Livingston Parish library tax up for renewal

Advocate staff photo by ROBERT STEWART -- A sign reminding people of the April 5 election for the renewal of a property tax that funds Livingston Parish's libraries sits outside the Denham Springs-Walker branch of the Livingston Parish Library on Friday. Some residents have questioned whether the library needs all 10 mills of the property tax, which is expected to generate about $4.4 million annually. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ROBERT STEWART -- A sign reminding people of the April 5 election for the renewal of a property tax that funds Livingston Parish's libraries sits outside the Denham Springs-Walker branch of the Livingston Parish Library on Friday. Some residents have questioned whether the library needs all 10 mills of the property tax, which is expected to generate about $4.4 million annually.

Tax sparks debate over library’s finances

The head of the Livingston Parish library system said the renewal of a 10-year, 10-mill tax is essential to keep parish libraries operating at existing levels, but not everyone agrees the rate needs to remain the same.

The tax, expected to generate about $4.4 million annually, is on the April 5 ballot. Early voting begins Saturday.

Library system officials estimate that homeowners with a $150,000 home will pay $75 per year and homeowners with a $200,000 home will pay $125 per year under the 10-mill rate.

The millage generates 93 percent of the library system’s annual operating budget, which funds maintenance, equipment purchases and salaries, said Giovanni Tairov, the director of the parish’s library system.

“The renewal of the funding will mean that the library doors remain open,” Tairov said.

Scott Jones, a Denham Springs business owner, said he would like to see more of the library system’s financial records before making a decision about the vote.

Jones lauded the parish’s libraries and said he is fine with the parish levying a tax for libraries. But he questioned whether 10 mills is necessary, considering the library system has a roughly $3 million surplus.

Jones wondered whether the system could get away with 8 mills or something similar.

“The stress that people are under financially, we need to look at every way to cut every dollar we can but still be effective,” Jones said. “I’m not in favor of just giving them an open-ended book.”

Jones is a member of Livingston Parish’s charter commission and frequently attends Parish Council meetings.

This isn’t the first time Livingston Parish residents have debated the necessity of property taxes for the parish’s libraries.

Parish library officials in November 2001 pursued a 5.6-mill tax to build several new library branches, but voters defeated the proposal. Two years later, voters approved a 4.86-mill tax, which will expire after 20 years.

Voters in 2005 overwhelmingly renewed the 10-year, 10-mill tax that is up for renewal.

Tairov acknowledged the library system’s $3 million surplus but said those funds have already been earmarked for expansions at the Denham Springs-Walker branch off U.S. 190.

“Once that expansion has been completed, we will have depleted our reserve funds,” Tairov said.

A reduction of even 2 mills would cost the libraries about $800,000 annually, Tairov said.

Tairov noted that the proposal is only a renewal.

“We’re not asking the public for more money,” he said.

Tairov touted the parish library system as a community center that preserves local history.

“The library promotes literacy and education for all ages,” he said. “The tax benefits the entire parish.”

Jo Ann Graul, president of the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control, said in a statement that residents’ cost for the tax is minimal compared to the good the libraries provide.

“The funding renewal is imperative because without it, there won’t be a library,” Graul said.