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Broadband project teeters on brink; Kandiyohi County officials still hopeful

Mayor proposes spending boost for library in budget

Jenna Hafner, of Willmar, looks for a selection Wednesday at the Willmar Public Library. The mayor's budget to be considered Monday by the Willmar City Council includes a 5.9 percent increase in funding for the library. If approved, the greater increase would go toward expanding the library's collection. (Tribune photo by Bill Zimmer)

WILLMAR -- Willmar Public Library will have more money to buy new materials under the mayor's proposed 2009 budget being recommended for adoption by the City Council on Monday night.

The $20.8 million budget includes the library's request for a 5.9 percent increase in funding, from $425,773 in 2008 to $451,187 in 2009. The amount includes $85,000 paid to Kandiyohi County each year for maintenance services.

The percentage increase allowed for the library is greater than the increase suggested by Mayor Les Heitke for other areas of city spending.

"I had asked last spring when we were putting together the initial part of the budget (that) our target for all department heads was to consider a 3 percent increase,'' said Heitke. "The library was a 5.9 percent increase with the rationale they needed to replace more of the materials. The Finance Committee decided to support that request.''

Willmar Head Librarian Chris Beyerl is pleased with the Finance Committee's decision. She said the budget for new materials had been smaller over the last few years because the library was building up its operating reserves. Now, the library will be building up its collections.

"Right now our budget is small for the size town we are. We're hoping to buy more children's books and young adult and adult fiction,'' said Beyerl. "Without that additional money, the increase in the collection would not be possible.''

She said materials, including children's books, receive heavy use, resulting in less attractive appearance and fewer checkouts.

"This will give us more dollars to buy more of the current popular authors and some of the fun, little paperback series and materials that kids want to read,'' she said.

"That's different from a school library where the books support the curriculum. The public library's mission is a little bit different. We want it to be fun, popular reading materials that they would want to come and check out for the fun of it, reading for fun.''

Beyerl said the library will try to spread the increase over the entire collection.

"There are thousands of books published every year and the more dollars we have the wider selection we can purchase,'' she said. "One of the other areas that we could possibly work on is trying to reduce waiting lists for popular authors. This might allow us to buy multiple titles of the same book when they come out.''

Heitke said the city is operating on a balanced budget.

"We're always curious as to what the state Legislature will do (with Local Government Aid), but we think that we're in a good position to adapt to whatever they decide,'' he said.

Heitke said the budget includes money for all the ordinary items such as street improvement, maintenance, public works, police and fire service.

In addition, he said the budget sets aside $175,000 for work on railroad crossing quiet zones on Willmar Avenue Southwest and 10th Street Southwest.

Heitke said the budget has no money for new staff. He said the city will try to function with the present staff.

City spending is typically finalized by the Finance Committee during the last week of November in time for the council's Truth in Taxation hearing in early December. The council will hold this year's hearing and adopt the budget and $3.5 million property levy on Monday night.

The Finance Committee had a good budget discussion earlier this week, much of which centered on non-departmental requests, also known as civic promotions that are not as routine, but are a little more subjective, according to Chairman Denis Anderson.

"I think there was a lot of thought put into this. All council members had studied these issues before hand and had some opinions and we made some tough decisions. All in all, a very good session, and the city is in fine financial shape,'' he said.

One of those tough decisions was to remove $10,000 for the Child Guide Program. The program began in 1996 as an early intervention program located in the Willmar elementary schools and connects young people with positive people and activities.

Program supporters Linda Bahe, dean of students at Jefferson and Lincoln schools; Heidi Burton, a child guide at Roosevelt School; and Christine Hilbert, a child guide at Jefferson School, described the program for the committee. They said the program is receiving less money from PACT 4 Families Collaborative and the Willmar School District. The program has a $109,404 budget, but has a $22,000 shortfall.

The program initially requested $15,755 but Heitke trimmed the request to $10,000. He said the request was an opportunity for the council to be a partner in the program. However, the committee removed the funding.