Mayor Barbara Clark got it right.
Ever since the Walla Walla County Rural Library District first contracted with the city of Walla Walla in 1974, it was assumed it would take both city and Rural Library District resources to deliver high quality public library services for everyone.
For 35 years, the fee paid by the Rural Library District averaged 30 percent of the city library's budget.
In 2009, the Rural Library District unilaterally changed its fee to be based on the number of residents living in the urban area outside the city limits in Fire Districts 4 and 8, effectively lowering its payment. Alternatively, several fee methodologies based on the populations of Fire Districts 4 and 8 or the county and the library's per capita cost, or a combination of population and the assessed valuation of Fire Districts 4 and 8 suggest a fee between $294,300 and $372,200.
The $200,000 offer from the Rural Library District, at about 19 percent of the city library's budget, is significantly lower than what should be fair.
It's not as though the Rural Library District cannot afford it. Its total countywide revenues in 2010 were $1,162,300. Its estimated revenues from Fire Districts 4 and 8 were $543,500. Its unreserved fund balance is $3,093,400, or 266 percent of its revenues.
In this county, we value cooperation between city and county entities to eliminate redundant costs and build on existing strengths.
The Rural Library District's Plaza Branch does neither. In a town of our size, a branch library is not a good use of taxpayers' funds.
Why can't the Rural Library District use the funds being spent on that branch to enhance the city library's services for all, instead of proposing to subtract that amount from its proposed fee for city library services?
If the city is left with an offer it cannot accept on behalf of city taxpayers, library services will be further reduced and cut. Furthermore, the city is not required by statute to offer library services to people who live in the county if there is no contract.
The city could offer library services upon payment of the $135 nonresident fee, or the city could suspend all nonresident fees, denying services to anyone with a county address.
Is this what we want for our county? Taxpayers of both the city and county are not being well served by the Rural Library District.