This April, voters throughout Taney County will have an option of whether to approve a new property tax to be used to fund a countywide library district.
County commissioners approved putting the proposal, at a rate of 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, on the ballot last year.
The county’s library board, formed in 2011 in accordance with state statutes, has been tasked with coming up with a proposal.
Members of the board, including its president, Sarah Klinefelter, originally asked commissioners to put a levy rate of 20 cents on the ballot.
Still, Klinefelter said the board feels it could accomplish many of its goals with a 15-cent rate.
If voters approve the new tax, the board would assume the responsibilities for operations and maintenance of the Taneyhills Community Library in Branson, and the Forsyth Community Library, Klinefelter said.
The board also would hire a professional library director and information technology director, plus an additional seven to eight full-time staff for the two facilities.
That’s according to a plan approved by the board last year.
Operational hours also would be expanded at both facilities to include evenings and weekends.
Additional services including new computers, an online catalogue of books and electronic books could be added.
The board also proposed establishing community programs for different age groups and interests and educational services for home school groups and public schools, including GED and workforce development programs.
“Libraries can be economic engines, providing knowledge and learning experiences to the local workforce,” Klinefelter said.
She said previously the 15-cent rate, being lower than the originally proposed 20-cent rate, might require a reduction in some services, however.
Proposed budgets for the library district include no major capital expenditures. Repairs of existing facilities are in the budget, however.
The proposed 20-cent rate would have generated about $1.9 million a year. The 15-cent rate, if approved, will generate about $1.4 million.
“A 15-cent levy is fine,” Klinefelter said.
Taney County is the only first-class county in Missouri that does not already have an established countywide library district.
Library districts are five-member boards appointed by the county commission. Because the boards oversee the use of a separate funding source from the county’s general revenues, the board is its own legal entity and can hire and fire its own personnel.
The tax, if approved, would not have a sunset provision, unlike many other property taxes.
That issue gave Presiding Commissioner Ron Houseman some hesitation prior to approving the measure for the April ballot, he said.
Houseman noted that there are no statutes allowing library district taxes to have sunset provisions, however.
Currently, both libraries in the county are funded entirely though donations, grants and used book and thrift store item sales.