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Library merger study committee welcomes public input

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Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 4:55 pm, Tue Mar 12, 2013.

Merger talks are underway between Noble County’s three public library districts. (See Page 1 story).

A 12-member study committee made up of the three members from the Kendallville Public Library, Noble County Public Library and Ligonier Public Library boards of trustees, and the directors from each library district has been meeting monthly since the three library boards adopted a resolution assigning the committee to investigate the pros and cons of a merger.

The timetable calls for...

Merger talks are underway between Noble County’s three public library districts. (See Page 1 story).

A 12-member study committee made up of the three members from the Kendallville Public Library, Noble County Public Library and Ligonier Public Library boards of trustees, and the directors from each library district has been meeting monthly since the three library boards adopted a resolution assigning the committee to investigate the pros and cons of a merger.

The timetable calls for the committee to recommend a merger plan to an interim board for a final merger vote in February, 2011. The resolution allows for the process to continue with two districts, if one library district chooses to opt out.

Study committee meetings are open to the public and so are library board meetings. The libraries have a Facebook page for online public — “Libraries of Noble County Merge Study.”

These meetings are not like corporate merger talks where everything is private and hush-hush. Those involved in the proposed merger want public comment, but the only people attending the committee meetings are library staff members concerned about their jobs and responsibilities if a merger occurs.

Brace yourself study committee members, library board members and library directors. I think public input is forthcoming now that the estimated impact on property taxes in 2012 from a merger was revealed at Tuesday night’s study committee meeting. Noble County Public Library director Sandy Petrie’s report on the estimated tax rates was good news for Kendallville Public Library and Ligonier Public Library district taxpayers whose taxes would drop. The news is not so good for Noble County Public Library district taxpayers whose taxes would go up.

Petrie’s figures are estimates based on conservative estimated assessed values and projected library budgets for 2011 and 2012. A lot can happen in a year that has an effect on assessed values as we experienced from recent recession. A drop in property values and plant closings can reduce assessed values. Her estimated tax rates and levies for 2012 taxes provide us with more to think about the merger proposal.

Petrie figured tax rates for 2012 because that is projected to be the first operational year of a merged library system if planning follows the timetable for a final decision in February next year. Perry Township is not in a library district, but contracts with the Ligonier Public Library so residents can have a library card. Township residents can only use the Ligonier Public Library.

If Perry Township chooses to join the merger, the residents would have access to all public libraries in Noble County and the more than 70 libraries around the state that are part of the Evergreen Indiana system.

Perry Township’s decision is important because it affects the estimated tax rates.

According to Petrie’s estimated figures, the Noble County Public Library district’s current tax rate including debt is $0.0858 per $100 of assessed value. The estimated rate in 2012 with Perry Township included would be $0.1134. The owner of a $100,000 home in the Noble County Public Library district would see his or her library taxes go from $7.15 a month to $9.45 a month in 2012 with a merged library system. Without Perry Township, the new levy would be $9.75 a month.

The Kendallville Public Library district’s current tax rate with debt is $0.1695. The estimated rate in 2012 with Perry Township included would be $0.1389. The owner of a $100,000 home in the Kendallville Public Library district would see his or her taxes fall from $14.13 a month to $11.58 a month. Without Perry Township, the levy would be $11.88 a month.

The Ligonier Public Library district’s current tax rate with debt is $0.1447. The estimated rate in 2012 with Perry Township included would be $0.0768. The owner of a $100,000 home in the Ligonier Public Library district would see his or her taxes fall from $12.06 a month to $6.40 a month. Without Perry Township, the new levy would be $6.70 a month.

Even with the merger, each library district would be responsible for its existing debt.

Why merge the libraries?

Those favoring a merger believe one library system would increase the efficiency of library operations and increase services to patrons while maintaining current staffing levels. Consolidating departments and purchasing large volumes of material as one entity would save money.

Where will the main library be located?

Identifying a main library for a county-wide library system is another task for the study committee. The main library would house the director and be the administrative focal point of the merged library system.

The next study committee meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 21. at 6 p.m. at the Avilla Public Library.

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