Taxable renewal rate is key to library

By Paige Nash

The Webster Parish Libraries made their official announcement last week regarding the renewal of their 12.39 millage rate. A millage or a “mil” is a taxable rate that is levied on property valued at more than $75,000.  

The current millage rate was passed in May of 2014, with a voter approval rate of 84.76 percent, and will expire at the end of 2024. 

All registered Webster Parish voters will have the opportunity to vote on this renewal on March 25, 2023, which will remain in effect over the next ten years if it passes.  

“The upcoming millage rate is a renewal. We operate off public funds and we do so efficiently. So efficiently, in fact, we have been able to operate from the same millage rate collection for the past 20 years, and plan to do so for the next ten years,” said Director of Webster Parish Libraries Savannah Jones. “When you have a set operating stream for a ten-year period, you must constantly be planning ahead for changes that are out of your control. Providing quality service for parish residents is our top priority, and by operating efficiently we plan to continue to offer that same level of service for another ten years without asking for more.”

The millage makes up 97 percent of the library’s total revenue. From that 97 percent, money is spent on library services, human capital, fixed costs which include communication software/services, and maintenance for all seven locations. One location needing attention in particular that the library system has strategically been preparing to address is the Doyline library location. 

Jones said, “We’ve known for quite some time that we would inevitably have to relocate from the current building due to structural conditions. Plans to build a new branch are underway, and with approval we will be able to move forward with the building process.”

Two percent of the remaining money is collected from the state, while one percent of the remaining is generated from non-guaranteed sources, such as overdue fines and occasional donations.  

The Webster Parish Police Jury is the library system’s fiscal agent. The funds for the library are grouped together under the jury, along with other agencies for recording purposes, but the library’s funds are distributed and kept separate.  

Nick Cox currently serves as a Webster Parish Police Jury member and Ex Officio Library Board of Control member. 

“When you have a set revenue stream, you always have to plan ahead. The library system is a non-profit organization, and success is measured by the positive impact you have on the people you serve. However, just like any entity, planning for economic impact is crucial to be able to continue providing needed services. When operating revenues decrease or expenses increase, the funds have to come from somewhere,” he said. “There’s no way to generate additional revenue without going to the public and asking for more – something we don’t want to have to do. When you can’t cut employee expenses or fixed costs, service budgets have to take the hit. That in turn negatively affects parish residents and the benefits received from our libraries.” 

The renewal of this rate is crucial in guaranteeing the Webster Parish Libraries will have the funds to pay for the operating expenses and public library services.  Since the millage makes up the majority of the library’s revenue stream, without the support of parish residents, libraries across the parish would have to shut their doors.  

Renewal of this millage will not only guarantee the operating continuity of the Minden Main Branch, but also the branches located in Cotton Valley, Doyline, Heflin, Sarepta, Sibley and Springhill.  

“When our parish residents go to the voting booth on March 25th, the fate of their local libraries will be in their hands. This means that they will be voting on what they want to see happen with their local libraries. We have so much we want to continue accomplishing for all the residents of Webster Parish,” said Jones. 

The library offers many essential services, hosts a wide variety of year round programs for all ages, including the Summer Reading Program, and bridges the digital divide by providing access to technology. Most of these services are provided to the public at no charge.

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