Cape library plans to ask for boost in tax rate next year

Friday, June 9, 2006

The Cape Girardeau Public Library is seeking to garner good will for a proposed multimillion-dollar expansion project and a tax initiative by showing taxpayers what they get for their library buck.

"We want to demonstrate to the public how responsible we are with their tax money," director Betty Martin said. "So if we raised taxes in order to add on to the building they would know that we will be very responsible with that money."

Those within the Cape Girardeau library district currently pay $0.1665 per $100 of assessed valuation. The library expects to call a February special election asking to raise that figure but will not yet say how much the increase will be.

"We're still tweaking that. We need to know first how much we have in private donations before we come to the taxpayers and ask for the remainder," Martin said.

A study conducted by professor Bruce Domazlicky and the Center for Economic & Business Research asked library users such things as how many items they borrow, how many book purchases they were saved from making and how much they saved on magazine subscriptions.

The results showed the library's total benefit to the community in 2005 to be $2,340,000, more than three times the annual operating budget.

"It was a very fruitful survey," Domazlicky said, adding, "We're pretty confident the results are accurate."

The library's plan for raising money includes selling the naming rights to the building itself, Martin said. That means it would no longer be known as the Cape Girardeau Public Library. Instead, the name would be supplemented with the name of a corporation or private citizen.

"That honor would be available to a very generous donor," Martin said.

Private naming of a public library is not common in Missouri. Some, such as Keller Library in Dexter, are named after donors. An examination of the register of public libraries did not reveal any libraries named for corporations.

Martin said the board will ask the entity or person seeking naming rights to give 50 percent of construction costs. Other donors will have the right to sponsor the children's room, meeting rooms and the drive-up window.

No matter who the donor is, she said, the board will not allow the display of a corporate logo.

The library has contracted with Clark Enersen Partners of Omaha for a plan that would approximately double the size of the library to 38,000 square feet. The expansion would feature a drive-through checkout window, a larger children's and young adults area, and more computers.

"We want this to be a destination library, a community space for everyone from children to senior citizens with meeting areas for different organizations," Martin said. "We have a great concept, we're just hoping we can share that vision with the voters."

Martin believes based on similar additions in other library districts that this will cause usership of the library to more than double.

The library has 18,000 card holders and tallied 245,787 checkouts in 2005.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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