Letter to the Editor

I’m the director of the library here in Sleepy Eye, so this writing will be very biased in support of not only this city’s library but libraries everywhere. Everything in the world requires money to run. It doesn’t matter if this money comes from taxes, hard work or donations; it’s still a necessary component of life. This is not different for the Dyckman Free Library. The library is owned by the city and operates in part by taxes paid by all city residents. Rural residents are also taxed for library services but at a much lower rate. This is what I would like to draw your attention to. Brown County has five public libraries—all owned and operated by their respective cities. A major portion of all five libraries’ budgets comes from city funds. But, by state statue, the county must also give each library money. Until last year, the Brown County Commissioners gave the bare minimum required by the state to each of the five libraries.

Here are some numbers. Dyckman’s budget is about $140,000 a year. This includes everything from wages and utilities to books and paperclips. About $121,000 comes from monies collected within the city limits. A little over $14,000 comes from Brown County support. The remaining is fees collected at the library for services like faxing or printing and collecting fines. Now let’s break that down by each individual city resident. The city puts up $121,000. There are roughly 3,600 people in Sleepy Eye. $121,000 divided by 3,600 equals $33.61. Each individual in Sleepy Eye is responsible for almost $34 of the city’s portion of the library’s budget.

Now let’s compare those numbers to what the county contributes. By state statue, the county has to distribute about $70,000 in total to the five county libraries. There are roughly 5,500 rural county residents. $70,000 divided by 5,500 equals $12.73. Each rural resident (all those residents living outside city limits in Brown County) is responsible for about $13 to all library budgets.

Let’s look at this another way. The total tax capacity (amount of all taxes collected) in the City of Sleepy Eye is a little over $1.3 million. Compare that to the tax capacity of all of Brown County—about $25.5 million. Using these tax capacity numbers and the amounts set aside for libraries, we can calculate the tax rate for library services. For the city: $121,000 divided by $1.3 million equals 0.0931 or 9.31 percent. For the county: $70,000 divided by $25.5 million equals 0.0027 or 0.27 percent. This means that city residents pay 34 times more than rural residents for library services.

Now I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you. What am I trying to get at here? Basically, all five library directors in Brown County want more money from the county. For the last decade or so, the county has given the bare minimum required by the state. Last year, all five directors approached the county commissioners asking for an increase. They did approve an additional $3,000. The feeling I got from the commissioners is that library services aren’t as important as other county funded projects. I had about 18,000 people walk through the doors of the library last year. About 20,000 items were checked out. Apparently, someone still thinks the library is important!

The library directors again will be approaching the commissioners to ask for another increase. Unfortunately, money rules the world and cost for materials, health care, utilities and other things continue to rise. As the director of the Dyckman Free Library in Sleepy Eye, I’m inviting you to attend the Brown County Commissioners meeting on Monday, Aug. 21 at 3:30 p.m. in New Ulm. If you can’t attend but still want to help, you can call or write the commissioners. Sleepy Eye’s commissioner is Dean Simonsen. He covers the townships of North Eden, Eden, North Home, Home, Prairieville and Stark, as well as the City of Sleepy Eye. He can be reached at 507-794-3326. Contact him and let him know what you think.

The library is a resource to be used whether for entertainment purposes, a meeting place, job help or various other reasons. Please help me support not only the Dyckman library but libraries in general.

Andrew Kelton

Sleepy Eye