IBJNews

Ailing library eyes new funding source

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A state lawmaker is pushing for a law that would allow Indianapolis’ financially struggling public library system to get a share of local income taxes.

But some elected officials and city financial leaders already are balking at the concept, which they say would divert money from other agencies that need it.

Numbers on potential library fundingThe funding change is contained in one of two bills that Rep. John Day, D-Indianapolis, intends to put forth next year to give the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, which has been hard hit by declining property tax revenue, more financial flexibility.

Channeling a portion of Indianapolis’ County Option Income Tax to the county’s libraries could generate as much as $3 million for the system, which has proposed a $37.9 million budget next year. The $3 million is based on next year’s COIT projections and Day’s initial plan to give the libraries 2 percent of that revenue.

Day’s other measure would give libraries across the state the power to hold a referendum to raise property tax money for library operating expenses, as school districts can do. That measure, at least initially, appears less controversial.

The COIT change has raised concerns, in part because the lion’s share of Indianapolis’ COIT revenue—projected to be $154.5 million next year—goes toward the city’s public safety agencies. Some say cutting into that money could hurt police and fire budgets, which already are facing cuts next year in light of declining income-tax revenue.

Vaughn Vaughn

“You’re basically making a priority decision to fund libraries with public-safety dollars,” said Ryan Vaughn, a Republican who serves as City-County Council president. “We’re asking public safety to do more with less, and with the transfer of the COIT dollars to the library, we’d be asking them to do more with even less.”

Day, however, said he thinks it’s an issue of fairness.

“The bigger question is, why should a key community service be totally out of the picture with a tax paid by all wage earners in Marion County?” Day said. “In a family with five children, if four eat and one starves, I don’t think that’s fair.”

Tough times

The county’s library system has been particularly pummeled by property tax caps that limited homeowners’ bills to 1 percent of a home’s assessed value starting this year. The libraries typically rely on property tax revenue for more than 80 percent of their funding.

Based on the caps, the system will face a $2.5 million shortfall this year and could see a drop of $3.7 million to $4 million next year, according to library estimates.

On top of that, property tax collections, which typically hover around 97 percent of all property tax money owed to the system, dropped last year to 92 percent, stripping another $3 million from the library’s funding. The collection-rate decline is a reflection of a tough economy with more home foreclosures and more taxpayers who are unable to pay their bills.

Library officials do not know what this year’s collection rate will be, but they aren’t predicting much change.

To make up its tax-funding gap, the library has made some significant cutbacks, including closing the Central Library on Thursdays as part of a move to reduce hours at that location and the 22 branches by 26 percent. Library officials also have cut back purchases of certain materials and hiked penalty fees.

And the library is in the process of getting clearance from local and state officials to approve a one-time shortfall appeal that would bring in about $1.5 million in additional property tax revenue from taxpayers who did not meet the cap in 2009.

Even with those efforts, Rebecca Dixon, the library’s chief financial officer, anticipates dipping into the system’s reserves. The library aims to keep $3.6 million to $4 million in reserves—about 10 percent of next year’s operating budget.

Dixon and others have warned that, without another funding source or drastic cuts, the library risks depleting its reserves in the next few years.

Getting the COIT may be one of the few solutions.

Bramble Bramble

“There aren’t many other options right now,” said Laura Bramble, the library’s CEO. “I think it would be better for our overall stability if we had more diverse sources of revenue.”

City officials, though, face a budget crunch of their own. Indianapolis’ take of COIT revenue is projected to drop 16 percent next year as collections reflect the hard-hit economy. The decline has led the city to eliminate one of two police recruit classes, reduce training, and not provide a union-pay increase for police officers and firefighters next year.

Indianapolis will use the first $21.7 million of its COIT revenue to pay for its emergency dispatchers and a local homestead tax credit next year. The rest is divided among the city, which gets 88 percent of the money (most going to public safety); townships, which get 8 percent; and excluded cities such as Beech Grove and Speedway, which get 3 percent.

Based on how Day’s law is written, the library’s share could cut into any of those sources or a combination.

City Controller David Reynolds said that, because of the tight city budget, state lawmakers should give local policymakers room to decide how local money is spent.

While he’s not in favor of the kind of directive Day plans to propose, he would support the Legislature’s giving the council the option of providing the libraries with COIT. Under current law, Reynolds said, the council could set aside a grant to give the libraries more local money but can’t directly channel the city’s COIT share toward libraries.

“I don’t think it’s the General Assembly’s decision to determine how we spend our money,” Reynolds said. “Mandating that dollars have to go to the libraries isn’t giving the flexibility that I think locals need.”

Some state lawmakers have similar reservations. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, worries it could set a precedent.

“The minute we take some of that local control,” Hinkle said, “we have to look at whether other entities that are not getting their fair share also want their fair share.”

Building a case

Library advocates, however, point out that Marion County libraries’ lack of COIT funding is unique.

Statewide, all library districts in counties that have a COIT or a similar County Adjusted Gross Income Tax receive a portion of that tax, except for Marion County’s districts. That amounts to 213 of the state’s 238 library districts, said Jim Corridan, deputy director of the Indiana State Library.

Day hopes that statistic will strengthen the argument for his bill next year, but he knows that—in addition to the early opposition—there will be hurdles to getting it passed.

He faces re-election this fall, but as a Democrat is expected to fare well in his district representing part of downtown and the city’s east side.

A more likely risk is that his party would lose control of the Indiana House of Representatives, which would make it tougher for his bill to get a hearing.

But Day remains undeterred. He already has started searching for a Republican to co-sponsor his legislation.

And even if he can’t get it passed, he said he hopes the effort will draw attention to the debate and possibly spur more action at a local level.

“I think this is very serious,” Day said. “The life and well-being of libraries are at stake.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Uh...Uh...Uh...
    @Frank Abagnale "Catch me if you can"

    >

    An educated poster would know to use "buddies" instead of "buddys".

    In terms of diverting taxpayer revenue, look at the controversy re: should there be state-level income taxes?

    Gates & Gates (William Henry Gates III & Dad) are drafting legislation to force the state of Washington to have a state income tax. And there's a line ready to deal with them, hammer & tong.

    So: is it a good thing to have state income taxes?
  • Libraries are not important because...
    apparently, for most people, it's more essential to spend public dollars to glorify over-paid modern day gladiators for entertainment than it is to improve ordinary citizens to be more literate and better-educated.
  • TIF $
    This city thinks it is okay to use 8 million in TIF dollars for the ICVA, give the Pacers another 10 million per year and build a stadium with a 70 million+ dollar roof that we don't open but libraries get zilch!
  • priorities...
    God forbid the state just take a stand, have some integrity and give the library some money for the sake of intellectualism. Stop playacting to hillbillies who think budget cuts are going to solve the worlds problems.
  • Uh....
    C'mon you have Mayor Marine, Brizzi Protege -Ryan Vaughn and the Nefarious Vane who are running a Banana Republic taking care of all their buddys with contracts.

    The above Mafioso thinks that libraries are as useful as Drive-In theatres...

    An uneducated society will allow the Marine Marine thugs to continue their theft of taxpayer assets and hijack taxpayer revenue for their brown noser buddies projects.
  • The libraries are not important?
    Why do so many people think the libraries are not all that important?

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

  2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

  3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

  4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

  5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com

ADVERTISEMENT