The ayes have it for the library tax
June 3, 2020
“I’m so happy; I’m so happy,” were the first words Barry-Lawrence Regional Library Director, Gina Milburn, came out with in reaction to the news that the 7-cent library tax levy increase had passed in Tuesday’s municipal election.
“I was glued to the news watching election results as they came in,” she said. “I had this secret fear that, at the last minute, the levy might fail, so I was bracing myself for the worst. To wake up Wednesday morning and realize it really did pass is a huge relief. Now, we can move forward with next year’s budget without worrying about what plans we’ll have to scrap and what repairs will have to wait. I am so grateful to the library patrons who are responsible for getting out and voting in favor of the levy. They are the real heroes for understanding the importance of local libraries, and ensuring we have the funds to keep them operational.”
The 7-cent tax levy increase will give libraries additional operating funds to offset shortages caused by the Hancock Amendment, which mandated that libraries had to roll back their property tax levy to numbers last approved by voters, which happened in 1973. At that time, the cap on the levy was 15-cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, which represented a loss from their then-current 2008 levy of 17-cents. Because the library gets 85 percent of their funding from property taxes, the seemingly small 2-cent decrease might not seem like much. To the library, however, it represented a loss of about $250,000 of operating revenue between the two counties.
With the 7-cent increase, the new cap for the library’s property tax levy will be 22-cents, an amount which will be collected during the first year, then be subject to the state’s decision in years ahead, based on the economy.
Milburn would like to assure voters that the passage of the increased tax levy doesn’t mean that the library will begin spending money willy-nilly.
“We’ll move forward with plans already in place,” Milburn indicated, “in particular, the expansion of our databases.”
According to Milburn, streaming data programs, including Hoopla and Missouri Libraries to Go, are extremely popular with readers, especially in audio and e-book formats.
“The programs allow readers to check out digital materials to read on their own devices,” she said. “There’s a charge to the library for us to use the databases, but no charge to our patrons.”
Traditional print books, Milburn says, are still the library’s most popular check-out items, though.
“Print books cost much less for libraries to purchase, too,” she said.
This summer, the Barry-Lawrence Regional Libraries have been awarded a Reading Challenge Software Grant of $544 to be used, initially, for the children’s summer reading program – scheduled to begin June 8. The grant is funded by the Library Service and Technology Act through the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.