North Bend Eagle



Ballot issue to provide rural support for Libraries

by Mary Le Arneal
published 9/17/08

• The measure could provide the North Bend library with as much as $20,000 a year.

A small but very interested group of area residents gathered Sept. 9, in the basement of the North Bend City Library to hear about a proposal to have rural residents help fund their local library.

Lib meeting
Ann Stephens, director of the Fremont public library, speaks to a group of North Bend residents about county funding of local libraries.

At this time, libraries in Dodge County are supported by the cities in which they exist. What is proposed is a 1.7 cent tax per $100 of property valuation on unincorporated areas in Dodge County to support libraries in the county.

Ann Stephens, director of the Fremont public library, and Kathy Tooker, director of the Eastern Library System which covers a seven-county area including Dodge County, spoke before a group of interested North Bend residents.

Stephens explained that those living in unincorporated Dodge County do not subsidize local libraries. In Fremont this is covered by charging a library usage fee to those not living in Fremont. In North Bend, library services are funded by the city, but available to everyone, including rural and Saunders County residents.

“We should never say libraries are free,” Tooker said. “They aren’t. We know they cost. And they also save people money with the services they provide.”

Stephens said that the county is becoming more “fluid,” the people more mobile, and the time has come for all Dodge County residents to support the six libraries in the county.

“Those living in rural Dodge County could do much to help,” Stephens said. “(The library) could enrich their collection, be open for longer hours, hire more staff. We could also have an enriched county-wide service.”

State law now allows for taxing of 10.5 cents per 100 dollars of taxable property of citizens outside cities or villages maintaining a public library. The proposal on the Dodge County Ballot is asking for a tax not to exceed two cents per 100 dollar of value. Currently the Dodge County Board of Supervisors recommended a tax of 1.7 cent per 100 dollars value for the 6,957 Dodge County residents that live in unincorporated areas.

How the money will be divided between the six area libraries is determined by a formula giving equal weight to each city’s population, assessed evaluation, proportion of each library’s card holders who live outside the city and proportion of each library’s total circulation for the preceding calendar year.

North Bend City Library has 1,441 card holders, of which 775 are North Bend residents and 676 non-residents. A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 53 percent of Americans visited the library in the past year, with computer and internet access luring many of them in. Circulation of print or electronic material also continues to increase.

Using this formula, North Bend library could receive around $20,000 in funds from the county. This would be in addition to the $24,334 that the library receives from city property tax. In the city’s 2007-08 budget the library received 14.3 percent of the funds the city received from taxes. The library budget, including salaries for three part-time librarians, was $42,700 in the 2007-08 city budget.

When asked if these funds would have any restrictions placed on them, Tooker said that they could possible be used for a new library.

This proposal will be voted on the Nov. 4 ballot by those who will be taxed.

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