Grand Forks Library Wants To Raise Property Taxes

Grand Forks Smiley Water Tower

Greedy is as Greedy does. Readers from the last year or so will recall that I did quite a few stories on the Grand Forks library. Most of that was to support opposition to their plan to build themselves and unneeded palace that I dubbed the Library Mahal. But I also did some stories on the efforts of the library director to portray the library as underfunded and the library staff as underpaid. Both are untrue then and they are more untrue today.

Today’s Grand Forks Herald has the story about them up to the same old tricks.

The Grand Forks Public Library introduced a plan Tuesday to bring its employee wages up to comparable market standard over the next four years.

The plan, submitted at a city Budget Work Session, would spend about $335,000 over the course of the plan, funded using library cash reserves and a one-mill tax increase….

The library has received the same mill allotment for the last 20 years, according to Library Director Wendy Wendt, who presented the proposed 2013 budget to the council.

Wendy Wendt is deceiving the public by saying the “mill rate” has been the same for 20 years. That makes it sound like the library hasn’t gotten any funding increase for 20 years. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2002 the funding for the library was $1,156,928. According to page 152 of the city’s budget on their website the funding for the library is $2,526,578 dollars. Adjusted for inflation the 2002 budget is worth only $1,475,762. That means the library has more than a million dollars MORE in inflation adjusted funding this year than in 2002. In other words they have 72% more funding after inflation.

We have been FAR more than generous in our funding but the library director wants us to believe that the library has been neglected. One wonders where the money has gone. They haven’t been spending this additional million dollars a year on updating the building.

The library director is claiming that somehow the library staff is underpaid. Well according to city’s budget their spending on personnel went up $364,478 from 2010. That’s a whopping 33% increase in salaries and benefits over only two years.

Now the library director is saying that they’re underpaid and demands that we give ANOTHER $335,000 in raises.

And the librarians are very well paid. Here’s a post with the 2010 salary data. You can see that most of the money goes to the full time staff and they make very good money. Remember though, these are the 2010 salaries. Since then they’ve gotten 33% more funding for salaries and benefits.

The library director is being very misleading in her claims that the library is underfunded and the library staff is underpaid. But that’s not a surprise. Last year the library director gave outdated data to the Grand Forks City Council in order to win herself another raise. The library had gotten a raise in 2010. In 2011 the library director gave the pre-raise 2010 wage data to the City Council to justify another raise. In a just world the library director would have been fired. She wasn’t and she’s back trying to mislead us to get more money for herself.

I'm a Grand Forks native and alumni of North Dakota. I want to be Rob Port when I grow up.

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  • ND in MD

    Even if the mill rate has been the same for twenty years, the appraised value of the real estate has increased and, therefore, the tax collected has increased.

    • Rob


  • Kevin Flanagan

    Why does The Whistler want people with library science degrees to starve?

    • The Whistler

      Right without six figure salaries for the assistant to the assistant they all will starve.

      • Kevin Flanagan

        That’s the claim of everyone on the government payroll; just ask them.

      • Goon

        Yeah Whistler why do you hate Librarians? :)

  • wesley fargo

    It must be a very stressful job… shssssss….

  • Goon

    What part of we don’t want our taxes to go up to pay the Librarians more money do they not understand?

  • VocalYokel

    You’re just another disgruntled Taxpayer trying to cloud the issue with the facts.

  • jimmypop

    who did the study looking at pay rates? is there a source to the report?

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    Many taxpayers simply don’t understand how mills work, so to say that the library has been at the same mill-level for 20 years is clever: it’s totally truthful, but many taxpayers interpret that to mean library income hasn’t changed.

    I got my eyes opened to ignorance on taxes last year at a school meeting over property tax. There was anger, raised voices, and so on. The truth was most taxpayers were going to see a property tax decrease, but all they heard was that the school was going to collect more tax dollars. (We had some building in the area: the builders would be paying a lot more in taxes.)

  • Mike Peterson

    From the article:

    Council member Terry Bjerke made the point that mills are more
    valuable than they were 20 years ago and disagreed with raising taxes.
    He said that the library employees don’t work for the city and said the
    Library Board may have to prioritize budget items if it feels staff
    salaries are a concern.
    “We’re out of it until they want more money, then we’re in,” Bjerke said of council involvement in the library.

    member Dana Sande questioned how the library was progressing with
    infrastructure issues like the elevator, bathroom and lights.

    “It wasn’t long ago we were told the library was going to fall over,” Sande said.

    said a report was being put together and that those problems would be a
    more long-term challenge that couldn’t be handled by the 2013 budget.
    I work for a disability advocacy organization and I can tell you that many of the accessibility concerns the library had, such as switching doors around in the bathroom, is incredibly low-cost.

    There is no excuse for the library to a) not report on progress after a year’s time b) to use lack of money as an excuse, especially after, as whistler said, their funding has gone up 72% since 2002.

    Bjerke is right, they need to prioritize their spending like any other business.

  • RCND

    But its for the children…. or, something

  • bigdaddybernie

    Libraries ! . . . . . Wikipedia gives us all the MIS-INFORMATION we need !