Paddock Lake looking to bring closure to Community Library issue

tl-library-3A Paddock Lake village trustee is proposing a two-pronged approach to bring a conclusion to the ongoing Community Library Board make-up issue.

At a committee of the whole meeting Wednesday, Trustee Kathy Christenson proposed asking Salem to approve a 10-member governing board, which Paddock Lake favors, or submit a 9-member proposal to Paddock Lake. Paddock Lake would approve the 9-member board if the other municipalities will, but Christenson is also proposing that in that instance the village leave the Community Library. But at least the system would again be in compliance with state statutes and remove the threat of losing state funding.

“The library’s funding is in jeopardy,” Christenson said. “We have to do something.”

Christenson also is the current vice president of the library board.

The issue of how to apportion representation on the joint library’s board has been being kicked around for over a year. There is now urgency to wrap up the issue before the state withholds state funding.

Currently, each member municipality has two representatives on the library board. That is in conflict with state statutes, which say joint library boards should have membership that reflects the relative populations of its members. While this has been essentially ignored for years, in 2015 the possibility that the state might withhold funding until the representation is corrected arose. Salem, the municipality with the largest population, offered a side agreement where it would appoint some of its representatives to other municipalities to bring the representation in effect back to two a piece. Salem town administrator Patrick Casey said the town received a verbal go ahead from the state Department of Public Instruction that the side agreement would be OK. Paddock Lake officials questioned the legality of that move and ultimately received a written opinion from a DPI official saying the side agreement would not be valid. They put forward a proposal for a 10-member board apportioned by municipal population and keeping one rotating seat from the two high school districts. Twin Lakes, Randall and Silver Lake were willing to approve that arrangement, but Salem balked, saying they did not see the need for the school board member and proposed a nine-member board. Paddock Lake questioned DPI about that arrangement and was told via email that the school representative was required.

At issue if the Community Library is not brought into compliance with state statues would be about $398,000 in state aid to the county library system, a portion of which goes to the Community Library, said a recent email from Barbara Brattin, director of the county library system, to the municipalities. If the Community Library is not brought into compliance with state law, the rest of the county library system — the Kenosha Public Library — may seek to join another library system as the county system could not stand on its own without the Community Library.

If Paddock Lake accepts the 9-member board and then leaves the joint library, the library stands to lose about $74,000 in local tax revenue from Paddock Lake residents, village President Terry Burns said. That money would instead be paid to the county library system.

If Paddock Lake left the system, the village also would seek reimbursement for its ownership share of the Salem library branch building, Burns said.

“28 percent of that building is ours,” Burns said.

Burns said the Village Board will formally vote on Christenson’s proposal at Wednesday’s regular board meeting.

“I would certainly hope that if we followed your proposal, it would raise some eyebrows,” Burns said to Christenson.

Where Salem stands on the issue, however, could be settled before that meeting. An agenda for a special Salem Town Board meeting on Monday includes an agenda item title “discussion and possible action relative to the proposed Joint Library Agreement.”


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