Library to sue; cuts coming | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Library to sue; cuts coming

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2008 at 12:53 PM

The Central Arkansas Library board decided today to file a friendly lawsuit to remove a cloud over 2008 collections of millage increases voters approved for library improvements last November December. 

A lawyer who studied the issue for the Democrat-Gazette has questioned whether the library can collect money in 2008 on an increase approved after November 2007. He said the library must wait until 2009. Other lawyers have said they think 2008 collections are permissible. Library Director Bobby Roberts characterized it as an issue of voters versus taxpayers -- though voters approved the raise for 2008, the law may say that taxpayers are entitled to keep their money until 2009. Property tax collections are already underway and the increased millage will produce about $4.2 million per year. More on the jump on fallout.

The library has decided not to spend money it may not have, which means there will be cuts to the library's budget until the suit is decided. That may not happen until 2009 -- at which point the library would begin keeping the millage regardless.

The library has already made some large commitments that it cannot renege on. It has agreed to hire 13 new children's librarians, and it will have to pay for completion of the second floor of the Geyer & Adams building downtown, part of construction underway across the street from the main branch.

The cuts will come in the library's 2008 operations budget, and they will have to be made for the rest of the year unless the suit is decided in the library's favor. The library has already decided to freeze hiring for the rest of the year. Other proposals -- though not certain yet -- include elimination of Sunday summer hours at the Main library, a postponement of pay raises until the end of the year, and reduction of the book budget.

Additionally, the library has suspended planning on the new Otter Creek branch, the mid-town Children's Library and the 5th floor of the main library. Planned expenditures on technology, furniture, shelving, and security have been cancelled.

A major question involves the status of the land for the proposed new Otter Creek library. While the library will ask the landowner to let it buy the land at a later date, it's possible that the land could be lost to another buyer. The library might be able to use money from fines and fees to pay for it, however. A decision hasn't been made.

The library's finance committee will meet at 11:30 a.m. May 12. The status of these cuts will be on the agenda.

At issue are a temporary 1-mill increase producing about $2.8 million a year to finance a $32 million bond issue and half-mill permanent increase to produce about $1.4 million annually for operations. The bonds will be difficult if not impossible to sell with a cloud hanging over the revenue expected to pay them off.

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