I would like to take this opportunity to address concerns regarding the Walter E Olson Memorial Library budget request for 2024. I understand on their Facebook page the library board has requested Eagle River residents to reach out to the City to voice their support.
The City has an agreement between the library and the other area municipalities to support the library budget; however, this does not guarantee the Library an unlimited open checkbook to whatever they want. If we were to grant this year‘s full request by the library, that would equate to a 108% increase in budget allocation just from the City of Eagle River since 2014. I would like you to consider if your household budget has enjoyed a 108% increase in the past ten years. Personally, mine has not. And the City has not seen such an increase in revenue.
Below is a breakdown of annual subsidies given to the library over the past ten years. While the amounts may seem trivial to some, at the end of the day, it is one small piece of a complex budget that is required to keep the City functioning at full capacity.
CITY OF EAGLE RIVER – OLSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY SUBSIDY HISTORY
% Annual Increase
*(original 2023 request was $56,977 = 13.1% increase)
In reviewing the above, it is apparent that a major change took place beginning in 2019. In December 2021, as a result of a 9.26% ask forwarded to the Eagle River Common Council by the library, representatives assured our Council that 2022 would be the last large ask for the budget.
“Olson Memorial Library Director, Sara Klemann, along with Library President/Board of Trustees, Laurie Stoegbauer, and Board of Trustees member, Kathy Patten presented information supporting the budget request from the library for the 2022 budget. The Council reviewed information. Burkett responded that the City of Eagle River will not continue to approve annual increases nearing 10% each year. Klemann and Stoegbauer assured the Council they have funds being freed up from contributors and the Foundation as the Library building is paid for.” City of Eagle River Budget Hearing Minutes, December 7, 2021.
The City has items required by state statute to be funded, including fire and police protection and ambulance service. All of those are extraordinarily important to the health and safety of our residents. Drive around the City and it will become immediately evident that there are street repairs that are needed as well. These items are funded from your property taxes.
The library does not put out house fires, they do not pave streets or repair sewers, they do not save your family members from a heart attack or stroke, they do not apprehend armed fugitives in our woods, and they do not put food on your table.
The City is only allowed to levy a set amount, maximum, per year in property taxes to fund all of the expenses of running a municipality. No line item in our budget enjoys the opportunity to receive a 108% increase in budget over ten years.
The library is asking residents to pay more taxes to meet their shortfall instead of being fiscally responsible and prudent with their finances the way you and your family have to be to make ends meet. They’d rather you spend money on the library rather than allowing you that money to put food on your family’s table or pay the higher utility costs to keep your home warm this winter.
Until 2023 the City had not contested or decreased the annual budget ask proposed by the Library, but that time came to an end. We all need to mind our budgets and tighten our belts these days. The City needs to do it, and we are requiring the library to do the same.
To submit comments to the City Council for consideration, please contact: Robin Ginner, City Administrator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-479-8682, ext 227