The Mid-Continent Public Library wants voters to approve its first property tax levy increase since 1983 during the November general election.
The library system’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to put a 8-cent levy increase before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.
If approved, it would bring the library system’s levy rate up to 40 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The increase would generate nearly $10 million in additional revenue to MCPL’s $42 million budget.
MCPL serves about 785,000 residents in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties across 31 branch locations.
“The last time Mid-Continent asked people to raise their taxes was 1983, and they raised it to 45 cents,” said MCPL CEO Steve Potter in an interview. “Which is lower than what we’re asking about. That was a generation ago. I was in high school. It seems reasonable once in a generation to go to the voters to make our case.”
In 1991, voters agreed to lower the levy rate to 32 cents, where it remains today.
The library issue will show up on the November ballot as Proposition L.
Mid-Continent plans to build six new or replacement libraries and renovate 28 other branch locations.
Potter said some older buildings designed in the 1970s have one electric outlet per wall, placed there mainly to connect vacuum cleaners.
“There was no purpose for even computer outlets,” Potter said. “A lot of our buildings were not conceptualized for 21st century use.”
Mid-Continent projects it will serve 1 million residents by 2025, double the number that existed in 1983.
Potter added that the library currently runs fine on an operational basis but anticipates future difficulty because of inflation.
“No matter how efficient you are, you’re going to run into a situation where you can’t keep pace with inflation,” Potter said.
Taxing jurisdictions in Missouri generally cannot raise tax levy rates without a public vote because of the Hancock amendment.
Without a levy increase, Mid-Continent warns it may not be able to carry out building renovations and may need to reduce hours, staff and certain services.
The library’s board approved the November ballot issue by a 9-1 vote. Nancy Kraus-Womack, a Platte County representative on the board, voted against Proposition L. Kraus-Womack, a director of small government and anti-tax political action committee Missouri Club For Growth, said that while MCPL is a well-run library, she hears from Platte County residents who believe their tax burden currently is too high.
“I just feel like it’s not appropriate at this time to ask for a tax increase,” Kraus-Womack said.
The library said a 8-cent property tax levy increase would add $22.80 a year to the property tax bill of a $150,000 house — an amount, the library added, that is less than the cost of a hardcover book.