LA CROSSE, WIS — Facing budget shortfalls due to COVID-19, the City of La Crosse has had to make very tough decisions, including slashing the Public Library’s budget by more than half a million dollars, at least a 10% reduction of their annual budget.
La Crosse police are also seeing slashes of $100,000, a whopping 0.8% cut to their $11 million budget. Some activists in the “Defund The Police” movement have cried foul, saying this is “the exact type of social and educational funding disparity we are rallying against”, but La Crosse PD Chief Shawn Kudron says there’s just no other way.
“What’s happening to the library is very unfortunate,” Chief Kudron said from behind a $300 Protech Tactical Ballistic Face Shield. “But, I mean where else are we going to find the money the city needs? Don’t tell me you want to take it from public safety, dooooo youuuuu?”
The La Crosse Public Library meanwhile is scrambling to make changes aligning with their new budget. 23 employees will be furloughed, 15 of those furloughs are permanent. Library Director Shanneon Grant says they are going to have to come up with new ways to find funds quickly.
“I don’t know… maybe we should just say ‘fuck it’ and start selling swamp waters,” Grant said, sardonically. “Maybe our workers could go out and tear gas the homeless, I bet we’d get $300 million in aid from all parties then…”
Mayor Tim Kabat says he’s heard the concerns of library advocates, but has drawn the conclusion that the police are just going to need that money more.
“We’re now looking at the potential for an influx of black market books from Colombian library cartels,” the mayor said. “Police are definitely going to need the resources to deal with that.”
Community support for the library is strong, but not universal. One resident tells The La Crosse Times that he doesn’t see the library’s services as necessary.
“Libarny dum anyways,” writes south side resident Gerrald Hogarth. “We fine not have!”
La Crosse Times Staff contributed to this article.