Group seeks tax referendum for Monroeville library
Monroeville Public Library supporters are asking voters to get behind a proposal to create a 1-mill tax to provide a dedicated revenue stream to pay for building repairs and new technology.
More than 200 people have signed a petition calling for a primary referendum question to ask voters to back a new library tax.
Library leaders must have 500 signatures by March 21 for the question to be added to the ballot, Allegheny County Division of Elections officials said. The primary is May 20.
The proposal would generate about $2.3 million a year for the library to help pay for new parking-lot lighting and a new vestibule that would correct a flooding problem at the entrance of the library, said Christy Fusco, library director.
The money also would help library officials keep pace with a growing demand nationwide for the latest in technology-driven services, such as e-books, Fusco said.
“If you look at the library we have, the municipality and the residents have created and grown one of the best libraries in Allegheny County,” Fusco said.
“Our budget needs to grow exponentially to meet those services.”
Monroeville has a tax rate of 2.43 mills. The average homeowner — who lives in a house with a $100,000 assessment — pays $243 in municipal real estate taxes.
Though a 1-mill library tax could cost the average homeowner an extra $100 a year — a 41-percent hike — that figure doesn't account for the fact that the new tax would free up about $1 million in the municipal budget. Monroeville Council could redirect that money to other municipal projects or reduce the base tax rate if officials hold the line on other expenses.
Municipal officials already were considering a tax-rate hike for reasons other than library funding, municipal manager Tim Little said.
“That's going to make it a little dicey, if the municipality has a tax increase and then the library is asking for 1 mill,” Little said.
Monroeville Councilman Ron Harvey said he would rather have residents vote on the request than council members.
“What better way to find out what the residents want to do?” Harvey asked.
Monroeville officials budgeted more than $900,000 for the library last year.
Council has not approved a 2014 municipal budget or a 2014 tax rate.
The Monroeville Public Library historically is well used and well supported, Allegheny County Library Association director Marilyn Jenkins said.
More than 15,000 people were registered members of the library, and there were nearly 142,000 visits to the library recorded in 2012, according to the most recent library records certified by county and state officials.
Nationwide, public libraries have evolved beyond books to become “technology hubs,” according to a report that the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project released about a year ago.
About 44,000 e-books and 11,400 e-audio files were shared through Monroeville Public Library in 2012, according to library records.
“Technology has created a shared universe of resources,” Jenkins said. “On the other hand, technology has a price tag.”
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.