Someone Will Be Asked To Pay For Libraries If Governments Don’t

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. More and more often, that same logic can be applied to libraries.

Taxpayers in Sherman, Bemus Point and Fluvanna will have propositions on their school budget ballot to create library taxes as has already been done by the Anderson-Lee Library, Hazeltine Library in Busti, Lakewood Memorial Library and the James Prendergast Library in Jamestown.

In each of those cases, library officials have made a convincing case that they needed regular sources of funding that didn’t fall to the whim of local elected officials or the fickle nature of fundraising. Again, we understand the predicament.

But the state law that allows libraries to be taxed as basically an extension of schools can be problemmatic. It doesn’t allow the library funding to ever go down if additional sources of money are found. Instead, the tax funding stays the same each year.

One justification for the library taxes is that it’s only a small amount of money each year for taxpayers to pay. But that justification overlooks one problem — a user fee could accomplish the same thing. Consider the case of the Minerva Library in Sherman, for example, where the library is seeking an $85,000 levy on taxpayers that would equal about $34.50 a year on a home assessed at $75,,000 or $69 a year on a home assessed at $150,000. A user fee on the 1,900 patrons who visited the Sherman library last year would equal $44.73 a year for each user. Of course, user fees could decrease the number of people who go to a library, one reason why libraries are loathe to suggest the idea in favor of a broader districtwide tax.

As more and more libraries find themselves in a position where municipal funding and endowment funding isn’t enough to pay the bills, there will be more votes to add library taxing districts. There will be no such thing as a free library. Someone will pay one way or the other.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today