Public library may close next year for up to eight weeks because of shortfall
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Public Library will close for up to eight weeks next year unless the library can resolve a 2007 budget deficit. Head librarian Laurie Ortega on Monday night asked the Willmar City Council to increase city funding by about $...
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Public Library will close for up to eight weeks next year unless the library can resolve a 2007 budget deficit.
Head librarian Laurie Ortega on Monday night asked the Willmar City Council to increase city funding by about $44,400, rather than the $8,682 increase proposed in Mayor Les Heitke's 2007 budget, but the council declined.
Ortega offered two solutions to the shortfall: cut the book budget or close the doors.
She said eliminating the $31,000 budget for books, magazines and other materials would not solve the shortage.
Under the second solution, the shortfall could be realized by saving $5,796 in weekly staff costs over a period of nearly eight weeks -- whether the doors were closed for a day or two or a week at a time.
Heitke said the library's funding problem lies with the state and federal governments, which have been reducing funding over the years. He said the city has been increasing its annual contribution.
"If the library is forced to make changes, it's not because the city has not been helping out,'' Heitke said.
"The state has not been helping out all across the state, and they say it's because the federal government reduces its share. That's one of the by-products of the current administration.''
Heitke said he was pleased the council approved a resolution asking the governor and Legislature to support a substantial increase in state library funding during the 2007 legislative session. Other cities are being asked to approve similar resolutions.
"I hope that tells the Legislature to do their part,'' he said. "We've been showing substantial support for the library. We've been doing our part.''
Ortega also said Pioneerland Library System has required the Willmar library to increase its reserve from $37,335 to $109,295 to provide three months of working capital. She said the library has been dipping into its reserves during the last several years and is short on working capital.
Council member Rick Fagerlie asked if the library could charge fees for such things as using the Internet.
John Houlahan, Pioneerland director, said state funding requirements place some restrictions on fees. The philosophy of a library is to provide open access to everyone, he said.
Council member Jim Dokken asked Ortega to describe the public's reaction to closing the library.
She said the public would react negatively.
Houlahan was asked if the council could make up the deficit from reserve funds remaining from the first local option sales tax, which financed the 1999 library remodeling and construction project.
Houlahan said the state does not care where the money comes from, but he said the city would be obligated to add that same amount to its 2008 contribution.
Heitke said all city departments were told to plan for a 3 percent increase. The library had requested an 18.3 percent increase. For the library, Heitke had budgeted $298,091, plus $80,000 paid to Kandiyohi County for janitorial services, up from $289,409 plus $75,000 for janitorial services in 2006.
Ortega and Houlahan delivered their remarks during the council's Truth-In-Taxation hearing when the public could comment on next year's $2,806,995 property tax levy and the proposed $19,775,707 budget.
Later in the meeting when the council considered the Finance Committee's budget and levy recommendations, council member Bruce DeBlieck offered a motion to fund the library shortfall from an additional $200,000 budgeted for street improvements.
But the motion died for lack of a second.
Pioneerland has 32 member libraries in nine west central counties and receives funding from a variety of city, county and other sources.
In other budget business, the council:
- Approved the Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy of $129,776.
- Voted to restore $15,000 in funding to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and to let staff cover the allocation with funds from the capital outlay program.
- Approved an agreement with the Willmar School District to hire a third police liaison officer.
- Voted to reinstate $2,500 for the community band in 2007 with the provision the band seeks future funding through the Community Foundation.