Library tax falls by wide margin

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

County votes split in support of growing services

Voters in Barry and Lawrence counties offered little support for a 7-cent increase in the property tax levy for the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library on Tuesday.

In trying for its first property tax increase since 1990, the library issue failed to gain any significant traction in either county. Barry County voters gave the measure only 36 percent support -- 1,129 for and 2,012 against. Lawrence County voters provided slightly more support, giving 45 percent in favor, 1,443 to 1,744.

The last time the district sought a tax increase, the board asked for a 4-cent hike. The measure carried in April 1990 by 369 votes.

"Of course I'm extremely disappointed," said Gina Milburn, library director. "The library will continue to function. We'll be open tomorrow as always. The new building for Monett will be on hold. Either we get enough donations to build it, or pass another tax levy."

Milburn doubted if the library could have done anything differently to promote its message.

"I went to speak at numerous groups," Milburn said. "We handed out brochures and told people how little [the increase] would cost per families. Possibly we could have started earlier. I felt like we did a good job reaching out to community groups and our library customers."

Ann Hall, the library board chairwoman, said she was "very disappointed" by the results.

"It leaves us between a rock and a hard place," Hall said. "What do we cut, and what is no longer a province of the library? We're trying to expand with e-books, e-magazines and more community outreach, plus adding to our computers. Someone said, 'We're getting computers in our schools for all our kids. Why do we need them in the library?' But our computers are in constant use.

"We'll just have to look at where we can cut. We've pretty much gotten as skinny as we can get."

Hall did not think seeking a smaller increase would have mattered. She observed the district sought to regain the 2.8 cents lost in the levy rollback in 2008, and build a little for the future.

"We won't go backward," Hall said. "We just have to be very careful about what we spend on everything."

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