Because of higher equalized values in Lincoln County's northern townships, we find a significant portion of our taxes levied for libraries drifting south to T.B. Scott Library in Merrill, a facility few residents in the north use. Take Bradley for example: Out of the $121,157 the residents are taxed for libraries, $40,900 helps fund the facility in Tomahawk and $80,200 goes to T.B. Scott.
Southern township residents pay only 40 cents per dollar of equalized value for library taxes and are closer to the larger library with more resources, while the Tomahawk library struggles to keep its doors open to accommodate the needs of local residents. And yet, these local northern townships write out checks for 60 cents on the dollar of equalized value every year.
What appears to be addressing a common matter of fairness, seven northern townships are seeking permission from the Lincoln County Board today to form a northern joint library. The result would mean funds generated by taxpayers in Bradley, Harrison, King, Skanawan, Somo, Tomahawk and Wilson townships would soley support the Tomahawk Public Library.
Morally, we find it difficult to argue against this proposal. "It comes down to fair taxation," observes County Board vice-chair Jim Alber of Tomahawk. "Basically, it's an unanswerable and unfair distribution of taxes," agrees board chair Gene Simon of Merrill.
The townships argue the people of Tomahawk are not utilizing the Merrill library, and it isn't reasonable that so many tax dollars are floated their way.
Circulation figures from recent years confirm the townships' allegation, showing that while 180 books were checked out by Bradley residents from the T.B. Scott Library within a given year, a whopping 28,000 were on loan from the Tomahawk Public Library. Circulation for the town of King reflected the same with a mere 750 materials taken from Merrill and more than 7,000 items checked out at Tomahawk.
The change wouldn't necessarily be easy. Removing the northern township's contribution means the southern townships will have to make up the difference - to the tune of $92,000 - to fully fund the Merrill library.
The northern townships have met the required local and state criteria to create a separate library system. The last hoop they need to jump through is obtaining the "okay" from the County Board.
It's time to all get on the same page, admit to the inequity and close this chapter. The authors behind the motion seek fairness, the logic behind the proposal has checked out and the separation is far overdue. Lincoln County supervisors were warned last month that this issue would come before them this evening and asked to reflect upon the notion. We hope that all the Lincoln County supervisors consider what is right for all the residents of Lincoln County.