GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Library Board shared plans for a proposed mill levy with city commissioners on Tuesday night.
Great Falls Library Director Susie McIntyre said the library is at a crossroads in terms of maintaining their operations. She said the average support for libraries in Montana is $31 per capita while the Great Falls Public Library is funded at $19 per capita.
As a part of the library's "Master Plan" they created, a mill levy is included as part of their operations and funding.
Last week, McIntyre told the board they need to get the budget from their current $1.5 million for operations to $2.75 million.
In the current budget, personnel costs increased by $84,332 and the tax revenue increase was $19,677, according to the library data that McIntyre presented. The library is projecting a $59,969 deficit in this budget year.
Their master plan includes increasing staff from 18 to 30 members as well as being open 7 days a week. The library also aims to increase bookmobile services 6 days per week while providing free parking for patrons.
Some of the expanded services include:
• Expanded digital resources for all patrons
• Expanded access to resources for all students
• College and Adult Readiness Program for teens
• Expanded digital resources for all patrons
• Expanded adult educational and recreational programing
• Expanded Homebound Program
• Improved access to Internet and Technology training
• Expanded support for businesses & entrepreneurs
• Expanded support for job seekers
• Audio/Video Recording resources for podcasting, Internet videos (YouTube & TikTok), and oral histories
• MakerSpace/3-D printing resources for DIY
The library is also seeking two full time safety specialists and a contract for a part time social worker/counselor.
Currently, the library gets two voted city mills, plus an additional seven mills through an agreement with the city. The city’s general fund subsidizes the library $350,000 annually.
The Belt Public Library and Wedsworth Memorial Library in Cascade are collaborating with the Great Falls Public Library, noting that they are dealing with the same set of challenges.
The levy is divided into three different categories:
City Mill Levy:
- Voters who are residents of the City of Great Falls are asked to approve a Levy to support the Great Falls Public Library. Taxes are only assessed on City of Great Falls properties.
Rural Mill Levy:
- Voters who are residents of Cascade County OUTSIDE of the City of Great Falls are asked to approve a Levy to support the Great Falls Public Library, Belt Public Library and Wedsworth Memorial Library. Taxes are assessed on all Cascade County properties OUTSIDE of the City of Great Falls.
County Mill Levy:
- Voters who are residents of Cascade County are asked to approve a Levy to support the Great Falls Public Library, Belt Public Library and Wedsworth Memorial Library. Taxes are assessed on all Cascade County properties.
The recommendation for the library board is a City Mill Levy for the May 2023 School District Election and a Rural Mill Levy for the November 2023 General Election.
McIntyre noted If the City Mill passes in May, they could work with Belt, Wedsworth and the County Commission to determine exact Rural Mill Levy Structure. If the City Mill doesn’t pass, they could propose a County-Wide Mill Levy at a future election.
McIntyre presented her plan to the City Commission Work Session. She stated, "The commissioners asked a lot of really good questions and I believe that the consensus was that it is time to put it in front of the voters, and we get to decide what community they want to live in, and I hope that the City of Great Falls will support living in a connected community, living in an informed community, an educated community, a community with a quality library that helps attract people, and helps build quality of life for people for everybody that lives here."
When speaking with City Commissioner, Joe McKenney, he noted that there is a concern. The conern being that a Public Safety Mill Levy is being introduced.
"The challenge that we have as a community is not having two levies at the same time. Usually what happens in past history, is either both of the levies fail, or one passes and the other fails. It's almost too much to ask for the voters, so we want to ask one at a time. Tonight, we hear from the library that if the levy does go forward, a levy request, it would be in May, and if a public safety levy goes forward, it will be in November. That way, we're not overwhelming the voters."
The city commission will set a public hearing resolution of intent to call for a mill levy on January 3rd. Come January 17th they will vote to either approve or not approve putting the city library mill levy on the ballot for the school district election on May 2nd.
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