The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by supporters of the second tax on the April 2nd ballot, the one for a new Trails Regional Library headquarters & Warrensburg branch, along with repairs or upgrades to other branches. The proposal seems well thought out in many ways. The Warrensburg branch will actually have enough shelf space to put out all its books (without the need for ladders or reinforced knees). There will be more access to technology and computers. There will be adequate meeting space. The professional staff will finally get better quarters than they now have. Branch libraries will get upgrades and expansions, and will comply with handicapped accessibility laws. The City of Warrensburg, will get something, too, and there’s the rub.
There seems to be a perception that the City of Warrensburg is getting too much from the deal. The overall project would have cost considerably more had the City not provided city-owned property. In return, the City will get primary use of a meeting room so they can expand their offices in the current City hall. In addition, the Library will tear down a building the City originally bought to expand its office space. I have been assured that the City will not dominate use of the meeting room, as they must have an agreed schedule at the beginning of the year and the Library will control about 80% of the dates. In addition, the City had originally agreed to police the Library parking lot to keep it available for customer use; there are rumors that this promise may not be fulfilled.
There is an additional perceptual problem, other than paying more taxes. Some people see the new location as a threat to traditional downtown Warrensburg. I would hazard that a substantial portion of the visitors to downtown are there solely to visit the library. If it were not for the library, these people would never know of the downtown stores and restaurants. The new library, while still in the downtown area, is on the periphery rather than in the heart of the city.
As taxes go, this is the smallest of the proposed increases, about 1/3 the size of the ambulance district and 1/5 of what the schools propose. While I have heard supporters claim that the Hancock Amendment rollback of the 30 cent levy (passed in 1984) makes this necessary, one must remember that the Amendment was passed to prevent massive tax increases driven only by inflation in property values not accompanied by true growth. Taxing districts continue to receive increased revenue from property tax as the result of new construction.
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