City Finance Committee backs new district library contract
Agreement pending approval of all 5 municipalities
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A new Rhinelander District Library contract will be up for consideration Monday by the full City Council after receiving the backing Tuesday of the city’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee.
The new contract under consideration, which requires approval from all five municipalities in the library district before taking effect, includes a provision that calls for the cost of administrative services provided by the city – such as for accounting, bookkeeping and payroll services – to be charged to the district, rather than being provided at no additional charge as in the past. However, that provision also calls for the city to contribute an additional amount to offset those charges.
Committee member Alex Young said including the administrative costs in the library’s budget could bring in some additional revenue.
“It’s not going to be a ton of money,” Young said. “It will increase their cost per circulation and affect some of those reimbursements from other areas.”
However, it remains to be seen as to how those administrative costs will be calculated. Young noted one possible way to do that could be based on a combination of the operating budget and the number of full-time employees. City finance director Julie Ostrander suggested the Finance Committee have a future agenda item related to how to come up with determining the administrative costs.
Aside from the provision about administrative costs, the new contract has wording similar to the library district’s existing contract that took effect Jan. 1, 2006.
Last December, the city rejected an amendment backed by the four towns to change the funding formula, which currently calls for a tax levy from the municipalities to pay for the library district’s operating budget, based 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 rejected amendment would have based population on the most recent census, instead of the state of Wisconsin’s estimate for the previous year, and also called for levy limit adjustments, in which no municipality’s share to the library district would have been able to increase from the previous year by a percentage greater than the percentage increase allowed to the municipality for its total property tax levy as determined by the state.
For municipalities in which the funding formula’s increase would have been a lower percentage than the percentage increase allowed for the total property tax levy, that amendment would have called for them to increase their shares by equal percentages to meet the financial needs of the library.
“I not going to jump up and down and say, ‘We won,’ but we got the way the contract already read,” said Finance Committee chairman Mark Pelletier.
Young called the current funding formula “a good, fair formula.”
“I think the formula that exists in the contract, which is half equalized value and half population, is a fair way to assess it out,” Young said. “And I think tinkering with that formula is going to end bad, no matter what you do.”
If any of the municipalities would believe an increase in the library budget would be excessive or something they couldn’t afford, Young noted any one of the municipalities could petition for an arbitration meeting.
City attorney Carrie Miljevich called the language in the new contract “the best thing that could be thought of by the five municipalities at this time.”
“Everybody is paying equally, and if there’s hardships, they’re equal hardships,” she said. “Everybody has the equal ability to pay.”
The new contract draft leaves blank the effective date for a new agreement, which Miljevich said would commence on the day after the fifth and final municipality would pass it.
Under the contract terms, the agreement would have to be reviewed at least once every 10 years, with modifications negotiated by the member municipalities.