County supervisors amended the 2011 budget Tuesday, Nov. 9, to include a half cent rate increase for libraries.
The increase in library funding passed by a narrow 14-13 vote after three people spoke in its favor during the county’s budget hearing.
Clintonville city Administrator Lisa Kuss asked supervisors to increase the county’s library tax paid by rural residents.
“The County Board is given the responsibility to tax residents that do not have a library in their municipality,” Kuss said. “This levy is to provide funding in return for providing a service that these residents are not paying for in the local government portion of their tax bill.”
Kuss noted that nine Waupaca County municipalities have libraries. Residents in rural areas outside of the cities and villages with libraries pay a special county tax that goes to libraries.
In 2009, Waupaca County residents living in the nine municipalities paid an average tax rate of $1.25 per $1,000 of equalized value to support libraries, while residents living outside the municipalities paid an average tax rate of 27 cents to support libraries, Kuss said.
Clintonville library director Kathy Mitchell said the tax increase was a matter of fairness.
“It’s not fair to ask 43 percent of the residents to subsidize the other 57 percent who live outside the municipalities that have libraries,” Mitchell said.
She added that one-third of the Clintonville Public Library’s circulation was to people who lived outside the city of Clintonville.
Eunice Lawrence, a former county supervisor for Farmington and a board member of the Outagamie-Waupaca Library System (OWLS), asked county supervisors to consider “the issue of equitable library funding and the disparity of tax support for library services among county residents.”
Lawrence said the library budget request to the county was based on cost per item loaned multiplied by the number of items loaned to rural county residents.
“The total of the libraries’ costs represents the county’s total bill for library service. Then the county determines the percentage of its bill that it will pay,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said Waupaca County had paid 100 percent of its bill from 1985 through 1991.
“Then, as governing bodies do, with the stroke of a pen and all good intentions, Waupaca County stopped fully funding the library budget requests,” Lawrence said.
By 2005, the county was funding only 78 percent of the libraries’ budget requests.
Lawrence said the County Board agreed to a five-year plan to increase the funding percentage by 3 percent per year until the county reached 100 percent of library funding by 2014.
“Last year for the 2010 budget, the county levied 88 percent. This year for the 2011 budget, the Finance Committee is recommending a percentage increase to only 88.95 percent rather than the 91 percent called for by the plan,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence urged the board to amend the county budget to reverse the decades-long trend of having city residents carry a disproportionate amount of the tax burden for libraries.
“It is disappointing that we haven’t made more progress toward eliminating this inequity, this deplorable injustice and extremely poor government policy,” Lawrence said.
Supervisor DuWayne Federwitz, of Matteson, made the motion to increase the budget to the rate that had been set by the county’s original five-year plan.
Originally, the county’s Finance Committee had budgeted a 2011 tax levy of $818,000 for library aid that represented a 2.97 percent increase over the 2010 levy.
Under the amendment, the county will levy just under $837,000 for library aid, for a total increase of 5.33 percent.
Supervisor Pat Craig, of Royalton, said she supported the amendment because it would result in only a 50 cent tax increase on a $100,000 home in rural areas.
Supervisor Jack Penney, of Lind, pointed to other departments that received little or no increase in their budgets.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, which represents the entire second floor of the courthouse with probably 180 employees, is to have no budget increase,” Penney said. “I think they have to realize that we’re asking everybody to cut back.”
Craig responded that while some departments had no increase, others saw an increase of 4 percent to 8 percent.
The amendment passed by a vote of 14-13. Voting against the amendment to increase library funding were Supervisors Lloyd Mares, Don Peterson, Joe McClone, Gerald Murphy, Bob Ellis, Jack Penney, Dave Johnson, Bill Jonely, John Trambauer, Bob Flease, Martin Mares, Donn Allen and Duane Brown.