Soldiers Grove librarian Cele Wolf and library board treasurer Russell Gilbert appeared at a public hearing on the village budget last Thursday to discuss proposed cuts in funding to the library.
The budget, as proposed and later approved, cut the village’s portion of the library funding by $3,039 from 2011’s $47,464 to $44,425 in the 2012 budget. That’s a cut of more than 6.4 percent.
A cut of that size was previously prohibited by a state law that capped municipalities’ reductions in aid to their libraries at three-percent of the library budget’s three-year average. However, Governor Scott Walker’s state budget and budget repair law removed the law that protected library funding.
Wolf cautioned the board that the library’s other major source of funding was calculated from the village’s contribution. Decreasing the village’s contribution would ultimately decrease the county’s contribution, according to the librarian. This year, Crawford County will fund $34,380 of the Soldiers Gove Public Library’s budget. That’s an increase of $805 from the 2011 level or almost 2.4 percent more.
When Wolf and Gilbert asked the board why the village reduced the library’s budget, several members of the board responded by telling them the village was responding to decreasing revenue, including lower amounts of funding from the state.
“So, this is the direct result of what happened in Madison?” Gilbert asked.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a direct result (of what happened in Madison),” village trustee Shayne Chapman responded.
The village’s budget showed state shared revenue had been reduced $1,672 from $232,175 to $230,503. That’s a reduction of .72 percent. State highway aid was reduced by $2,399 from $23,992 to $21,593 a reduction of almost 10 percent.
“We’re one of the most substantial villages around the area,” village president Laurel Hestetune noted. He went on to explain other villages had large debts to pay, which was not the case for Soldiers Grove. The village listed nothing under debt service on the budget.
Gilbert acknowledged the library’s situation and the budget, as it was being presented.
“We’re not in a position to bargain here,” Gilbert said. “We’ll swallow what we need to swallow…..and people will accept the loss.”
Village trustee Vicki Campbell told Wolf and Gilbert that if the library found itself short “a couple of thousand dollars” toward the end of next year they could approach the board. Campbell said money might be found in accounts, where it had been budgeted, but not spent.
Chapman said that when the village lost Sannes Skogdalen as a property taxpayer due to its non-profit status, along with several other things that happened, it hurt the village’s revenue.
While the librarian and library board treasurer seemed to understand, they realized the lack of funding would directly impact the library’s services.
“Well, I hope it’s not a trend,” Wolf said of the library’s budget cut.
Gilbert thanked Campbell for her offer that “left the door open to come to the board later” if that becomes necessary.
Several board members sought to assure Wolf and Gilbert that the library was not being specifically targeted with the cuts.
“We want the library to succeed and do well too,” village trustee Jim Helgerson said.
Other board members assured the library delegation that something “had been cut from every department.”
There was no other discussion during the budget hearing and the board began their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. As the last item on the agenda, the budget was approved. Chapman made the motion to adopt the 2012 budget and the tax levy ordinance. It was seconded by village trustee Roy Davidson. The motion was passed unanimously on a roll call vote. Village trustee Gary Nelson did not attend the meeting.
The budget as approved includes a local tax levy of $24,811. The levy will result in a village mil rate of just 1.15 or $1.15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property located in the village.
The gross mil rate for a Soldiers Grove property taxpayer includes tax levies from Crawford County, the North Crawford School District, the Southwest Tech Vocational District and the State of Wisconsin, as well as the Village of Soldiers Grove. The gross mil rate for 2012 is 19.61, less a school levy tax credit of 1.63, which means the net mil rate is 17.97. That means a Soldiers Grove property taxpayer will pay $17.97 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.