicable state statute and charges the administrative costs provided by the city to the library district, though the city would contribute an additional amount to the district to offset the charge for administrative costs.
“The net result is essentially a wash, because we’re giving them more money and then we’re charging some back, but it reflects in the budget that those administrative costs are there,” he said. “So it’s, I think, a more accurate way to account for it. It also fixes the problem that we’ve had in the city, which is that we charge administrative costs in a hodge-podge way, and we charge some departments and we don’t charge other departments.
“This would take us one step closer to making that fair and equal among everybody, but I wanted to point out, for the benefit of the other municipalities, that we’re not intending with this change to go back and charge them the cost of these administrative fees.”
Another proposed contract language change council members agreed to forward for consideration by all the library district’s municipalities at a meeting slated for Jan. 16 at the Newbold Town Hall is to specify the city as the district’s fiscal agent, unless the district would elect to designate another municipality as the fiscal agent.
“If, in some point in the future, the library board, the city, municipalities would think there would be some benefit in one of the other municipalities taking over those administrative services, I think that it would be good to have the contract language reflect some flexibility for that,” he said.
Under the terms of the current agreement, which involves the city of Rhinelander and the towns of Crescent, Newbold, Pelican and Pine Lake, the agreement continues indefinitely – subject to withdrawal of any or all of the municipalities – and is to be reviewed at least once every 10 years, with modifications negotiated by the member municipalities.