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Majority of Fort Smith Board quiet on library millage increase question

Four members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors would not comment on the 2 mil increase for the Fort Smith Public Library, with two directors planning to vote for the increase and one against.

A proposed millage increase to be voted on Tuesday (Aug. 12) would net the Fort Smith Public Library an additional $2.8 million in revenue, allowing the library to expand offerings and upgrade technologies to meet customer expectations, according to library officials.

Library Executive Director Jennifer Goodson has said the current one-mill of property taxes accounts of about $1.4 million of the library's annual operating budget. Additional funding comes from the countywide sales tax, of which the library receives 6% of the city's share of revenue. The amount totaled $921,239 in 2013 and was budgeted at $925,572 this year.

Another revenue source for the library includes $100,000 in fines and fees collections. The library also receives some state funding and grants. The library's 2014 budget was set at $2.7 million.

Should voters approve the two-mill hike on Aug. 12, Goodson said the additional $2.8 million would slightly double the library's budget and allow the largest library system in Sebastian County to expand its offerings.

The City Wire recently asked the seven members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors and Mayor Sandy Sanders if they were for or against the millage increase. There was no response or a response of no comment from Directors André Good, Keith Lau, Mike Lorenz and Kevin Settle, and Mayor Sanders. Sanders’ wife has appeared in advertisements supporting the millage increase.

Director George Catsavis said now “is not the time for this millage increase.”

“First I want to say that I have always supported the library and will continue to do so but I can not support this millage increase,” adding that he believes the library is “very solvent.”

“Also our senior citizens that have their property taxes frozen will not be protected with this millage increase. (T)hey will pay more and the ones on a fixed income will be hurt the most and I know the middle income people of Fort Smith are still having a tough time,” Catsavis wrote in an e-mail note to The City Wire.

City Directors Philip Merry Jr. and Pam Weber are for the increase. Their full statements are below.

City Director Merry: “I am FOR the library millage increase.

“I believe that a library is at the very core of the culture of a city.  I am hopeful of an absolute state of the art library facility that is not just up to speed but on the cutting edge of options for its “cardholders”.  Libraries serve its citizens of all ages and the fruits to be had are there for the asking. Note that all of the services are for free when one signs up for a Free Library Card…now and after the vote upcoming….

“I am proud to support the Library millage increase because I believe it to be an INVESTMENT rather than an expense that will return well on investment for the decades to come.”

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City Director Weber: "I will be voting for the library mileage increase. The Fort Smith Library provides extensive services for all citizens. I have used the library for over fifty years and am constantly amazed at the quality of service provided and the range of those services. We live in a changing world and our citizens need the resources to compete - children and adults will be provided services with new technology.

“Businesses and nonprofits will be afforded the opportunity to do extensive research that is currently not available. Most of all, libraries have allowed citizens the opportunity to dream and learn - many of us have studied history and traveled the world and broadened our horizons through the library. I want my granddaughter to have those experiences and more.

“The City of Fort smith has done numerous citizen surveys - the library alway ranks at the top with citizen satisfaction.”

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

Comments

Catsavis is right

Now is not the time for an increase. The library isn't in sure need but just wants to add extra toys and higher salaries for themselves. It's not like it's going to shut down. There may be a good time to vote for an increase (probably a smaller increase) but now is not the time. It would be irresponsible to vote for an increase right now with the state of the current regional economy. It should be illegal to push the vote through in what's typically a low turnout special election just because they know it's likely the opposition won't be coming out. I will be voting against this scam and, if it fails, would vote against it next time even if the economy is better just out of principle for trying to sneak it through a special election. Shame on Merry and Weber.

Give It A Rest

and you will receive an extra blessing for not fleecing the poor and elderly of the community! This special election is another farce to get into the taxpayer pocket and the library does not need any more tax money until the economy improves.

Not so simple

I'm struggling to pay for student loans for a Business degree which has not even come close to paying for itself in the Fort Smith economy. Right now the only choice which seems logical is to move out of Fort Smith. Either way extra money won't be sucked from me to pay for luxury items for a library system and its supporters which does not place any value on anything above the fact that "...but it's a library".

You hit the nail squarely on your thumb

It is far more accurately described as 'taking' rather than 'giving' when the main choice in the decision making process is for a type of election well known for it's tendency to allow a relatively few active people to dominate. Not to mention it was stated this was why it was chosen to begin with it has now become such a blatant method to use in municipalities due to it's wonderful shortcomings. Barling is even more obvious..what's the rush for a penny sales tax that couldn't wait another month or so? Major major suckering going on there. Folks what is it you think these city officials go off to conventions to learn anyway...basket weaving? When is the election for the new high school being purposefully scheduled? Yada yada yada. Little to no hope with the Directors since by and large the same active ones got them there to begin with. Might as well sit back and watch the parasite do it's thing but I really don't think we're gonna like the whole show.

May affect the school vote negatively..

..in the next 'special election' if the library vote passes. The library millage is considered more than anything an extravagance and is not even close to a necessity. As is an activity center for a school system for instance. These are things most places do when the economy is good. The debate is by no means over about exactly WHERE to build the new school and since it is basically the same ones always who are for building and taxing, the downtown cadre is very likely to jump ship on the rest when we get to that. Win or lose great strides have been made in broadening understanding of how around 5% of the people in this town have consistently for years been getting things voted in that 95% of the people don't want but have to pay for. Special elections.
..in the next 'special election' if the library vote passes. The library millage is considered more than anything an extravagance and is not even close to a necessity. As is an activity center for a school system for instance. These are things most places do when the economy is good. The debate is by no means over about exactly WHERE to build the new school and since it is basically the same ones always who are for building and taxing, the downtown cadre is very likely to jump ship on the rest when we get to that. Win or lose great strides have been made in broadening understanding of how around 5% of the people in this town have consistently for years been getting ...>> Read the entire comment.

Double Your Pleasure

Can you double your salary just by asking your boss for a raise? Well that is exactly what the library is trying to do with this tax increase and they are asking their boss(voters) to double their salaries in the worst economic times in recent history. A 200% increase is just too much to ask from a Fort Smith economy that is not doing very well!

Great Leadership

Really!? No comment or no answer! Kudos to George, Phillip and Pam for stating a position. Would we expect any less from the others. Come on city LEADERS. Take a position and defend it. I will respect you instead of being ashamed for you. WEAK! Sad. Disappointing.

Famous Quote From Kevin Settle

"The BOD does not answer questions" so what do you expect from our "great Leadership"?