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Alburnett considering leaving Metro Library Network for Center Point library

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 12:21 AM CST
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ALBURNETT, Iowa (KCRG) - The City of Alburnett is exploring an option to switch library services, a move city leaders said would save the city thousands of dollars that could go toward other projects.

Alburnett is currently contracted with the Metro Library Network, which encompasses the Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Hiawatha public libraries. Under the contract, people who live in Alburnett can sign up for a Metro library card for free, check out books in these libraries, and access all the services they offer.

“I think Metro library is progressive, and we’re looking at kind of long-term growth for our town, and that’s something, in having the access to resources for both children, adults, seniors, it’s essential,” Alburnett resident Kristin Koppes said.

Koppes was one of a handful of Alburnett residents in attendance at a public forum Monday, where city leaders explained the situation with the Metro Library Network contract, which began in 2018, and their consideration of switching to an agreement with the Andersen Center Point Library when the current contract expires in June 2023.

During the forum Monday, people in attendance repeatedly said the reason they appreciated the city’s contract with the Metro Library Network was because it was convenient, as they work and shop in Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Hiawatha, making a drive to the library to check out or return a book an easy trip to make.

But they said it wouldn’t be as convenient if their library service were to move to Center Point, which is about the same distance from Alburnett as Marion and Hiawatha but not somewhere they would be going for other reasons.

“I think we’re comparing apples to oranges or even apple seeds to apples,” Koppes said. “There’s nothing wrong with the Center Point library, but just the comparison of resources that you get as a Metro cardholder — it can’t be beat.”

But the City of Alburnett said its agreement with the Metro Library Network is underutilized and costing a lot of money.

Only about 20% of the city’s roughly 700 people used a library card in the last 24 months, according to Mayor Bethany Sarazin, who said she is one of the residents who does use that service with her family.

At the same time, the city is paying $22,653 this year for the library contract, and city leaders anticipate that cost will increase to more than $26,000 if they renew when the contract is up in two years. The cost in a new contract with the Metro Library Network would use a per-capita rate, based on the 2020 census, so the exact figure has yet to be determined.

But if they switched to a contract with Center Point, they expect that cost would drop to around $8,000 in its first year, though the exact number would be based on the assessed property values, so as the valuation of properties in town increased, so would the contract.

“The expense today accounts for about 10% of our general fund budget, whereas the contract with Center Point would be a flat 3.7%, so we’re looking at a 7% savings within our general fund,” Sarazin said, noting that 10.25% is a higher allocation in the general fund than Alburnett’s current contract for law enforcement with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, which makes up about 8.64% of this fiscal year’s general fund.

That savings would amount to around $18,000, which Sarazin said Alburnett could use for other needs and projects it wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, such as buying a new firetruck and expanding its parks and recreation offerings.

The Alburnett city council expects to discuss the library contract at its meeting on March 8.

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