Mid-Continent Public Library is asking voters in its district in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties to approve a property tax levy to build and upgrade facilities and provide more programs and longer hours.
If approved, Proposition L would increase property taxes eight-cents per $100. For a household that makes $150,000 per year, this would be a yearly increase of $22.80 per year, and would result in an additional ten million dollars for the library.
The library gets about 95 percent of its funding from property tax levies. If passed, this would be the first levy increase for the library since 1983.
The library, which has 780,000 members, plans to use the money to build or replace six branches and renovate 28 others.
Community Relations and Planning Director Jim Staley said, "We’ve got 31 locations around the region and many of those locations were built in the eighties or nineties and are in need of upgrades and need to be able to function in the way a modern library should."
The library system also plans to expand its operating hours and provide more resources for its members, most notably by improving bandwidth at its locations, expanding its online databases and providing more online instruction resources. Library officials say that the increase is necessary since member population has increased and since technology has changed drastically in the last 33 years.
“We’ve served populations from early childhood to all the way up to seniors, and many of the services that the library provides are very staff-intensive, and as our revenues have been flat over the past several years, it’s been hard to be able to increase and to provide those services," said Staley.
If the proposition does not pass, the library would not be able to invest in new materials, and may reduce its hours. The library would also have to limit its outreach programs, like the "Reading Rocket," a literacy vehicle that makes library resources available to underserved kids and families.
"We’re able to take the vehicle out, park it somewhere where parents can easily get their kids over to the bus and we have story time, we have technology to teach kids both digital and regular literacy skills, we talk to the parents about helping kids develop their literacy skills and that program has become very popular but we’ve got limited resources for it, and this is one of the things we'd like to expand with proposition L," said Staley.
Residents of Clay, Jackson and Platte counties, except those living in the district of the Kansas City Public library, will be able to vote on the issue.
The plans for branch enhancements and further information can be found on the library's website. Proposition L will be on the ballot Nov. 8.
Caitlin Troutman is an intern at KCUR 89.3.