MENOMINEE —  The Menominee County Finance Committee is proposing a $25,000 cut to the Menominee County Library budget for 2019/2020.

At the Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, it was reported the library costs Menominee County more money than it makes in a given year. While the library’s annual operation costs are about $300,000 a year, the Menominee County Library only makes about $60,000. The remaining $275,000 needed to operate the library comes from the Menominee County general fund balance.

County Administrator Jason Carviou said he has cut some library’s spending to keep its operation costs neutral to its budget last year. One area he has cut is the library’s budget for new books, which was cut by $5,000.

Carviou said because libraries are a free service to residents that does not make revenue, the county will always need to cover operation costs.

“They run their own programs there, is there a possibility that we could reduce our appropriations to the library fund, maybe by $25,000 or so, and find out how they want to adjust it?” Commissioner Jan Hafeman asked.

Commissioner Larry Schei said he does not believe the library is overspending in any area and the only way it would accommodate a budget cut would be to lay off some of its staff.

Carviou confirmed that staff would most likely be cut if the library’s funding were cut. However, he said he is not sure how it would effect its ability to operate.

Schei told the committee to discuss library’s budget with Director Amanda Winnicki. He said she would be able to answer their questions and explain where the money goes.

Commissioner Steve Gromala said he is not in favor of cutting the library’s funding because it offers a service to Northern county residents who would otherwise go without.

City of Menominee residents are able to use the Spies Public Library but that service is not available for other county residents, he pointed out.

“I believe we need to serve all our residents and think about how we can do that,” he said. Gromala suggested discussing the possibility of combining the services of Spies and the Menominee County Library with the City of Menominee in the future.

Carviou said he has approached the City of Menominee about creating a library district which would benefit both the county and city, as well as residents of both. However, this discussion is in the very early stages and nothing official has come from it.

Commissioner David Prestin said he does not believe the library is a source of information that is often utilized anymore.

“I have talked to people and asked ‘when was the last time you were at the library?’ I asked my daughter and her friends. They go the library to kill time,” he said. “I can’t find anyone who goes to the library to check out books. I haven’t checked out a book in over 25 years. The whole process of information gathering has changed.”

Prestin said any information a person wants to know is now available on their cell phone or can be Googled. However, Schei said that not everyone in the county has cellphones or access to internet, especially elderly and very young people.

Gromala said until broadband internet becomes available for all Menominee County residents, people will need the library for that service alone.

He also said he visits the Menominee County Library every time he’s in Stephenson and he has never seen less than five people in the library at a time.

Carviou said he would be able to discuss the budget with Winnicki and find out exactly what kind of services the Menominee County Library could continue to offer if its revenue was cut.

The finance committee voted 2-2 to recommend that the Menominee County Board of Commissioners cut funding the Menominee County Library by $25,000. Gromala and Schei voted against this recommendation while Prestin and Hafeman voted in its favor.

The recommendation, along with additional information gathered by Carviou about the library’s operation costs and budget, is expected to be presented to the Menominee County Board of Commissioners at its meeting next Tuesday.