WASHINGTON — Washington Township residents outside the Washington city limits are still having to pay for library cards, and, according to Township Trustee Albert “Pete” Showalter, that’s the way it will remain unless the library reduces the township’s contract for library services.
Librarian Teresa Heidenreich said many people don’t realize the Washington Carnegie Public Library is a “city” library supported by Washington residents’ tax dollars. Washington and Veale townships have contracted with the library for many years to allow their residents full access to the library. Elmore, Steele and Bogard townships also contract with the library at a slightly higher rate, as there is a branch library in Plainville, they use as well as the main branch in Washington.
“Everyone has access to our computers. Everyone can come in to read newspapers, magazines, books, but townships (residents) not contracted with us can’t check out books without purchasing a library card,” Heidenreich said.
Last year was the first the township didn’t sign a contract, and in January, Washington Township residents had to purchase a card in order to check out books. The card cost is $42, an amount mandated by the state. The library board did find a way to supply library cards to students in outlying townships not under contract. The state law allows the library to give library cards to students attending schools in the taxing unit (the city of Washington), so all students attending any Washington Community, Washington Catholic or Cornerstone schools can obtain a card.
“We didn’t want to take the service away from the kids or from anyone,” Heidenreich said. “With this decision, students just need to comply with rules for getting a card and prove they attend one of those schools. Any student regardless of where they live, they can get a library card. But that doesn’t solve the problem of adults that want a card.”
In 2010 the library board studied the cost of the library and took into account that city residents pay the majority of the cost at about $42 per person. The per capita payment for the outlying townships figured at about $2 to $3 a person, according to Heidenreich, and the board wanted to do something about that discrepancy. Last summer they informed all the township trustees the contracts were increasing for 2011 and invited them to discuss this with the library board.
“They all saw the value in the library and agreed to the increase, except Washington Township,” she said. Washington Township’s contract went from $9,500 a year to $10,500.
“We just can’t afford it,” Showalter said Friday when asked if the township board was reconsidering its decision of last year.
The issue came back to the forefront last week during Daviess County Council budget hearings. While the council doesn’t have the power to change the township budget, they do have to scrutinize the budget before its sent to the state. It was pointed out that Washington Township collected $10,000 last year for the library that was never paid out and had included the library in its budget for 2012. The council was concerned that people were being taxed for a service they then had to pay for.
Showalter said Friday he wasn’t sure last year if they could negotiate with the library so the line item stayed in, and it was left in this year as he didn’t know if they’d be signing the contract with the library.
Heidenreich said the library board sent out a letter June 9 concerning the contract and asked Showalter to contact her or the board by July 13, which did not happen. The council asked Showalter to discuss this impasse with the library board and come back to the council’s Thursday meeting to explain what’s going on. Showalter did send a letter to the library board dated Aug. 18, saying the township did not ask for any budget raises for the 2012 budget and was struggling.
He is also sending a letter to the county council telling them “we reached out to the library, but were still unable to come to an agreement.” He said the board will not adopt the $10,000 library line item in the budget. According to the letter, the state Department of Local Government Finance told Showalter the township library tax rate is about one-third of a penny making the income from the tax $7,106 and the board will request to go under the maximum tax levy allowed in the amount of $7,106 to reimburse the 2011 library tax collected.
While that may put the township square with the state it doesn’t please several of the township residents that paid for a card and paid their taxes.
“Last January, I went straight from the library to the township office to be reimbursed for my card,” a library patron who wished to remain anonymous said. “They said they did not have the money and would not be reimbursing for any cards.”
The library patron said she was upset, as for 20 years she lived in a township that did not contract with the library and was so excited when they moved to Washington Township and it came out of her taxes.
“If they collected the taxes, I shouldn’t have to pay for a card,” she said. “I can’t live without a library card.”
Her sentiments were echoed by another patron who also attempted to recoup her $42 dollars. “They were very nice about it,” she said of the township worker, “but they sure weren’t going to pay for my card.”
Showalter said last January he was willing to keep library cards at the trustee’s office and sell the cards to Washington Township residents, then give the money to the library, but Heidenreich said that was not an option. She couldn’t understand why the trustee couldn’t use the funds collected to reimburse the people he serves, but Showalter said the state doesn’t allow for that.
The state DLGF told Showalter the monies in the library fund would have to be moved to the rainy day fund before they could be used for another purpose. It was suggested that the township board move the money and draw from it the $500 needed to complete the contract, but Showalter said Friday he rejected that idea.
“Everybody’s money’s tight,” Michelle Guy, with the trustee’s office said. “We’re paying out more than we’re collecting in taxes.”
Heidenreich had to agree that money is tight. The library board has cut the budget by $90,000 from personnel and books, but is still trying to offer services that are needed in the community.
“During economic hardships, library patrons recognize the true value of library resources,” Heidenreich wrote in the June letter to Showalter. “As those residents in Washington Township and all areas struggle to stretch every dollar, they are returning to libraries to fill the gap in educational and recreational resources. It is discouraging that not all families can afford the state mandated non-resident library card fee of $42. Many families are disheartened to learn that they are no longer eligible for a free card through the contractual agreements of the past.”