Court fines mean a payday for local libraries

Alex Doty • Jul 24, 2018 at 2:00 PM

This year’s penal fine distribution to Ottawa County’s public libraries totals just a few dollars short of $750,000.

The distribution is a portion of the fines paid to the courts from criminal violations and civil infractions. The Ottawa County treasurer says this year’s distribution has netted the county’s nine public libraries a total of $749,943.

“Prior-year payouts have ranged from $700,000 to over $950,000, depending on the number of citations written using the state penal code and the fines levied by the court,” County Treasurer Brad Slagh said.

The Michigan Constitution of 1963 requires all penalties collected for violations of the state penal laws be divided into court costs, statutory fees and penal fees. The penal fees support public libraries and a county law library.

The amount paid to each public library is determined by the percentage of the county population living in the area which each library has an agreement to serve. The Library of Michigan and state Department of Education dictates the eligible libraries and their associated populations.

According to the latest report from the county treasurer, Spring Lake District Library will receive about 7 percent of the penal fine allocation for 2018-19, or $52,496. In Grand Haven, Loutit District Library is expected to receive about 13 percent of the penal fine distribution for 2018-19, equating to $97,492.

For Loutit District Library, Ottawa County penal fines make up about 4 percent of the library’s overall $2.62 million budget for 2018-19. The bulk of the library’s funding comes from property taxes (82 percent), while the remainder comes from library fines and fees, donations, and state aid.

The recipient of the largest allocation of penal fine revenue in the county is the 31 percent going to Holland’s Herrick District Library.

Herrick Director Diane Kooiker noted that penal fine revenue is an extremely important component of library funding.

“Herrick District Library relies on penal fine revenue to provide physical and electronic resources, programming, and services for library users,” she said in a press release.

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