LWV Observer Corp notes on Library Levy meeting

Submitted by the League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, encourages informed participation in government. The Observer Corps attends and takes notes at government meetings to expand public understanding of public policy and decisions. The notes do not necessarily reflect the views of the League or its members

SJI Library Board of Trustees special meeting of March 14

The SJI Library Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Grange to inform the public about their plans to place a levy lid lift request on the ballot for the August 6th special election.

The library is a junior taxing district and is funded directly via its levy on property taxes. The county government does not fund the library. A levy sets a mill rate which is measured in cents per $1000 of property value. In the year a levy amount is set, the approved mill rate is applied to properties in the taxing district at their assessed value which sets the levy amount. In subsequent years that same amount is collected, and the mill rate falls as property values rise. The last levy was in 2011 and intended to run for six years (2012-2018) but the board of trustees implemented cost-cutting measures allowing the library to operate within its existing budget for much longer. The 2011 mill rate was 26.7 cents and the levy raised it to 39 cents for the 2012 calculation. Since then, the mill rate has dropped to 25.39 cents.

The levy measure is entirely to fund library operations including salaries, facility costs and collections. The levy funds 95% of operating costs with the other 5% a combination of donations, Friends of the Library fundraising, and grants. The budget of $2.3 million annually is no longer enough to maintain current levels of service. The levy asks to lift the mill rate from 25.39 to 41 cents. This would increase taxes by about $113 for a $750k property. This would allow the library to maintain current operations, keep up with inflation and potentially increase operating hours and services.

The SJI Library is among the top ten libraries in the state for per capita use of major services. Three out of five community members have a library card well above the national average and library programs serve community members of all ages.

Nothing in the levy lid lift would go towards funding a new library building. The Board of Trustees has set aside plans for a new library while focusing on maintaining operations. In the future, they will be looking at a different funding path going forward with increased philanthropy to fund a larger share of the new building. They have heard community interest in incorporating affordable housing into the new library project and will explore whether that is feasible.

There is a vacant position on the Board of Trustees. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Board.