County will consider different approach to funding library servicesWith its current library services contract expiring at the end of the year, the Goodhue County Board met with several area library representatives Thursday to discuss funding options moving forward.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
With its current library services contract expiring at the end of the year, the Goodhue County Board met with several area library representatives Thursday to discuss funding options moving forward.
Present at a Committee of the Whole meeting were people speaking on behalf of libraries in Cannon Falls, Kenyon, Lake City, Pine Island, Red Wing and Zumbrota.
Collectively, Goodhue County budgeted $436,452 for the libraries in 2012. Breaking that down, the county funded 23.32 percent of costs while the cities supplied 76.68 percent. As far as circulation is concerned, the county had an estimated 28.82 percent of circulation and the cities sat at 71.18 percent.
“We want to see if commissioners want to create an atmosphere where there’s more equitability,” Zumbrota Mayor Richard Bauer told the board.
Essentially, the libraries would like to see the county’s funding percentage match its circulation percentage for all six locations. The problem is that circulation factors in only the people who check books out from the library.
Times have changed over the years and people now go to libraries to do much more — type on the computer, read the newspaper, hold meetings.
“Those people are not counted because they’re not checking things out,” County Administrator Scott Arneson said Friday.
Another problem the county recognizes is that once funding goes up, it doesn’t go back down.
Minnesota Statute 134.34, known as the Maintenance of Effort, prevents Goodhue County from decreasing the amount of money it provides to the libraries year after year. That means $436,452, the total supplied by the county in 2012, is the minimum amount Goodhue County can supply in 2013.
“Basically the Legislature wanted to guarantee there would always be an increase in the amounts that had been done before, with or without a contract,” County Attorney Steve Betcher explained.
“It’s a law, I think, that has unintended consequences,” Commissioner Ted Seifert said.
Goodhue County will stick to the minimum and supply $436,452 for 2013, with which the libraries said they are OK. Still, they would like to reach a new agreement for the future.
“I’m not interested in a contract, I’ll tell you that,” Commissioner Jim Bryant said. “I’m interested in sitting down and trying to figure out what we can do to make things work.”
“We’re agreeing with you that if we keep doing this every three to five years we’re always going to come to the same questions,” Cannon Falls City Administrator Aaron Reeves said. “I’d like to just work out something that we’ve just got an ongoing formula that we use.”
A joint committee of library and county representatives will meet throughout the next year to decide on funding after 2013.