Rapid City Public Libraries will be in a crunch for funding if Pennington County can’t pay up on a contract that ensures library services for rural residents, library trustee Rod Pettigrew said Wednesday.
Pettigrew told the city’s Legal and Finance Committee that the county will be late on a roughly $110,000 July payment to Rapid City for the contract, which also funds rural library services in Wall, Keystone and Hill City.
The city committee voted only to acknowledge Pettigrew’s report, taking no action, though committee members said they wanted to be kept up to date on county finances moving forward.
The county typically pays the four libraries on a quarterly basis, but the County Commission recently has warned that it can’t make its July payment until sufficient tax revenue is received after Oct. 31.
If the check isn’t received before October, Pettigrew said, the Rapid City Libraries Board of Trustees will be asking the city for a cash infusion to make up the shortfall.
Under an ongoing contract, the county pays Rapid City 14.5 percent of its library budget, which in 2015 equated to $437,000, to provides library access for more than 6,000 rural residents. The funding also covers pay for seven library employees, whose positions could be jeopardized, Pettigrew said.
Rapid City children gathered around for a special story time Tuesday morning as a group of professional musicians brought the story of Little Red Riding Hood to life and kicked off their Teddy Bear Story Time series at the Rapid City Public Library’s downtown location.
For the next three weeks, multiple children’s stories will be read and accompanied by the Orlando Chamber Soloists at the downtown library on Tuesdays and General Beadle Elementary School on Wednesdays.
This is the 8th season of the Chamber Music Festival of the Black Hills.
Executive Director Michael Hill says they offer more than 40 free educational programs to the Black Hills and Pine Ridge area during the summer.
Hill says their programs enhance the great programs already offered here.
Hill says, “These locations have their regular story time, and this enhances it. It brings more attention. It gets the children more excited about reading, about learning, about music. And from this stage, also, as they go into elementary schools, they’re going to start being introduced into strings and band programs in 4th and 5th grade, and this gets a heightened level of excitement. They have a sense of wanting to learn more, and it really excels all their programs.”
The children also had the opportunity to play the instruments after the program.
For a complete schedule of all the Orlando Chamber Soloists’ programs this summer, visit CMFBH.org.
Theresa Schaefer, director of the Wall Community Library, isn’t sure just how worried she should be over the future of her small rural library.
But she knows one thing for sure: One of the major funding sources that keeps her library open is in deep jeopardy.
Pennington County taxpayers pay roughly half of her annual operating budget, but that funding is in limbo because tax proceeds that pay for operations at public libraries in Wall, Rapid City, Keystone and Hill City are not keeping pace with costs.
Programs or service hours could be cut at rural libraries if a funding solution isn’t found, library officials said.
The county has been spending in the red by up to $40,000 every year for county library services, according to County Auditor Julie Pearson.
Pearson said library cash reserves have been making up the deficit, but in 2017, that cushion will be entirely depleted.
County library contracts with Wall, Keystone and Hill City are set to expire by the end of the year, at which point, the County Commission will have to decide whether it slashes funding to the rural sites or pursues a property tax hike to maintain the services as-is.
“They run out of all their savings in 2017,” Pearson said. “These libraries have to face it some time, anyway, or the (commission) has to do something to bring those cash balances up.”
The county currently pays out on the library contracts in January and July and will be late on its last payment of the year, Pearson said.
The first check of the year bounced without adequate library cash reserves in place, she said.
“We need large reserves at the end of the year, so we can pay our bills until our first half of taxes come in,” Pearson said, noting that county tax revenue comes in during April and October.
One option to remedy the funding shortfall, she said, is that the county could use its general fund to subsidize the library contracts, but that means Rapid City residents in Pennington County would be paying two library taxes.
“The shift there is that every taxpayer then pays for that library service for county residents, and the reason we have not done that in the past is because Rapid City residents, as well as the other three libraries, those city residents are already paying library taxes to their city,” Pearson said. “That’s why it is separated out.”
She has suggested to the commission that, if an opt-out tax hike is sought, the 5-member board should ready itself to put the potential tax hike up for a public vote next June, so the county doesn’t have to expend money on a special election.
Only rural residents would have a say on the potential ballot measure.
“If they don’t approve the opt-out, they don’t want the library services that they’re getting,” Pearson said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.”
A slash in funding could have major implications for the library in Wall, which is the most dependent on county funding among the four cities.
Schaefer said the roughly $16,000 her branch gets from the county makes up about 50 percent of her budget, and with no word from the commission on its next move, she doesn’t know how worried she should be.
If a recent town hall meeting on the future of the library is any indicator, a new tax won’t go over too well.
“We didn’t hear anybody that was excited about more taxes,” Schaefer said with a chuckle. “We need more information before we know how concerned we are.”
She said the city of Wall could make up some of the funding gap, depending on how large of a cut is dealt by the county, but “our city monies can’t subsidize the county users completely.”
Without the contracted funding, Schaefer said rural residents who use the Wall library would only be allowed to use its public computers.
Rural Pennington County voters approved the library services spending in 1998. Shortly after, they also approved a reoccurring opt-out of more than $188,000 annually, which along with additional county funding, had been covering the contract costs.
“We started the opt-out early on, I think one or two years after we started funding the libraries, and we were levying more money than we needed for the contracts because we knew this day would come when we were levying less than the contracts, so we’ve built up the reserve, and now we’re using it down,” Pearson said.
In 2015, the county had $472,000 in revenue for county library contracts in Wall, Rapid City, Keystone and Hill City. All told, the contract costs came in at $490,000, with the difference paid by cash reserves.
Using reserves will soon not be an option.
“I’ve been telling (the commission) for many years that they need to do something, and now they’re going to have to,” Pearson said.
