Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Library SOS

Louisville’s new Library Tax

My Position: In Favor

In November, the citizens of Louisville will be asked in the voting booth if they are in favor of a two tenths of one percent tax increase on income for the ailing Louisville Free Public Library system. My sincere hope is that they vote “YES”. The Louisville library system is in dire needs of repairs, computers, and books. The city budget cannot fully fund all these needs as well as other city priorities.

To meet the need of the library system in the 21st century, Louisville wants to create a library control district that would be an independent group to oversee the growth of the system. Jefferson County is one of only a handful of counties in Kentucky that does not currently have a system like this.

With the estimated 40 million dollar a year levy, the city will build three new “regional” libraries, it will renovate several small branches, and will completely overhaul and modernize the aging downtown main branch. To put this 40 million dollar into perspective: the average family earning 40,000 dollars a year will pay less 7 dollars a month. That wouldn’t even buy two Big Mac meals from McDonald’s.

The city currently spends about 16 million dollars on the library system – and that keeps everything pretty bare boned. If this levy passes, the city will then have 16 million dollars freed in the budget to pay for other, very pressing needs. Anyone who keeps up with the city’s financial situation knows that a crisis in health care costs and pensions is only a few years away. Healthcare costs are expected to grow as fast, if not faster, than revenue growth. Essentially speaking, even if Louisville gets more tax income, those increases will be eaten by ballooning entitlement costs. Because of this, Louisvillians need to strike while the fire is hot, and save the library system from reductions later.

Currently, Republicans on the Metro Council are opposed to this, and instead are offering a plan in which the city indebts itself with 175 million dollars in bonds issued over seven years. They claim the city will be able to absorb the added cost of the payments of these bonds with future projected revenue. Republicans on the council (Except Councilwomen Adams and Call) want to “borrow” this money, spend it to build new libraries, but not tell you that we’re looking at a fiscal crisis in only a few short years.

New taxes aren’t popular – and I fully appreciate and understand that fact. We all want an extra few bucks in our pockets. But this library expansion is a social good with a relatively low cost. It adds to the perception that Louisville is serious about increasing education – the key to reducing social ills such as poverty and crime. If you’re serious about the overall health of Louisville, please support this initiative!

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