Proposition L Election Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Collections and Connections for Cass County
About the Library Question (Proposition L)
For over 70 years, Cass County Public Library has provided services to residents. As the county has grown in population, so has its reliance on the public library for resources and services for all ages. From storytime to outreach for seniors, the library continues to be a connecting point for the county. On April 7, we are asking voters to authorize a 12-cent increase in the property tax based operating levy—the first increase since 1985—to maintain and modernize technology and library resources.
The current level of funding, set in 1985, is no longer sufficient to sustain operations for 7 locations and a bookmobile. Demand in the county is great, as reflected by over 900,000 visitors to the Library in 2018. Levy funds supporting operations and services have only grown by 2% in the past decade, failing to keep pace with residents’ rising needs.
In 2018, Cass County Public Library had:
- 902,545 in-person and digital visits
- 508,356 checkouts of materials, both physical and digital
- 39,899 uses of our public access computers
- 32,869 attendees at library events
Important library programs and services include:
- Early literacy storytimes at all locations for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Summer Reading Program, an annual incentive event for all ages that encourages reading in order to boost retention levels between grades.
- Tax assistance for low-income residents and seniors through AARP.
- Unique items for checkout, including museum passes, laptops, and learning kits.
- Job skills assessments through partnership with West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and other employment resources
On the Ballot
For the purpose of improving print and digital collections, upgrading technology and connectivity, maintaining and increasing life-long learning programs for all ages, providing adequate facilities, and for the general operation of public libraries, shall the Board of Trustees of the Cass County Public Library District be authorized to levy an additional twelve cent ($0.12) tax over the present property tax for the county library?
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the library tax levy pay for?
93% of the library’s budget comes from local property tax revenue. That money is used to provide staffing and resources at 7 branches and a bookmobile throughout Cass County. Those locations provide books (both physical and digital), computers, internet access, educational events for all ages, reliable research materials and databases, study spaces where available, and much more.
Why is the library asking for additional funding now?
Cass County Public Library is still operating on a 1985 tax levy. Since 1985, that tax rate has rolled back 32% from 20 cents to 13.76 cents. The population of Cass County, however, has more than doubled, and the cost of goods and services has increased by 150%.
Over the last 35 years, libraries have evolved into entities that offer their communities not only access to books, but also to a variety of resources and services. Without a levy increase, we cannot provide a modern library experience.
Hasn’t your revenue increased as property values have increased?
Yes, but very little. The Hancock Amendment restricts revenue for Missouri libraries, causing our tax rate to decrease when property values increase. This complex formula provides us with roughly the same amount of money we had in the past. Our revenue cannot keep up with the cost of goods and services.
Why 12 cents? Why not just ask for 4 or 5?
We want to create a library that Cass County can take pride in. The revenue from a 4 or 5 cent increase will not be sufficient to create a modern library experience that can truly meet our patrons’ needs.
The population served by the library system is anticipated to grow another 9% by 2023. The current levy rate will not be able to keep pace with the needs expressed by community members.
The guidelines set by the Missouri State Library state that a library needs a 20-cent levy in order to provide adequate service. Cass County Public Library is operating on a 13.76 cent tax levy, which is below the recommended minimum and a far lower tax rate than neighboring libraries.
A 12-cent increase will restore our levy to slightly above the recommended minimum and allow us to provide services and meet the needs of our growing communities. With this increase, we can better provide a modern library experience with access to quality lifelong learning experiences, in-demand materials, and online resources that will help residents find job opportunities, access higher education, build skills, and research topics using trusted sources.
What kind of oversight does the library have?
- An independent Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) audit is conducted annually.
- The annual budget is available to anyone by request.
- Monthly Board meetings are open for public attendance.
Why do we need libraries anymore with the internet?
Not everything on the internet is free or true. Library staff can help you navigate the internet and be more confident in the answers you find. We now know that foreign influences and other bad actors are constantly trying to manipulate us over the internet and social media. Our library teaches classes on how to protect yourself and how to tell fact from fiction online. Modern full text books and complete feature films are not available on the open internet and will likely always be behind a paywall of some kind. Libraries provide internet access for those in the community who cannot afford their own connection at home. Without us, many people could never write and print a resume, apply for a job, or see pictures of their grandchildren hundreds of miles away.
