Time to talk budgets.  The City of Menomonie experienced a significant increase in the cost of their employee health insurance for 2019.  For the library, it means a 25% increase in health insurance costs for our full-time employees.  That translates to a nearly $30,000 increase and with no additional revenues forthcoming it is impossible for us to absorb that amount without cutbacks in other areas.  The Library Board and administration have reluctantly made the decision to reduce expenditures for books and media along with cutting Sunday hours.

Library funding in Wisconsin can be difficult to understand if you aren’t involved with it every day.  Where does the library’s funding come from?  The library relies on tax dollars from the City of Menomonie and Dunn County to operate.  Menomonie Public Library is a municipal library established in city code so we receive funding from the city to operate.  Dunn County reimburses the library for use by rural residents that don’t pay city taxes.  The formula for reimbursement is established in state law Act 150 and is based on the number of over-the-counter circulations of books and media made to rural residents.  Check-outs of downloadable electronic books and media are not counted, only physical circulation of items from our library are counted for reimbursement.  The library receives reimbursement from surrounding counties for their citizens who check-out items from our library.  Act 150 only requires that counties reimburse the library at 70% of the actual cost of doing business.   Several years ago Dunn County began reimbursing libraries in the county at 100% of the cost which has made a positive difference for us.  Revenue generated from fines and fees also goes to operating the library.  Here’s how our funding broke down in 2018:

  • City of Menomonie – $441,150
  • Dunn County – $504,515
  • Other Counties – $41,000
  • Fines & Fees – $26,000

Why is the library cutting Sunday hours and reducing purchases of books and media?  This is mostly explained by the dramatic increase in the employee health insurance costs but the dollars the library receives have remained pretty flat over the last ten years while operating costs have continued to rise. The library began opening on Sundays from September-May nine years ago.  Even with the loss of Sunday hours, the library will be open 64 hours per week which is amongst the highest for public libraries in western Wisconsin.

In 2017 the City of Menomonie’s appropriation for the library was $418,000 or $25.50 per person.  The average level of per capita city and village support for the 52 public libraries in our area is $50.00.  Here is the per capita funding for surrounding public libraries with a similar service area to Menomonie’s.

City Per Capita Library Support
Hudson $23.91
Menomonie $25.50
Chippewa Falls $39.46
New Richmond $50.93
River Falls $55.78
Rice Lake $59.03

The library raises private funds through its Foundation and Friends groups.  Both groups raise funds that go to benefit the library.  Programs such as Music Over Menomin, One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten, Wi-Fi Hotspots To Go, Summer Reading, and author visits are funded with money raised by the Friends and Foundation.  However, neither group raises the amount necessary to operate the library on an ongoing basis.  These private dollars go to endowment funds that enhance the library’s programs and collections.  A goal is to build the library’s endowments so that annual contributions will have a greater positive impact on library service.  During this giving season please consider a gift to the library.  You can support the library through a gift to our Foundation at https://menomonielibraryfoundation.org/support-your-library/ or stop in and pick up a donation form.  The Friends of the Library are currently conducting a children’s book and media drive.  Until December 21 drop off children’s books and media at the library and then watch for their “flash” sale at the end of the month.  All proceeds benefit the library in many ways.