Pine Lake Town Board looks to tighten belt, considers cuts to library
Supporters of the Rhinelander District Library attended a meeting of the Pine Lake Town Board Jan. 17. The library funding agreement was on the board’s agenda. The town said it wasn’t on the agenda for discussion, but explained they are looking at ways to tighten the belt. Star Journal photo
By Eileen Persike
PINE LAKE – The Pine Lake Town Board is looking for ways to tighten its belt as the cost to provide services is on the rise. One possible way the board is looking to accomplish that is to reduce the amount it contributes to the Rhinelander District Library. The library agreement was on the board’s Jan. 17 agenda.
“We really can’t discuss it too much because it’s not on the agenda to be discussed. Number one, I just want to say Pine Lake will always support the library, it always has,” said town chair Jim Flory. “We are already committed with our share for 2024 and 2025. We’re not running away completely. We just put this on [the agenda] because we are, like all the other townships, we’re getting shortage; we have a lot of expenses coming up and not that we’re going to cut the library, we’ve got to cut different places so we’re looking into different stuff.”
Some of the upcoming expenses, Flory said, include resurfacing roads at a cost of $180,000 per mile, purchasing a new plow truck and a new fire engine. There are also increased costs associated with a new garbage pickup contract. The library agreement, he said, came up in a recent conversation.
“I guess one of the concerns with the library contract is, they have just over a million dollars in their budget,” said Flory. “They are spending $869,000 on wages and benefits and I don’t know how everything else works down there, but if we have to tighten our belt in Pine Lake, I think everybody should.”
Library director Virginia Roberts, who was unable to attend the meeting, said the staff is what makes the library work.
“We have a wonderful, talented and diverse staff,” Roberts said. “Sure, we have all kinds of materials, but we need the right staff on hand to help them access what people need.”
News of the meeting and the library agreement agenda item was on social media Wednesday.
“What I saw on Facebook today is that Pine Lake wants to defund the library, pull out, no money whatsoever – which isn’t the case, totally; we just don’t want it in our budget anymore,” said town clerk Cindy Skinner. “So it would then go to the county with the obligation to pay our portion, and it wouldn’t be that much, it would be about $55,000-$60,000 compared to our $122,000 right now.”
Pine Lake, Pelican, Crescent and Newbold townships and the city of Rhinelander are part of the library district and contribute to the library budget according to a formula that takes into account the number of residents in each municipality. According to the library, the annual cost to a Pine Lake resident is about $45.
“Pine Lake is within three miles of us, which means their residents use the library more,” Roberts said. “Staff knows that people who use the library from Pine Lake not only use the library for books, they also come in and use the internet, research genealogy, attend programs and hang out. Pine Lake vacationers, who spend money there, stay longer because they can work from the library – and not just a little bit; they’re streaming meetings, they’re getting paperwork done, they’re buying houses – we’ve had closings in the library, we’ve had people researching real estate.”
Some of the 30 or so people in attendance spoke positively about the Rhinelander library.
“I want to affirm that I really do support the public library and I would hope from a philosophical perspective that we recognize that as a community we really need to work together and do our fair share,” said one attendee. “My kids grew up in the community; I’ve got grandchildren, I use the library. So I think we have to look at how we support a library system which is important to the community.”
Skinner said it’s frustrating to be termed as the “evil people” because they are trying to do what’s right for the community. She questioned the library board’s efforts to raise money to fund an expansion.
“Another thing that is a pretty big bone of contention is how in the hell are you going to pay for a new addition? A big addition,” said Skinner. “It’s going to require more electric, more heat, probably more personnel even though there’s 14, 15, 18 employees right now. That’s a pretty hefty personnel package. Just think about those when you [hear] ‘we need it, we need it.’ Absolutely we need it. My kids grew up in that library; my grandkids have used the library. I’m no different than anybody else.”
Flory, who said he didn’t expect the interest in the meeting, noted the library may be on future agendas for further discussion.