Talk of a new city sales tax may re-emerge after city commissioners were told a proposed $30 million library would require at least a 4 mill property tax increase.
For some city commissioners, that news read too much like a Stephen King novel: frightening.
"That is way too much money, in my opinion," Mayor Mike Amyx said.
But the city report - the first one that details the potential tax implications of a new library - showed that a relatively small sales tax increase could pay for a new $30 million library over a 20-year period.
The report projected that a .15 percent sales tax - or the equivalent of 1.5 cents for every $10 spent - could generate the funding needed to pay the construction costs of a $30 million library over a 20-year period. But it would not cover the estimated
$1.55 million annual increase in operational costs for the larger library. That would require a 1.6 mill increase in property taxes, in addition to the new sales tax.
Under the property-tax-only option, the mill levy for the library would need to increase by 4.209 mills.
City commissioners haven't yet decided to build a new library. But the city's Library Board has recommended a public-private partnership proposed by members of the Fritzel family that would build a new 94,000-square-foot library - roughly double the size of the current building - on the site of the current post office at 645 Vt. It also would include significant amounts of private development on Vermont Street. Commissioners are scheduled to consider that recommendation at their Tuesday evening meeting.
Commissioners have repeatedly said that they wouldn't give final approval to the project without putting it to a citywide vote. But first they need to know the potential tax implications before they decide to support it at all.
City Commissioner Sue Hack said the new numbers don't erode her support for a library project, but it does make her want to consider a sales tax option instead of property taxes.
"I think putting all the burden on the property tax would be way too excessive," Hack said.
One mill is equal to $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. The city estimates that it would need to raise the property tax rate by 2009 to begin paying for a library. It also projects a 5 percent annual increase in the community's assessed valuation between 2007 and 2009.
For an owner of a $150,000 home, a 4.209 mill increase in 2009 would result in an $86 per year increase in property taxes. That increase factors in a 5 percent-per-year increase in the value of a home, as projected by the city.
City Manager David Corliss said that commissioners could choose to fund the entire library, both the construction costs and the annual operating costs, entirely with a sales tax. Information on how much that sales tax would need to be, however, has not been determined.
Amyx had earlier proposed a 1 cent sales tax that would have been used for streets, infrastructure improvements and property-tax reduction. Amyx said if city commissioners choose to move forward on building a library, he hopes they'll consider some sort of sales tax proposal that would provide funding for several city needs and reduce the reliance on property taxes.
"We have several big-ticket items that people are talking about," Amyx said. "We really need to talk about what our priorities are, and how we can do everything in a way that is affordable to everybody."
Amyx said that he wasn't optimistic that the city would reach any decisions on the library project at Tuesday's meeting. He said a study session with the city's Library Board may be needed. He also said it may be unrealistic to think that a citywide election could be held on the project as part of the April elections.
- 6News Video: City leaders spell out the potential costs of a new public library
- Architect final report
- Library Funding Options Memorandum
- Board OKs postal site for library (12-01-06)
- Scaled-back plans for public library unveiled to city (11-18-06)
- Mayor favors current library site (11-15-06)
- Public should weigh in on new library, mayor says (11-11-06)
- Long story short: Grand vision for public library scaled way back (10-22-06)