Debate returns on library contract
The mayor of Quincy on Thursday will ask the North Central Regional Library to allocate the city more money to cover increasing operational and maintenance costs at the local library that the city currently is covering.
Earlier this year, Mayor Jim Hemberry sent a letter to the NCRL board of trustees, asking that the board consider increasing the square footage that’s used to calculate the reimbursement fee for the Quincy Public Library.
On Thursday, Hemberry will attend the board of trustees meeting in Wenatchee to again ask that it include the landscaping around the library, built in late 2011, for an increase of 3,820 square feet, or $12,415 a year.
The city currently is reimbursed about $31,000 from the library district. Its maintenance and operations costs are expected to be about $35,000 this year. The mayor’s numbers show that by the end of the contract in 2023, the city’s costs will be closer to $54,000 a year and the library’s reimbursement at just under $36,400.
“My whole issue is just that we aren’t cost neutral,” Hemberry said. “It isn’t a huge amount of money. It’s the principle of the thing.”
However, in a letter to the mayor last month, Dan Howard, executive director of the NCRL, wrote that the board decided at its March meeting that it would not amend its contract with the city to include the exterior square footage.
The current nine-year agreement, which started this year, provides for two rate increases, Howard pointed out in his letter. The contract between the city and library allows for a 25-cent increase in 2018 and another 25-cent increase 2021. The city currently is reimbursed at a rate of $3.25 a square foot.
“These reimbursement rate increases are intended to help address potential maintenance cost increases,” Howard wrote.
This isn’t the first time the issue of reimbursement costs at the Quincy Public Library has come up.
In January 2012, a dispute arose between the city and library district when it came time to update the contract for service. The library district previously had been paying for square footage on the interior of the building and the exterior grounds. When it came time for a new formula for the new library, the NCRL wanted to pay on the interior square-footage of the new, expanded facility.
During this time, the city briefly considered de-annexation from the library district; however, it signed the contract instead that did not allow for the exterior grounds to be included.
De-annexation is not being suggested now, Hemberry said last week.
Property owners in the city of Quincy are assessed about $900,000 a year in property taxes that are paid to the NCRL, a junior taxing district. (The library district in the Quincy area generates about $1.5 million.) In 2012, those numbers were closer to $400,000.
The library district pays back some of those tax dollars to the city for operating and maintaining the building, which is owned by the city. The formula for reimbursement is based on square footage. The library is 9,087 square feet.
According to Hemberry’s numbers, which account for 6 percent annual increases in operations and maintenance, if the library board does not allow the city to include the exterior area, the city may pay nearly an additional $90,718 by the end of the contract. With an increase from the board of trustees, that loss would be closer to $9,300, according to Hemberry’s calculations.
The $12,415 is not much money to debate over; however, it’s the principle of the issue, Hemberry said.
“The taxpayers are already paying $900,000,” he said. “Why should they pay more?”
The library district’s reimbursement costs to the city were “almost identical” in 2015, said Michelle McNeil, spokeswoman with the library district. (Hemberry’s numbers show that maintenance and operations came in about $2,800 over revenues in 2015.) The cities in the NCRL, which covers five counties, have longtime maintenance agreements in place with the library district, McNeil said. The agreements have been based on a facility’s square footage since the 1990s, she added.
“We have no control over how much more they are spending on things,” McNeil said.
The board was to discuss Quincy’s request at 1 p.m. Thursday.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, email@example.com