Library tax on May 2 ballot in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS -- Signs are sprouting up across New Orleans urging voters to support the new library tax millage on the May 2 ballot.

Library board chairman Bernard Charbonnet says the cost running the city's 14 libraries, exceeds the current funding.

"We just simply don't have enough money and that mid-year, next year, we'll be out of money," Charbonnet said.

The new, 2.5 mill property tax would raise an estimated $8.25 million a year.That's about $56 a year for the owner of a home valued at $300,000. The libraries clearly need a stable source of funding. They've been limping along,using surplus funds for the past ten years.

"The only money we have is from an old millage in the 80s that was granted to us," Charbonnet said. "We've been using our surpluses frugally over the last ten years, since the storm."

The independent Bureau of Governmental Research came out against the library tax.

According to BGR, before going to voters for additional revenue, the library must first present a strategic plan, based on sound numbers for the future.

"They developed one after Hurricane Katrina and discarded it," BGR President Janet Howard said. "They rebuilt the libraries without one. They haven't developed one since."

Friends of the Library President Karon Reese is confident the money will be spent wisely.

"We have a plan in place," Reese said. "We're going to have increased hours, we're going to keep our branches open. We're going to be open on Fridays."

"I think the system needs to be evaluated and we're sure that the resources are going to the right places," Howard said.

In New Orleans the current per-capita support for libraries is less than $25. That's compared to nearly $50 in Jefferson Parish and $84 in Baton Rouge.


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