Archive for Thursday, July 1, 2010

The bottom line

It probably makes sense to let voters decide whether to move forward on expansion plans for the Lawrence Public Library.

July 1, 2010

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Although many local taxpayers still have reservations, it’s appearing more likely that voters will have an opportunity to approve or reject a plan to raise local property taxes to fund an expansion for the Lawrence Public Library.

Topping the list of concerns is simply the addition of any new tax burden for local residents. Voters recently approved a local sales tax increase for bus service and street maintenance, and state lawmakers added another 1 percent sales tax this year to balance the state budget. Property valuations are stagnant or declining, which means city and county officials can’t depend on growing valuations to fund growing budgets. It’s a poor time to ask voters to add 1.5 mills to their taxes for 20 years to pay for the library expansion and another half-mill for ongoing operating costs.

That being said, people involved in planning the library expansion have done a good job of addressing community needs. The 20,000-square-foot project would expand the library to 66,500 square feet. The additional space would be used to double the size of the children’s area and provide separate space for young adults — two groups that certainly should be encouraged to visit the library.

The plan would provide room for 100 additional public access computers. Although many of us take home computers for granted, we probably would be surprised at the number of Lawrence residents who don’t have Internet access at home. Providing that access is important.

Meeting space at the library also would double. The library is about the only public space in Lawrence that provides free meeting space. “Free” is the key word. If taxpayers approve this expansion, continuing to provide meeting space at no charge to the public should be part of the deal.

Paying $18 million for 20,000 square feet may not seem like a particularly good investment, but about $4.3 million of that would be used to convert the remaining parking lot space south of the library into a three-level parking garage that would provide double the parking now available in that lot. It is a high-demand parking location, especially in the summer. The new lot would provide much-needed parking for the library, pool and senior center.

It’s reasonable to wonder if the city would be better off using the $18 million to simply build a new library in another location. However, before citizens are asked to vote on this possible expansion of the library at its 707 Vt. location, residents should be informed of other possible downtown area locations and the cost of a similar or larger sized facility compared with the Vermont Street site. Where do taxpayers and library users get the best bang for their dollars?

There seems to be little support, however, for moving the library out of downtown and the cost of purchasing other downtown property would eat up much of that $18 million budget.

The bottom line for this project is closely tied to the city’s financial bottom line. It’s a project that would benefit the community, but it’s not a good time to be adding to the local tax burden.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

How about voting on the:

  1. USD 497 mil levy increase as presented by the chief reckless spender Scott Morgan (maybe the sports improvement project broke the bank and/or needs more tax dollars). We best keep a close eye on this bunch.

  2. $25 million field house the real estate industry executives and chamber keep pushing on the taxpayers. Seems like neither has realized the "boom town economy" is dead and was never sustainable. Reckless business people. But they know rec centers and field houses make their poorly built new homes worth more money at taxpayer expense. Taxpayers getting duped again.

3.all new housing projects = tax increases A. National surveys (through American Farmland Trust) show that county costs in services required by farmland and open space generally is only 35 to 60¢ for every $1.00 in revenues they generate, producing a net gain for counties. In contrast, residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated.

B. If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. After all Lawrence has thousands of new people which means Lawrence should be rolling in the dough and taxpayers should be receiving tax rebate checks in the mail.

C. What went wrong and where is my rebate check? With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

D. It appears that "expanding the tax base" rhetoric is false. It's more like expanding OUR tax bills. Duped again.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

WE did not need the USD 497 $20 million sports project

WE do not need the $25 million field house

WE have no idea how much (another $20-$30 million) are being spent on the Clinton Lake Regional Park which are are more sports facilities.

WE do not need the $88 million water treatment plant

WE did not need to buy out the private investor out west

Yet WE will not or did NOT get to vote on the above.

WE do need public bus service,street repairs and library improvements yet WE are forced to vote on these projects. These are the low tax dollar projects.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 10 months ago

bub, your caps lock is sticking every once in a while. You better have somebody take a look at that.

SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 10 months ago

Constantly having to fight off tax increase proposals does not represent "an opportunity." It represents a threat. The best we can hope for is to have already-high tax levels remain the same. In this case, the downside is the very real possibility of yet another unneeded property tax hike.

Voters, when you make your decision on this issue in November, please remember the difference between wants and needs. A new library does not even come close to a real need.

Dan Thalmann 4 years, 10 months ago

i grew up riding my bike to my town's library to read magazines, check out fiction, look at cool books of Air Force jets, etc. I spent many hours there and absolutely cherish those days. My kids now spend there time on the internet, doing research on whatever they want, reading magazine-style coverage of topics in which they're interested... the only thing they don't get is youth fiction. We either buy books at book stores or through those little Scholastic book sale flyers at school. I wonder if the days are numbered for libraries? Expanding a library to provide public access to computers is a nice concept, but with the rate in which the general population is adopting technology in the home, I kind of see this expansion concept as a waste of taxpayer dollars. In a few years, it'll basically be a duplication of services that people already have in the home. And how long until most books are digital anyway, making traditional libraries obsolete? So basically, people are voting on a parking garage.

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