A solid investment - Sizing It Up

Valley Times-News, The (Lanett, AL) - Thursday, September 30, 2010 Author: Cy Wood, Publisher/ Editor

It's not often a community has the opportunity to affirm its admiration of and support for its institutions. Chambers County voters have that opportunity on the Nov. 2 ballot with the proposal to renew the library's two-mill tax.

This will be the third time in my tenure at the newspaper that county voters have been asked to provide two mills of property taxes for its library operations. Voters have responded positively on the two previous occasions.

That two-mill tax was first enacted for a 10-year period to enable the library to upgrade facilities to meet contemporary demands. When the 10 years was up, the library's trustees went back to the voters and asked for renewal of the two-mill tax for another decade. That time around the money would be used for facilities and for operations.

On the November ballot is a proposal to extend the tax for another 20 years. It would remain two mills, the same levy now in effect, so it's definitely not a tax increase.

The award-winning library operations in Chambers County have been recognized for excellence at the state level, but more important than its reputation outside the county is its reputation inside the county. Chambers County has a library system that would be the envy of much larger communities. I've worked in several communities that have excellent library resources, but Chambers County stands head and shoulders above the rest.

That's important, because in an era when governmental budgets are strained and the economy is difficult, keeping the doors open sometimes becomes the first priority of public services. With the local libraries in Valley and LaFayette, that hasn't been the case. The library has expanded its scope of services, increased its outreach to the community and multiplied its patron base by being relevant, being efficient and being responsive to community needs.

There will always be books on the shelves and periodicals on the racks at the library, but the local library is at the forefront in using digital technology to provide services to the community.

For many local residents who cannot afford broadband Internet access at home, the computers at the library, which are free for public use, provide a link with the cyberworld that otherwise would be unavailable.

Thousands of local youngsters have access to children's books that many family budgets cannot afford to purchase. The Cobb Memorial Archives at the library provides a wealth of genealogical and historical research material that simply isn't available anywhere else in this community.

Two questions might come to mind about the tax renewal:Why two mills and why 20 years? The two mills is easy enough to explain. The library could ask for four or six or even 10, but it's asking for two mills. The library understands the strain on family budgets in these tough economic times, so it's telling the community that just like you, we're committed to getting the job done without asking for additional resources. Nobody's tax bill will go up if the library millage is approved. Nothing changes, except the end date of the tax levy.

The 20-year duration of the renewal will enable the library to do long-range planning with the assurance that at least part of its revenue stream will remain stable over the next two decades. Local governments provide some financial support to the library, and the state provides library funding. But those revenue sources are not guaranteed. The state has budget difficulties and has reduced its funding to the library. Local cities and the county have budget difficulties, and they have reduced their funding to the library.

There's a very compelling reason to support the library tax renewal that has nothing to do with the needs at the library. If you compile a list of this community's assets, it would be hard to put any other institution or entity above the library in terms of its positive contribution to the image of this community that outsiders see and the quality of life in this community that we enjoy. For almost 20 years, the residents of Chambers County and the rest of our close-knit community have gotten a tremendous return on their twomill investment in the library. Nov. 2 will provide an opportunity to assure that the library will continue to generate those handsome returns for another 20 years.

Chambers County voters can take pride in their history of support for the library. It shows this is a community that is willing to help underwrite the cost of providing the quality of life that makes this a community where people want to live and want to raise their families.

One other point:Thousands of local residents have made the library a part of their lives. If you aren't among them, get to know your library before you cast your ballot on Nov.

2. When you see what the library does and all it has to offer, you won't hesitate to cast a yes vote. Section: News
Page: 6
Record Number: 1729996301
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