The goal: Sufficient, stable and sustainable funding for the Hudson Area Public Library
- Proposed county plan
HAPL is comprised of the City of Hudson, the Town of Hudson, the Town of St. Joseph and the Village of North Hudson.
The library’s longstanding funding crisis would wane if Hudson Area Public Library taxpayers started paying the same library tax rate as everyone else in St. Croix County.
A funding rescue proposal would do just that–apply the same library tax rate across the county. The details and background are complicated, but it would essentially close a funding loophole that allows HAPL taxpayers to pay less. The current funding mechanism is fueling the library’s budget crisis.
Without intervention, HAPL may have to close its doors two or more days per week as early as July 2022.
For the 2022 budget, the proposal would provide about $450,000 in additional funding by applying the state’s minimum funding law to HAPL’s four municipal partners (the City of Hudson, the Town of Hudson, the Town of St. Joseph and the Village of North Hudson).
HAPL is a joint library—there’s only about two dozen in Wisconsin—and joint libraries have operated under special funding rules since 2013. The proposal would ensure all St. Croix County libraries play by the same rules.
While this translates into a tax increase for HAPL residents, the increase is exactly the amount those taxpayers would pay if the joint library breaks up because of the funding crisis. If the joint library fails, the tax break goes away.
The plan would have no effect on county taxpayers who live outside of HAPL’s service boundaries.
Here’s how it would work: The county already calculates library funding using a state-mandated formula. That county would apply the same formula to HAPL, collect the funds and plug them into the library’s budget.
If the plan is approved, HAPL’s funding for 2022 would be nearly the same amount as the River Falls Public Library received in 2019. The municipal/county funding for the River Falls Public Library was about $1.4 million. The River Falls Public Library has a municipal service area of about 15,000 people. Meanwhile, HAPL had municipal/county funding of $790,500 for a municipal service area of 30,600 people.
In other words, HAPL serves twice as many people with half the budget. HAPL’s per capita funding of $23.70 is among the lowest in the state. The state’s average per capita library funding is $54.56—more than double what HAPL receives.
Wisconsin statutes don’t prohibit the proposal. The county is awaiting written opinions from state experts to clarify this point. Then the plan needs the blessing of the county’s library planning committee as well as approval from the library’s Board of Trustees, the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors and HAPL’s four municipal boards.
If the plan passes, two funding issues remain: stability and sustainability. The county’s formula will generate different funding levels each year. Library leaders need to ensure the budget fix isn’t a Band-Aid. HAPL needs a long-term solution.
Keep reading to learn more.