Monday, May 18, 2015

Calculating State Aid to Systems: Back to the Future

The allocation of state aid to public library systems today was decided as long as 30 years ago. From 1972 to 1998, Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 43 required that the aid payments be calculated by multiplying each of system population, territory, and operating expenses by a constant and adding the three results. The last revisions to the multipliers were these:

Since 1997 Act 150, any recalculation of state aid due to territory alteration is required to use the data for determining 1999 state aid [Wis. Admin. Code s. PI 6.07]. Yes, in 2015 the data for determining state aid attributed to any municipality, county, or system includes:

A workbook of background data is online at

After nearly two decades, however, library pop­u­la­tions and funding have shifted. As a percentage of total Wisconsin population, Dane County population was 1% greater in January 2014 than January 1998. Milwaukee County population decreased by 1.7% during the same period. Comparing local and county revenue from 1997 to 2013 as a percentage of statewide totals, library revenue increased 2.4% in Dane County and 1.3% in Waukesha County but decreased 6.3% in Milwaukee County.

So. State aid calculations are convoluted, up to 30 years old, and use data from at least 17 years ago. As it happens, Wis. Stat. s. 43.24 (1) (c) provides a more straightforward calculation method when state aid to systems equals or exceeds "11.25% of the total operating expenditures for public library services from local and county sources in the calendar year ending in that fiscal year" (2014 state aid was about 6.9%). Instead of library and system operating expenditures, this "11.25%" method uses estimated Wisconsin shared revenue and expenditure restraint payments to municipalities and counties. At the time of the legislation—around 1996—that 11.25% threshold was the point where no system would see a net reduction in their state aid. That no longer holds true. We are also asked what the outcome of the "newer" formula would be. The table below lists payments under the allocation of 2015 state aid and the alternate method of s. 43.24 (1) (c).

Amount per
43.24 (1) (a)
Amount per
43.24 (1) (c)
Arrowhead Library System$438,605$409,909-6.5%
Eastern Shores Library System$578,545$513,113-11.3%
Indianhead Federated Library System$1,125,114$1,244,18710.6%
Kenosha County Library System$398,675$403,7551.3%
Lakeshores Library System$637,716$728,68214.3%
Manitowoc-Calumet Library System$312,113$306,143-1.9%
Mid-Wisconsin Federated Library System$754,421$802,8786.4%
Milwaukee County Federated Library System$2,677,006$2,519,543-5.9%
Nicolet Federated Library System$1,069,413$1,161,9618.7%
Northern Waters Library Service$529,104$523,925-1.0%
Outagamie Waupaca Library System$607,514$614,3291.1%
South Central Library System$2,057,367$2,035,461-1.1%
Southwest Wisconsin Library System$363,341$390,6567.5%
Waukesha County Federated Library System$958,636$897,712-6.4%
Winding Rivers Library System$767,701$792,1963.2%
Winnefox Library System$885,885$841,779-5.0%
Wisconsin Valley Library Service$851,944$826,851-2.9%

For the calculations in s. 43.24 (1) (c) to allocate payments at least equal to the current amounts, total state aid to library systems would need to be about $16.9 million. For another $850,000—about $17.8 million total—payments would be at least 5% more than the current amounts.

So far this year, the library community is discussing system efficiency, alteration of territory, and library and system standards. Although changing the method of allocating state aid to systems would require a legislative change, a funding formula that uses more current information and demographics is worth considering.

Written by Jamie McCanless, Public Library Development