Cape library to propose tax increase

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Cape Girardeau Public Library will ask voters to approve a 15-cent property tax increase in a special election Feb. 6.

The tax increase would fund a $9 million project that would double the size of the facility on Clark Avenue to 38,860 square feet, library officials said.

The proposed tax increase would nearly double the tax from its current 16.65 cents to 31.65 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The tax increase would be in effect for 20 years. At the end of that time, all but two cents of the increase would be rolled back, library director Betty Martin said.

The tax levy would stand at 18.65 cents after the rollback.

A simple majority is needed for passage of the tax increase.

A person with a home valued at $120,000 would pay $34 more a year in property tax to the library, or about 10 cents a day, Martin said. Such a homeowner currently is taxed about $37 a year to fund the library, she said.

Only Cape Girardeau city voters living in the library district will get to vote on the tax proposal, Martin said. The library tax is only levied on property within the library district. Cape Girardeau city's boundaries extend beyond the library district.

Martin said the current library, built in 1980, is too small and doesn't have enough computers, meeting rooms or space to provide the programs needed in a modern library.

Ron Carlton, library board president, said the library simply needs more room. "We just think the folks in Cape Girardeau need something better," he said.

The library has one meeting room, but it's used by 52 organizations. In 2005, the room was booked 469 times, Martin said.

The meeting room is available for free, but at least once a week, she said, the library has to turn away a not-for-profit organization because the room is constantly booked.

Under the proposed project, the meeting room would be doubled in size and have a movable partition so the room could hold two meetings at once.

The entire room would have space for about 200 people, Martin said.

The library addition would feature a raised roof bordered by windows that would shine sunlight onto the main corridor in the building.

As part of the project, the existing building would be renovated. A new entrance would be constructed.

The library will add a drive-through window where library users can pick up or return books without getting out of their cars, Martin said.

The project also will provide more space for children's programs, a computer lab, four small-group study rooms, an area for teenage readers, added seating areas, energy-efficient lighting and a new heating and cooling system.

If voters approve the tax increase, construction could start by fall 2007. Martin said the project could be completed in two years.

The addition would be built first. The library then would operate out of the addition while the existing building is renovated, Martin said.

Library officials said the tax increase would cover the entire cost of construction. But they said the library foundation plans to continue to seek private donations and grants to enhance the improvements.

That would allow the library to purchase better furniture and artwork, Martin said.

The library has $300,000 in reserve funds. The library foundation has $100,000 and the building fund drive to date has raised $45,500, Martin said.

335-6611, extension 123

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