Tax up close and personal

In November of 2008,  56% of Minnesota voters approved what has come to  be known as the Legacy Amendment. The goal of the Amendment is to appropriate money from constitutionally dedicated funds and provide for policy and governance of outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage purposes.

The Amendment raised the state sales tax 3/8 of 1%, starting July 1, 2009 and lasting 25 years. Libraries were included in the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the legislation, which will receive 19.75% of the sales tax generated each year. This Fund will be divided among many recipients, including the following:

  • Board of Arts (with opportunities for partnerships with libraries and schools)
  • Regional Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs (will receive $4.25 million in FY 2010 and $4.25 in FY 2011)
  • Minnesota Digital Library (will receive $500,000 in FY 2010)

Public Library funding for arts and arts education programs is allocated to the 12 regional public library systems according to the current regional library basic system support (RLBSS) grant formula.  In addition to our local programming, ECRL will participate along with the other regional public library systems to fund a state project to bring arts and culture into libraries.

Libraries will be good stewards of this money. As the center of our communities, we are looked to as cultural leaders. The Legacy Amendment funds will enable us to bring even more cultural experiences to communities from the metro area to the rural areas commonly referred to collectively as Greater Minnesota.

I’ve been planning with my staff and board for how we can best use this money. Little thought has gone to where it comes from — after all, it’s only 3/8 of 1% sales tax. That’s hardly noticeable at all.

That’s what I thought until this morning. Almost every day on my way to work I stop at the local Holiday station to feed my addiction with a large Diet Coke. I run into the station store with a dollar and a nickle clutched in my hand to pay for the 99 cent drink. Trouble is, today when I stopped to pay on my way out the door and held out the dollar bill and nickel in my hand, the clerk said $1.06. I must have looked puzzled, because she quickly added, “that’s that new culture tax.” The tone in her voice indicated she didn’t share my positive view of the “culture tax.”

Hmmm, a tax no one’ll notice? Not exactly.  So now I carry in a dollar and a nickel and a penney.

Dempsey on “why we need libraries”

Kathy Dempsey, editor in chief of Computers in Libraries posted this to the PR Talk listserv this morning: posted here with Kathy’s permission

. . . when someone wonders why America still bothers with libraries, refer the un– informed person to Bill Gates. you have to admit, he’s one of the country’s richest and, likely, smartest men. so if libraries are useless, why does Gates continue to support them with millions of dollars? if he sees that much value in them, they must be worthwhile, and still necessary, right? especially considering Gates is all about technology! yet he champions libraries and helps bring them up-to-speed technically. therefore they must still be worth using.

Kathy also recommended an article in Educause Review, If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist,Would We Have to Invent It? by Lynn Scott Cochrane, Director of Libraries at Denison University. It could apply to other types of libraries, as well. Ms Cochran relates a fictitious college which quit supporting the collections and staff of the library, and instead gave each student the prorated amount of money spent on their behalf for the library – $1,230. The college did leave the library doors open, without management or staff and only kept a cleaning service.

The article relates how a typical student spent their money and how inadequate other sources of information were, the public library with its typical collection or a nearby academic college which had made a similar decision regarding funding. It reminds me of the disturbing trend I’m seeing in the libraries I serve where funding is cut by cities, counties, boards, administrators, etc. with the rationale that the patron or student can just go use other libraries in the community. Situations like this are really happening — such as the case in Jackson County Oregon, where all 15 libraries are closing at the end of their normal business day on April 6th. See my posting on SELCO Librarian, 10 Reasons for Public Libraries.