FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Ferguson voters will decide next month whether to raise property taxes to continue funding programs at the city’s small library downtown.
Prior to 2014, the Ferguson Municipal Public Library had few offerings. Then, national attention turned to the city after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9, 2014, which spurred protests and unrest.
The library also started receiving some of that national spotlight, and with it, hundreds of book donations and $450,000 from individuals around the world. Library officials put the donations toward more programming, renovations, staff and new technology and equipment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
But the donations are running out, and by mid-2020, they could all be gone.
The library’s director, Scott Bonner, said they’ve stretched the money as much as they could, but they can’t rely on donations to operate, particularly when hiring staff.
“You can’t offer someone a job and take it away two years later when the money runs out,” he said.
Residents will vote April 3 on a ballot measure to increase the library levy by 18 cents per $100 in assessed value, from 22 cents to 40 cents. The library estimates that it’ll increase its tax revenue from $386,000 to $710,000 in the next fiscal year. If passed, the owner of a house worth $100,000 would pay an extra $34 a year.
If the measure fails, the library anticipates cutting staff, reducing or eliminating hours on Saturdays or weeknights and not being able to replace broken computers. It would also mean an end to the programs funded with donated money, such as computer and coding classes for kids and adults and story times at schools and day care sites.
The Ferguson library’s last tax increase was 23 years ago.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com