Politics are an emotional business. Sometimes it's difficult to have discernment- especially when an issue on the ballot is near and dear to your heart.
One of the issues on the upcoming ballot for Campbell County residents will be whether or not to build a 4th public library in the southern end of the county.
When an issue like this comes up for the public to decipher whether or not it's in our public's best interest to go forth, I try to keep emotion out of it and look at facts. I don't go as far as listing a pro/con sheet on each issue, but in this case, I will. And yes, I know this stance will tick off fellow Mamas on a Budget.
Please take mercy on me.
The raw numbers:
- The Library Board is proposing to increase taxes on real property 27% or .94 cents of every $100 or real estate property (up from .74 cents).
- That 27% represents an additional $1,049,156 in additional real estate property tax dollars being taken from property owners in Campbell County.
- According to the 2010 and 2011 Kentucky Annual Report of Public Libraries, library visitors were down 5% and 6.59% in the northern most public libraries in Campbell County.
- This proposed increase in real property tax is not the only source of revenue for the libraries. The library also received other tax revenues, including tax on their cars, trucks, motorcycles, motor homes and boats.
Ancillary Negatives for the Proposed Tax
- The Library Board is comprised of non-elected officials and have received compounded pay increases of 14.4% over the last four years.
- The proposed site of the new library would be close to the Campbell County/Pendleton County border. If anything, I could see this new library being a bigger advantage to Pendleton County residents than Campbell County citizens. It makes zero sense for someone in the Northern part of the county to vote for this.
- This is not a one-time tax. It will be ongoing. The tax monies taken in during the first year would not even pay for a fifth of what it would cost to build the library. That is just to build it. Meaning that having to service the debt each year is ANOTHER cost to the tax payer that is unjustified. It will take almost 5 years to pay the reported $5,000,000 price tag to pay off just the principal. Add costs to maintain it and staff it and it becomes more preposterous.
Personal Thoughts of the Proposed Tax
I started my point/counter point argument with facts and numbers. Those who have made the case to pass the tax increase for the libraries have started with anecdotal evidence and personal stories about how the library is a "value" to them and their communities. And they are. Just not at the price tag this tax would go to paying for. Look, no one is being deprived of using libraries and that's where Ibelieve the logic jumps are occurring in this debate.
Do I consider the 27% increase (or .94/$100) exorbitant? No. Is the proposed building of this mammoth library imprudent and extravagant? Absolutely.
When you strip it down, what are we really voting for? Those in favor of the of the tax are sparing residents who live in the Southern part of Campbell County a 10-15 minute round trip to visit another library in the county. Take out the extreme talking heads on both sides. It's not just a one time $20 tax per resident. It's also not an exorbitant 27% tax hike. But common sense tells you that this site is not needed.
The fact of the matter is that in this case the bill to John Q. Taxpayer is too high for the benefit received - especially to all those in Campbell County that would never have a need to venture to the southern end of the county. There is no magic account where funds are limitless. At some point, we have to draw the line- even if the perceived tax increase does not seem to be overwhelming.
The library tax to build a new location would be the least utilized library in the county based on the populations of cities surrounding it, yet it would be bigger than the Fort Thomas and Cold Spring location combined.
It's simply not needed and should be scaled way back. Instead of just chastising the issue, here's a sensible alternative:
Buy an already built facility for a MUCH smaller price tag to make it a small satellite office which has timely deliveries of requested materials.
Libraries are not just books. I understand that. But public subsidies should not go towards the building of a behemoth new facility when perfectly adequate options are a 10 minute drive down US-27.