Simplified budget "equation"
At its simplest level, to calculate the amount to request from your municipality (C):
- Estimate your expenditures for the coming year. (A)
- Estimate revenues you will receive from other sources. (B)
- A - B = C
However,this can be an oversimplification. If you don't get all that you estimate from other sources, you will still need enough to operate. Providing this "cushion" is the responsibility of the municipality which established the library.
Similarly, if you get more than you expect, or a healthy increase, from another source (for example, your county), that doesn't relieve the municipality of their responsibility—rather, it should be an opportunity for the library to pursue new initiatives, or to make up for past budget shortfalls.
- Ask your system for salary data for other libraries
- Public Library Data Service (PLDS) Report (national)
- How much are similar positions in your municipality paid?
- State and federal minimum wage
- Wisconsin Retirement Fund
- Insurance Carriers
- Union contract, if your employees are unionized
- Books: Bowker Annual (in Madison Public Library Reference Collection—new edition typically available in July)
- Periodicals: Library Journal (every April)
- Check with your vendors
- Review prices in stores and online
- Electronic resources: You receive information about your costs for databases in the fall of each year
- Check with your vendors
- LINKcat [password required] (see most recent Budget Shares document)
- Library Online
- Continuing education, conferences
County payments. Wisconsin Statutes 43.12 requires counties (that don't maintain a consolidated county library) to reimburse libraries in the county, and adjacent counties, for serving residents that aren't residents of a municipality that maintains a public library.
Formula (all figures come from your most recent annual report):
- Your total operating expenditures. (A)
- Any federal funds spent on operating expenditures. (B)
- Your total circulation. (C)
- Your circulation to county residents who live in municipalities that don't maintain a public library. (D)
- ((A-B) / C) x D x 70% = Minimum amount county owes your library
Funds carried forward. It is the opinion of DLTCL that the exclusive control of the library board includes the authority to carry forward unexpended funds from one year to the next.
Exemption from county tax. The municipality must appropriate at least enough to exempt from the library portion of the county tax, or its residents will be "double taxed" (by both the municipality and the county) for library services. Wis. Stat. 43.64
Board's exclusive control . The library board, not the municipality, has exclusive control of the money appropriated for the library fund. Wis. Stat. 43.58(1)
(A third statute, commonly called "Maintenance of Effort," was eliminated in the 2011-2013 Wisconsin State Budget. Your municipality is no longer required to appropriate for your operating budget at least the average of their operating appropriation for the previous 3 years.)
- Commonly used, and may be the format your municipality requires.
- Contains categories ("lines") of expenditures, for example:
- Each may be broken down further
- Sample (in Word)
- Organized around programmatic areas, for example:
- Youth services
- Technical Services
- Public Programs
- May be sub-arranged in line item style
- Divide salaries, supplies, equipment, contracts, etc. up, and put under each program area.
- Allows you to see how much is spent on each area.
- Not easy to do, but powerful
- If your municipality requires a line-item budget, you can back it up with program budget. When a line in your line item budget is challenged (for example, telecommunication) you can show your program budget and ask "from which program do you suggest telecommunication be removed?"
- Sample (in Excel)
Tips to help you get the local funds you request
Percentages . Municipal officials will often talk about percentages. It is wise to try to deflect this, by explaining that 2% of the library's budget, for example, is very different from 2% of the budget for streets.
Levy limits . For 2012 budgets, municipalities are under a tax levy limit of 0%, or the percentage of net new construction, whichever is greater, OR they may exceed these limits if approved by referendum. (Net New Construction figures typically become available in August.) During these years, local governments can also calculate their limit based on the prior year’s allowable, as opposed to actual, tax levy. You may find the Department of Revenue's FAQ on Levy Limits and the League of Wisconsin Muncipalities' Explanation and Strategies page helpful.
- Statistics. Numbers show that your library is being used, and can point out funding inequities. Your most recent annual report is a good source for statistics, but you can also keep additional statistics. For your budget proposal, choose statistics that illustrate the need you describe. For example (in Word) , show that circulation has dramatically increased, while local funding has remained flat.
- "Break it Down." It can be hard for any of us to grasp what is meant by huge dollar amounts. A $20,000 increase in the municipal appropriation for a small municipal library may sound like a lot to some people. But by dividing the increase by the municipal population, you can say something like, "The increase translates to less than $14 per capita, or less than 3¢ per day. What else can you buy for 3 cents? Isn't it worth it a small price to pay for an investment in the future for our children?"
- Testimonials / Anecdotes. While numbers and statistics are impressive, it may be easier for your audience to relate to real life stories from satisfied customers. An example might be something like “Last month my husband was diagnosed with a rare health condition. Library staff members helped me find useful information, and locate a specialist 200 miles away. I don’t know what we would have done without the library.” Keep a file of these so you can pull them out at budget time.
Make sure you know the audience and that they know you. Budget time should not be the only time they hear about how wonderful the public library is.
Take members of your library board and Friends group with you. Even better, let the library board president make the presentation.
Don't use jargon. Explain any acronyms.
- Be pleasant—Don't let the encounter become adversarial.
Use some (not too much!) humor.
- Did you get what you asked for?
- Why or why not?
- What will you do differently next time?
- If you did not get all that you asked for, how will you reallocate your budget lines?
- No matter what, it is always important to say "Thank You!" You will have to go back to these same folks and ask for money again.
Typical Budget calendar (adapted from "Developing the Library Budget", DPI. Your actual calendar may vary)
|Late Summer / Early Fall||
- Money Matters! Developing the Public Library Budget (CE webinar, May 2014)
- Developing the Library Budget (from DPI)
- Municipal Budgeting Toolkit (from League of Wisconsin Municipalities)
- The Small But Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library (from ALA)
- Wisconsin Public Library Statistics (from DPI)