All four of the county-funded libraries are anxiously awaiting how the commission will act.
Rapid City gets the lion’s share of the funding, some 90 percent, or about $437,000, which covers 14.5 percent of its operating budget under an ongoing county library service contract.
Rapid City Public Libraries Board of Trustees chair Rod Pettigrew said he is pessimistic about county funding and questioned whether the commission is diligently spending its fiscal resources.
Pettigrew said the board could be asking the Rapid City Council for a cash infusion if the county is unable to pay up.
Without county funding, rural residents would have to pay up to $90 in annual user fees to access the city’s libraries. “Really, the county residents are being abused on this thing,” he said.
Hill City gets about $27,000 annually from the county, which covers nearly a third of its library’s budget, according to director Cindy Girard.
”We are just, at this point, looking at our budget and haven’t made any final decision that will affect patrons,” Girard said. “We have some reserve that we can use at this time. That’s kind of where we are sitting.”
She said the city could also absorb some of the cost, though the branch could be forced to cut services or hours.
“Our programming is so small that I don’t know if a whole program would be lost, but hours would definitely be lost,” she said. “We are open 49 hours a week. We would have to definitively look at what our patronage is, and then, probably cut some hours. Something has to go.”
Conversely, in Keystone, City Finance officer Vanessa Row said she’s not worried about county funding. The county pays the city about $9,200 annually; about 16 percent of its library budget.
“It’s not going to affect us a whole lot if we lose it,” Row said. “You know, it’s just sad, but it’s the way it goes. Either way, the city, I’m sure they’ll do something during budget hearings.”
Life coach and psychic medium Bobby Marchesso will be at the downtown library (610 Quincy Street, upstairs) on Wednesday, July 1 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. As a medium, Marchesso helps guide people to their own happiness by accessing specific information from those who have already passed. He encourages people to move past their habitual negative behavior and offers support, tools and techniques for a new, lighter, more positive way of being.
Marchesso was a police officer with the Colorado Police Force for five years, holds a black belt in Aikido, hosted KSQY’s Morning Show with Bobby Marchesso and was a NBC news anchor and executive producer of NewsCenter 1 Today for seven years. Now living and working in Los Angeles, CA as a television host and actor, Marchesso is best known for his work in the TV Series documentary Conversations with a Serial Killer, and as an actor in the film Operation Terror, and television reality crime series Unusual Suspects.
For more information about guest speakers and events at the libraries, please visit our website at http://www.rapidcitylibrary.org.
Both locations of the Rapid City Public Libraries, the downtown library at 610 Quincy Street and the north library at 10 Van Buren Street, will be will be closed Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4 in observance of Independence Day. The libraries will resume regular hours on Sunday, July 5.
Find out about library resources, services and events by visiting our website at www.rapidcitylibrary.org.
The Orlando Chamber Soloists are returning to the libraries for their popular Teddy Bear Story Time series. At 9:30 a.m. on June 30, July 7 and 14 at the downtown library (610 Quincy St., upstairs) and on July 1, 8 and 15 at the north library in General Beadle Elementary (10 Van Buren St.), children can enjoy stories set to classical music, followed by the opportunity to try out a violin, viola, cello, bass or harp with guidance from the musicians. The first week’s story will be Little Red Riding Hood with all new illustrations, revised and revamped. The second week – back by popular demand – enjoy The Gingerbread Man Lost in the Black Hills. Week 3 will be The Three Little Pigs.
Orlando Chamber Soloists Family Concert will be on Wednesday, July 22, from 9:30 – 10:15 a.m. at the north library. The Orlando Chamber Soloists will perform “Music of the Big Screen.” Following the program, each child will receive the opportunity to play a child-sized violin, viola, cello, bass or harp with guidance from the musicians.
For more information about the Summer Reading program and special events for the entire family, please visit our website at http://www.rcgov.org/Library/summer-reading.html.
RAPID CITY, S.D. –
Sunday, dozens of people made a historic mile walk to commemorate Rapid City’s devastating 1972 flood.
The 4th annual Memory Walk began with a gathering at the Journey Museum with a loop through Memorial Park.
In Memorial Park, people took a moment of silence at the flood monument which has the names of the 238 victims of the tragic flood.
“It was the second deadliest flood in U.S. history,” said Martley.
Gary Loudner wasn’t in Rapid City at the time of the flood, but he still remembers listening to KOTA Radio as the flood waters were rising. He says he felt helpless as he listened to the broadcast.
“Unfortunately, 238 people passed away and there’s still like four or five people that they’ve never found. They don’t know where their remains are at,” said Loudner.
Rapid City Parks and the Rapid City Public Library have collaborated on the installation of QR Codes. Sam Solcum who works for the library said, ”those link to mobile sites with more information about the flood.”
Solcum says all you need to do is swipe a smart phone over signs along the path and viewers can get audio and video from people who were affected by the flood.
Martley says the city has made great efforts to improve the park systems since the flood.
“They brought us the Dahl Arts Center, the Journey Museum behind me, the Civic Center. All of these things are the result of redevelopment after the flood.”
Martley says keeping the memory alive of the tragedy will help educate others and may be able to prevent tragedies in the future.
“What we try to do is encourage the city to continue to add to the park system.”
Rapid City parks hopes to continue to develop new strategies that will improve the city’s park systems.
Summer is a great time to enjoy free superhero movies on the big screen! Plan to join us on Saturday, June 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. upstairs at the downtown library (610 Quincy Street) for the first of our Superhero Saturdays Film Series: Guardians of the Galaxy. Bring your caped crusader(s) and something comfortable to sit on – if desired. We will provide the popcorn and beverage.
In July and August we will be showing Iron Man 3, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
For more information about library programs, including fun summer events for the entire family, please visit our website at http://www.rapidcitylibrary.org.