Are there plans for existing and/or new buildings?
CCPL currently leases all 7 branches and purchased a bookmobile in 2003. These all need improvements and updating. New revenue would allow us to transform these spaces into more welcoming spaces that inspire learning, inspiration, and community. It would also allow us to expand library access in our growing communities. The library could also explore purchasing a new bookmobile to serve the county. Being responsible custodians of taxpayer money, the Board has chosen not to go into debt, which is what new buildings would require.
Are there plans for the property in Belton and Pleasant Hill?
- The Northern Resource Center is currently located in the North Cass Shopping Center and is in a long-term lease in that location. The library also owns a piece of land further east off of North Ave/Hwy 58. Due to the population growth in Belton and the surrounding area, that property is no longer suitable for a library building with adequate parking. The property is posted for sale.
- The property in Pleasant Hill is suitable for a library building and parking, but there are no current plans for a building. Without adequate funding for a new building, it is not possible to build on the land.
Why doesn’t the library have other revenue sources?
While the library has worked diligently to produce revenues from grants and other sources, those dollars only comprise 7% of our budget. The library is not able to receive funds from the lottery, income tax, or sales tax.
What happens if the tax levy increase is approved?
- The library can modernize technology, including internet bandwidth, to best serve our patrons’ needs.
- The library can increase lifelong learning opportunities for children, families, and patrons of all ages by having more events & resources.
- We can expand our collections and digital resources to meet the needs of Cass County communities. By doing so, we can reduce patrons’ wait time for popular items.
- We can create inviting spaces at each branch and expand our presence in growing communities. We will also be able to increase outreach and provide new services such as Books-by-Mail for homebound patrons.
What will it cost me?
The increase will cost an individual or family with a house in Cass County assessed at $150,000 an additional $34.20 a year in property taxes, or $2.85 per month. This is an increase of less than 1% in total property taxes. The median Cass County home value in 2018 was $158,000, resulting in an increase of $3 per month.
Renters will only see an increase in their personal property taxes. Compared to other taxing entities in the county, the library receives less than 2% of total property taxes paid in Cass County. CCPL has the third lowest property tax rate in the county.
If the increase passes, it will be an increase of less than 1% in total taxes paid:
The library’s tax rate is already higher than the hospital. Why is that?
Unlike the hospital, Cass County Public Library does not have other revenue streams outside of property taxes, grants, and donations. Hospitals charge for almost every service they offer, too.
What happens if the measure fails?
If this measure fails, we will not be able to offer the same services that other modern libraries do, and we will continue to fall behind in meeting the demand for services as the population grows.
- We would have to delay technology updates, falling short of our communities’ digital needs as hardware and software continue to age.
- Patrons would see a decreasing number of learning opportunities and events.
- The library would acquire fewer materials and resources, including books, movies, music, magazines, databases, and other research tools. This would cause patrons to wait longer for popular items.
- We will not be able to improve our buildings, and could not expand in growing communities. Service hours may be reduced at existing branches. We will also need to reduce outreach services, including eliminating the bookmobile or limiting its schedule.
We hope that there is not a time when we are forced to close branches, but without increased revenue, it will become increasingly difficult to provide adequate services while operating multiple locations. We use what tax money we have efficiently, but without an increase difficult decisions will need to be made as we do not carry debt or operate with budget deficits.
Unlike state and federal governments, our revenue (your tax dollars) cannot be diverted to other government projects—it’s exclusively for library services, facilities, and materials. We have been fiscally responsible with this money and will remain so.
By what percentage does the library levy need to pass?
A simple majority: 50% +1 vote. Every vote is important. Consider the issues carefully.
Who will decide this issue?
Registered voters who live in Cass County who vote on April 7th, 2020. Polling places will be open from 6:00am to 7:00pm. In order to vote in the April election, you must be registered to vote by Wednesday, March 11th, 2020.
Absentee voting begins on Tuesday, February 25th. In order to send in an absentee ballot, you must be registered by February 25th, 2020.
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