Another chapter of library funding was heard by the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday.
In September, the board voted to fund the Kitchigami Regional Library System at $509,127 — the minimum amount required by the state. It’s 10 percent less than the library received in 2010.
In the resolution, Kitchigami was also asked to allocate $10,000 of the funds for new materials for libraries in Pequot Lakes and Crosslake. Those libraries are not part of the Kitchigami system. Commissioner Paul Thiede, who made the motion in September, was anticipating a regional library meeting Tuesday afternoon in Brainerd to discuss Crow Wing County Services.
Thiede was concerned the Kitchigami board would try to backfill its budget with money set aside to expand the library system. Thiede said the county set aside those dollars for an expansion in the northern part of the county and then was in favor of assisting the community started libraries in Pequot Lakes and Crosslake. If that happens, Thiede said, it would violate the board’s intent. Thiede questioned if the board loses control of where the money will be used once it goes to Kitchigami. Administrator Tim Houle explained in the joint powers agreement, the library system is delegated the authority to spend the money. Kitchigami could supplement funding for the local libraries from the expansion fund and while it would violate the board’s intent, Houle said nothing prevents them from doing it.
If Kitchigami follows its long history, Houle said it would honor the wishes of members. To go the other way, Houle said would be a slippery slope.
Board Chairwoman Rachel Reabe Nystrom said not all the members are happy about taking Kitchigami funds to prop up community libraries not in the regional library system. Thiede said Crosslake and Pequot Lakes were serving Kitchigami members and saving them a 30-mile drive to Brainerd.
Nystrom said the regional system has been talking with both communities about joining for years. Thiede said Kitchigami isn’t ready to tell those community libraries what the expense will be to join or why they would be forced to reduce hours of operation to be legitimately part of the system.
Instead of tapping the expansion money, Thiede said Kitchigami — like the county — should be reining in expenses and doing as much or more with less.