New formula for library funds eyed

A proposal would increase the share the Rural Library District pays for city library operations.


WALLA WALLA - City officials are again working out a yearly reimbursement contract with the Walla Walla County Rural Library District, but this year the city is pushing for a per-capita formula that would provide more library funding, which could lead to more library hours.

The district pays the city $188,000 per year to provide library cards and services to county residents.

In recent weeks, city officials submitted a proposal to the district that would charge $27.30 for each of the 10,748 residents in fire districts 4 and 8, a proposal suggested by consultant Ruth Metz this summer.

The per capita amount was formulated by taking the current city funding of $867,000 and dividing that figure by the total number of city residents, roughly 31,700.

If approved by the Walla Walla City Council and the Rural Library District board, the formula would increase next year's district reimbursement to about $293,000.

"It is less than what we had hopes for," City Manager Nabiel Shawa said, "but it is more than what the Rural Library District had offered. So she (Metz) came up with a formula that on the surface seems very fair."

Since 2009, the district and city officials have disputed how much the Walla Walla Public Library should receive, with the figure dropping from the $360,000 paid by the district for 2008 to $188,000 for this year.

District officials have defended the cuts, noting that though their reimbursement had steadily increased until 2009, services have declined, and the district had little say over how the money would be used.

In response, the city's proposal includes funding several areas that would have greater benefit to county residents and provide more input for the district on funding, city library Director Beth Hudson said.

"We needed to collectively decide how the money should be spent, that was Ruth's (Metz) suggestion," Hudson said.

The reimbursement proposed by the city would include adding five hours per week to the library. One effect would be that the library would open at 10 a.m. instead of noon Mondays and Tuesdays.

The city's proposal would also fund library sponsored reading programs in rural schools, help pay more of the district's interlibrary loan expenses, include district libraries in the guest-author lecture series, provide free guest-author books to district libraries and allow all Rural Library District card holders the ability to use the city library's online research tools and databases, which includes Consumer Reports and ARRC Auto Repair.

"There are many different ways of figuring the value of service and our board is considering a number of things," Rural Library District Executive Director Punkey Adams said, but she was also reluctant to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

On Monday, Rural Library District board members and staff will discuss funding options; public testimony will be accepted.

The meeting will be at the Prescott library, 103 S. D St., 2 p.m.


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