Bollinger County voters being asked to double library tax

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Without more money, the library director said, patrons can expect reduced hours and fewer new books.

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Bollinger County residents last increased their library tax 60 years ago. If they don't approve an increase when they go to the polls April 4, library director Eva Dunn says, patrons can expect to see diminished operating hours, fewer new books and increasingly outdated equipment.

"We have stretched our finances as far as we can stretch them," Dunn said. "We can't stretch those pennies out any further."

Proposition 1 would increase the property taxes set aside for library use from 10 cents on every $100 assessed valuation to 20 cents on every $100 assessed valuation, Dunn said. That would double the library's $95,000 annual budget, she said.

A simple majority is needed for the measure to pass.

"We've been talking about this for a long time," said Bill Hopkins, who is on the county's library board. "We've been trying to use our money the best way we could. Eva and her staff squeeze more stuff out of a dollar than we could have hoped."

Salaries currently take up two-thirds of the budget, Dunn said, noting that's a common occurrence in any not-for-profit organization. But the rising cost of utilities, insurance and higher operating expenses increasingly eat into the budget, leaving less money for other things.

The costs of library materials -- books, magazines, etc. -- are also escalating, and the library's 26 public computers are more and more expensive to maintain, she said.

"Whenever all of those things rise in cost, the thing that gets hurt the most is the book budget," she said.

Last year the $10,000 book budget bought 500 new books, and 200 additional books were donated. Dunn said she would double the book budget if the measure passes.

"That's the first thing I would do," she said.

If the ballot issue passes, Dunn said the library could extend its hours and spend more on technology and operational costs.

The library also "desperately" needs to bolster its county program, Dunn said. The library places books at post offices in Patton, Sedgewickville and Zalma that people take on the honor system and return later. A bigger budget would allow the library to increase the number from the current 200 at each spot, she said.

The budget increase would also allow the library to increase its staff by two, which would help the library expand its hours. Currently, the library is not open on Mondays but would be if the ballot issue passes, Dunn said. The library is open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays but will probably have to close earlier if the ballot issue fails, she said.

Passing the measure means new computers could be purchased when the older ones start to give out, Dunn said.

"The gist of it is, that for almost 60 years the library has been a wonderful place to check out books and do all sorts of things," she said. "Without an increase, we aren't going to keep up with other libraries. We don't want them to go to Cape or Jackson libraries because we don't have something here. If the tax increase doesn't pass, instead of progress you're going to see some backsliding."

Several of the other elections in Bollinger County are uncontested races. The next mayor of Marble Hill has already been determined. Rick Jones, the former city administrator and longtime radio employee, will replace outgoing Mayor Ben Ellis, who opted not to run.

Fred Ritter, pastor at First Baptist Church in Marble Hill, is running unopposed for the Ward 2 board of aldermen seat, meaning he will replace Mike Morris, who isn't running again. The same goes for Jim Johnson, who will replace outgoing Ward 1 board member Tom Houchins.

In Glenallen, Beverly Cutsinger and Loris Lincoln are the only two candidates for town's board of trustees, though three are needed. In Zalma, there are five candidates -- and five openings -- for the village council: Richard Thornburgh, Linda Pape, Debra Thornburgh, Dolores Jackson and Mary Vangennip.

In Sedgewickville, three candidates are running for the three open seats on the village council: Merri K. Mungle, Vickie Brown and Kristi Hays.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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